Samsung BD-F8500M 3D Blu-ray Player and Digital PVR Combi Review

Is Samsung's BD-F8500 the all-in-one solution we've been looking for?

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Highly Recommended
Samsung BD-F8500M 3D Blu-ray Player and Digital PVR Combi Review
SRP: £260.00

Introduction

Whilst every TV includes a tuner and many offer a timer function and the option to record programmes on an external USB device, this is rarely as convenient as using a separate PVR. Perhaps more than any other country, the UK has a heavy reliance on PVRs both for terrestrial, satellite, cable and broadband users. There are doubtless many people who never even use the built-in tuner on the TV, preferring instead to rely on an external box. The purchase of a PVR can also be an effective way of updating an ageing TV, quickly adding Freeview HD and Smart TV in one simple move. The only downside is the addition of yet another box in the cluttered space beneath your TV, which explains the growth of the Blu-ray/PVR combo market. In just one device you can have a Blu-ray/DVD/CD player, a Smart TV, streaming capability, built-in Wi-Fi, twin Freeview HD tuners and a 500GB HDD - that's going to save an awful lot of space! Last year Samsung made real strides in terms of their BD Player/PVR combo, offering a useful device that held its own against the competition. Can the new BD-F8500M build on those improvements and take it to the next level?

Design and Connections

When you consider how influential Samsung have been on television design over the last few years, the BD-F8500M seems rather boring and derivative. It's essentially a glossy black box with one rounded corner that is reminiscent of Apple's little TV box. It isn't quite as derivative as Toshiba's new line-up of blu-ray players, whose rounded edges are very 'Apple-esque' but it would seem Samsung's designers were feeling less inspired than usual with the BD-F8500M. That's not to say the design isn't attractive, it's just surprisingly obvious for Samsung. The single rounded corner might not appeal to those who prefer their designs more angular but at least the BD-F8500M has a full-size chassis rather than the smaller players that most manufacturers appear to be making these days.

Samsung BD-F8500M

The BD-F8500M measures 430 x 55 x 282mm and weighs 2.6kgs. The front facia is very sparse, with only a disc tray, a display and a USB port, which sits behind a cover. The tray is a little noisy when opening and closing and navigating a disc was louder than we would have liked but the BD-F8500M was reasonably quiet when playing a disc. The display itself is large enough to read, clearly laid out and informative. In the top right-hand corner there are some basic controls - on/off, play/pause, stop and eject. These controls are in a circular configuration that match the rounded corner. On the right-hand side of the chassis there is a recessed area where you will find the CI (Common Interface) slot.

Samsung BD-F8500M

The rear of the BD-F8500M is minimal to say the least, with just one HDMI output. Additionally, there is the antennae input which is capable of receiving Freeview HD transmissions, a ‘loop through’ output for connecting to the TV, a LAN connection, an optical digital output and a further USB port.

Samsung BD-F8500M

The provided remote control is fairly standard but well designed when you consider the amount of functionality present in the BD-F8500M. Samsung has done a great job of not cluttering the remote and it manages to fit in all the main controls. All the features can be accessed via the Home page but it would have been nice to access more of them directly although we guess that would have resulted in more clutter. However being able to access features such as recorded content directly rather than going through the Home page first, would be very useful. Ultimately, given the multi-function nature of the BD-F8500M, the remote got the job done.

Menus

The menu system is essentially the same as last year, with some minor changes that place greater emphasis on video-on-demand services. The Smart Hub page now consists of three main sections providing access to Movies & TV Shows, Apps and Photos, Videos & Music. Along the bottom there are popular apps like ITV Player and BBC iPLayer, along with access to the Web Browser, Schedule Manager and Settings. You can also access your Samsung Account or engage Screen Mirroring from this page.

Samsung BD-F8500M

We will address the majority of the options in the Smart Hub page under the features section of this review, so for now we will concentrate on the Settings menus. Here you will find categories for Display, Audio, Broadcasting, Network, Smart Features, System and Support. In the Display submenu there are options for 3D Settings, TV Aspect Ratio, Smart Hub Screen Size, BD Wise, Resolution, DTV Smart resolution, Movie Frame (24FS), HDMI Colour Format, HDMI Deep Colour and Progressive Mode.

Samsung BD-F8500M
Samsung BD-F8500M

The next submenu is Audio and here you will find options for Digital Output, PCM Downsampling, Dynamic Range Control, Downmixing Mode, DTS Neo:6 Mode, Audio Sync and the Connected Device. In the next submenu, Broadcasting you will find Auto Tuning, Aerial choice, Channel List, Guide, Schedule Manager, Edit Channel and Edit Favourites.

Samsung BD-F8500M
Samsung BD-F8500M

In the Network sub-menu there are options for Network Status, Network Settings, Wi-Fi Direct, AllShare Settings, Remote Access, Device Name and BD-Live Settings. In the Smart Features sub-menu you can access options for Apps Settings, VOD Rating Lock and you can Reset the Smart Hub.

