MUST-HAVE FEATURES such as Smart TV, DLNA playback and integrated Wi-Fi are filtering down to mainstream Blu-ray players. This means there’s no longer any need to spend a fortune on a high-end model that does everything. Samsung BD-F6500 costs less than and has built-in Wi-Fi, lots of image quality settings and many online services such as catch-up TV and social media portals.
The BD-F6500 is unassuming for such a feature-packed deck, as it has a simple black plastic design. However, it won’t look out of place in your A/V rack. The only flourish is a single curved edge, with four touch-sensitive buttons placed on the top panel to turn the player on or play, stop and eject discs. This arrangement isn’t particularly convenient if you’ll be slotting the player between two other set-top boxes, but even then it wouldn’t be too much of a problem as you can perform those functions with the remote control.
You’ll probably have to place the BD-F6500 on top of your existing equipment, as if s very compact, being just 36cm across. The BD-F6500*s back panel is a little spartan, with just a single HDMI output, an optical digital audio output and an Ethernet port. You may not even need to use the Ethernet port, as the BD-F6500 has integrated Wi-Fi, but it’s good to have it in case you need to use HomePlug adaptors to get the best data transfer rates. Sadly, the BD-F6500 doesn’t have RCA outputs, which may be a problem if you who want to use it with older amplifiers that lack digital inputs.
The BD-F6500’s front panel is just as lightly decorated. There’s a single-line LCD display in the middle and a plain disc tray to the side. The LCD screen is very bright, but we couldn’t find an option to dim or disable it in the menu. Therms also a single USB port
that’s hidden beneath a plastic flap. This port is handy for playing multimedia files from a flash drive or external hard disk, especially as the BD-F6500 has excellent file format support Samsung has some of the best file format support We could play all our test files, including lossless FLAC audio and DivX video, without any issues. The BD-F6500 can also stream content from networked PCs,
NAS devices and smartphones that support DLNA, even if Samsung confusingly calls the feature AllShare Play.
it’s easy enough to find your way through the menu system. Even though the F6500 doesn’t have the same home screen setup as the company’s 2013 TVs, the simplified version seen here is all you need. Your content is located in a separate section, away from the huge list of built-in apps and services. Samsung has always been ahead of the pack when it comes to Smart TV features, and the BD-F6500 is no exception. You get catch-up services from all four main UK broadcasters, along with Netflixand LoveFilm. Lesser known services such as KnowHow movies, Blinkbox and Wuakitv are all here, too. The BD-F6500 also provides Facebook and Twitter clients, and a full web browser, but you’ll struggle to navigate through most web pages without a mouse and keyboard.
As for Blu-ray playback, we were impressed with the BD-F6500*s speed. It loads 2D discs in six seconds, which is fester than many other players. However, the BD-F6500 took 12 seconds to start our Avatar 3D disc.
Even at default settings, the BD-F6500 looks superb, with crisp visuals and plenty of contrast to reveal the shadow detail in darker scenes. Colours were accurate, if oversaturated
at the default settings, but there are several presets for you to select Beyond the Standard, Movie and Dynamic presets, which make colours look neutral, subdued and overly vibrant respectively, a fourth user mode gives you control over sharpness, noise reduction, contrast, brightness, colour and tint
If you have a Samsung TV that supports it you can use the BD Wise setting to calibrate the picture^ but we found image quality looked worse than our custom settings when paired with a 2011-model Samsung D8000 TV. Ifs worth experimenting with the Blu-ray player and TV to get the best picture. Even though the BD-F6500 provides many image quality settings, its image quality is great at its default settings, so you may not need to alter them.
ALL HANDS ON DECK
The Samsung BD-F6500 might not have all the advanced image quality features found in Panasonic or Sony’s Blu-ray decks, but the comprehensive Smart TV services, integrated Wi-Fi and understated design more than make up for ¡t especially if you’re upgrading from a first-generation Blu-ray player. The BD-F6500 is exceptional value and a Best Buy winner.