Samsung BD-F8500M
Samsung BD-F8500M

Then there is the System submenu, where you can access the Setup, choose a Language, setup the Device Manager, set the Clock, check the Storage Device Manager, select Auto Power Off and set the Security options. Finally there is the Support sub-menu, where you can select Remote Management, access the e-Manual, perform a Software Update, Contact Samsung and Reset the BD-F8500M.

Features

The Smart Hub interface on the BD-F8500M has been simplified when compared to previous years and we rather like it. Instead of trying to cram too much into the Home page, the BD-F8500M just concentrates on the areas that will be important for users. The Smart Hub page now consists of three main sections providing access to Movies & TV Shows, Apps and Photos, Videos & Music. Along the bottom there are popular apps like ITV Player and BBC iPlayer, along with access to the Web Browser, Schedule Manager and Settings. You can also access your Samsung Account or engage Screen Mirroring from this page.

Samsung BD-F8500M
Samsung BD-F8500M

Of you access Movies & TV Shows you can then access Samsung's premium video service where you can pay to download movies and TV shows. This page will let you select from your Favourites or Featured items and check those that you've purchased. The next option on the Smart Hub page is Apps and here you can see all the apps you have selected plus some that are recommended to you by Samsung. There is a heavy emphasis on video-on-demand serrvices, which makes sense when you consider that is the BD-F8500M's primary purpose. Samsung has provided every major VoD service available including BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD, Netflix, LoveFilm and YouTube, with Channel 5 coming shortly.

Samsung BD-F8500M
Samsung BD-F8500M

The BD-F8500M also includes Facebook and Twitter, although we wonder how useful they would be on a BD player, as well as access to Samsung's full apps page, where you can choose from a multitude of available apps. The next section in the Smart Hub page is Photos, Videos & Music and this provides a useful point from which to access all the available content. Here you can access photos, videos or music from any connected device or home network. In this area you can also access TV programmes that you recorded, either on the built-in 500GB HDD or a connected USB device.

Samsung BD-F8500M
Samsung BD-F8500M

The BD-F8500M works very well as media player, it has excellent file support and we encountered no problems with the media servers and files we tried. The built-in WiFi is also extremely useful and the BD-F8500M includes a Web Browser, although we found it extremely slow and painful to use. Samsung provide a remote control app for both iOS or Android devices, these are well designed and effective to use and certainly made the Web Bowser easier to operate, although it still wouldn't be our first choice for surfing the net.

Freeview HD PVR

Samsung made big strides in this area last year and the BD-F8500M continues that trend, deliver an excellent all-round PVR. The EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) mirrors those on Samsung's TVs and overall the user interface is attractive and well designed. As with last year, you can record two programmes simultaneously whilst you’re viewing a disc, other recorded TV content, streamed media or media from the hard drive etc. You can also view another ‘live’ TV channel, provided it’s on the same multiplex (MUX) as one of the programmes being recorded or its recording two programmes from the same MUX. In fact, the latter scenario opens up every other channel for viewing – premium services excepted. The chase play feature is very usable with the user able to simply access currently recording shows by entering the Schedule Manager. We’d prefer it that you didn't end up back there following the recording finishing but it’s a small complaint really.

Samsung BD-F8500M

We set a clutch of series records, single timer events and back to back recordings and the BD-F8500M turned in a perfect performance, recording everything and not missing the beginning or end of any of the programmes. It should be pointed out that anyone used to other PVR’s where buffering is automatically enabled will need to readjust. Buffering is the process whereby the tuner contents are automatically written to part of the hard drive to allow for pausing, rewinding or recording. With the BD-F8500M, users will need to press either the Pause or Play button of the remote before it’s activated. Since other media can be stored on the hard drive, we can understand Samsung wouldn't want to enable automatic timeshift features but those used to such flexibility might want to get in to the habit of pressing play before they settle down for an evening’s viewing.

Samsung BD-F8500M
Samsung BD-F8500M

Overall the BD-F8500M proved to be a very capable PVR, especially considering its other functions but there are still some minor issues. As with previous years, you can't enter the Settings menu whilst the player is recording. There is still no ‘Global Padding’ option, where automatic over-run/early programming start could be taken care of, but you can do it on a per programme basis and there is the ability to specify how consecutive recordings on the same channel are handled. We had no issues in testing but then there were no serious over-runs of specific programmes and often you are at the mercy of individual broadcasters. We would have liked it to be easier to access the recorded content, rather than having to go through the Smart Hub page, a dedicated button would be more convenient. Since the BD-F8500M offers all four major catch-up services, it would also be very useful if they were combined with the Freeview EPG to make it easier for users to go back and find programmes they missed.

3D Playback

We encountered no issues with 3D playback, once we’d ensured the screen size setting in the 3D menu matched that of the display. We watched a number of 3D Blu-rays and spotted no unpleasant artefacting and our 3D resolution test showed that all detail was present and correct. 3D material was presented with the appropriate amount of depth and 'pop and we could see no increase in crosstalk issues that weren’t already inherent in the display itself.

1080p Playback

As long as a manufacturer isn't changing the video signal in some way, the 1080p/24 output of one player should match that of another. This is the case with the BD-F8500M, where the Picture Modes available from the TOOLS button of the remote control do have an impact. There are 4 picture modes - Standard/Movie/User/Dynamic – and where Movie is usually the most accurate pre-set of the Samsung TVs, with the BD-F8500M we found it under-saturated the colour gamut, particularly with red, leading to a rather washed out picture. Dynamic did the opposite whilst also increasing luminance of the colours and adding undefeatable sharpening. The Standard mode was reasonably good but did feature some undefeatable noise reduction, meaning film grain and very high frequency details were lost. The best option was User which appeared to deliver an unadulterated video signal with the controls left at zero. Annoyingly, this option isn't available if you're using BD-Wise and it would be better if Samsung offered a direct mode with no manipulation to the video signal.

1080i Playback

Whether it was a 1080i Blu-ray or as is more likely, a 1080i TV broadcast, we expected the BD-F8500M to do a good of handling the interlaced signal. We began by checking deinterlacing performance; first by using a rotating bars pattern that displayed only the tiniest amount of jaggies and then using some test clips and TV programmes with lots of fine motion detail. Unlike last year, the BD-F8500M was able to lock on to a 2:2 cadence at 1080i, meaning there was no unnecessary deinterlacing being introduced and thus no loss of resolution.

SD Playback

The BD-F8500M had no problems with 2:2 cadence detection with 2:2 cadence detection, which is an improvement on last year. When it came to scaling, the BD-F8500M delivered the usual high quality that we have come to expect from Samsung. We could detect no loss of detail and ringing and as a result, standard definition broadcasts and DVDs looked very impressive, assuming the original source material was free of any unwanted artefacts.

Samsung BD-F8500M

Disc Load Times

On average Blu-rays loaded up to the copyright warning in under 30 seconds and to the menus around in around 15 seconds but it often depends on the studio. When it came to DVDs it only took a matter of seconds for them to load and reach the copyright warning. The BD-F8500M booted up just as quickly and was on and showing the current TV channel within 20 seconds.

Energy Consumption

  • Standby – 0W
  • Displaying 50% Full Screen White Pattern – 25W

Verdict

9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

The Good

  • Excellent video processing
  • All the major VoD services
  • Full Dual Tuner PVR capabilities
  • Built-in WiFi
  • Freeview HD

The Bad

  • Can't record whilst in the Settings menu
  • Picture Modes slightly alter the video signal
  • Accessing recordings is time consuming

Samsung BD-F8500M 3D Blu-ray Player and Digital PVR Combi Review

The design Samsung BD-F8500M is surprisingly derivative, especially given how influential the Korean manufacturer has been when it comes to the look of TVs. The plain glossy black box has nothing on the front except a disc tray, a display and a USB port. On the top are some basic controls in a circular configuration, which results in a rounded corner that is reminiscent of the Apple TV. The BD-F8500M comes with a standard Samsung remote control, at the side is a CI slot and at the rear is a single HDMI output, a LAN port, another USB port and an optical digital out. Thanks to an attractive and well designed menu system the setup was extremely easy and intuitive. The Smart Hub user interface has had a redesign since last year, with a more simplified approach that we like. There are options for accessing premium content, along with recorded content and apps, all providing an effective single interface. In terms of its Smart capabilities, the BD-F8500M has all the major catch-up and Video-on-Demand services, along with built-in Wi-Fi, countless apps, a Web Browser and a remote app for both iOS and Android.

The BD-F8500M includes twin tuners and a 500GB, which made it a very capable PVR. The EPG follows the same layout as Samsung's TVs, which means it is well presented and simple to use. Our only comment would be that since the BD-F8500M includes all four catch-up services, it would be useful to integrate them with the EPG. Whilst there are some minor improvements relating to buffering and global padding that we would like to see, overall the BD-F8500M performed extremely well as a PVR. Our only other suggestion would be to make it easier to access the recorded content, perhaps with a dedicated button on the remote. As a Blu-ray player the BD-F8500M performed extremely well, delivering excellent pictures from both 2D and 3D Blu-rays. Samsung have sorted out the issues with 2:2 cadence detection that affected last year's model and the scaling of standard definition material was excellent. Our only complaint was that the picture modes affected the video output and whilst User is an acceptable compromise, we would like to see a direct mode.

Overall the Samsung BD-F8500M proved itself to be a highly effective jack-of-all-trades, delivering an excellent performance as a Blu-ray player, a PVR, a media player and a Smart TV platform. If you're looking that 'one box' solution that can perform a multitude of functions without compromising performance, then the BD-F8500M could well be the choice for you.

Highly Recommended

Scores

Picture Quality

.
9

Sound Quality

.
.
8

Features

.
9

Ease Of Use

.
.
8

Build Quality

.
.
.
7

Value For Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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