- Excellent features, particularly online content
- Fast operation and attractive onscreen presentation
- Dazzling hi-def pictures
- Lightweight build quality
- Not a massive evolution from the F6500
Key Features: 3D playback and UHD upscaling; Smart Hub online content portal; Network file streaming; Samsung multiroom support; Screen mirroring and Wi-Fi Direct
What is the Samsung BD-H6500?
The Samsung BD-F6500 was one of the most popular Blu-ray players of 2013, primarily because it offered all the snazzy features of the flagship BD-F7500 for an irresistibly low price.
Such was the success of the F6500 in fact that its replacement, the BD-H6500, has been promoted to flagship status for 2014 – thankfully while retaining its budget price tag.
This standalone Blu-ray player sticks to the formula of its predecessors – a sleek, sexy design, tons of features and extensive online functionality – but throws in a couple of new frills to keep things fresh. It’s not luxurious or ‘high-end’ by any stretch of the imagination, but if you’re looking for an affordable HD disc spinner packed with all the latest tech then it could be another no-brainer.
Design and Connections
There isn’t much of it, but the BD-H6500 is a handsome slip of a Blu-ray player. Samsung’s customary sleek gloss-black finish and clean lines give it maximum living room appeal, while the super slim dimensions (33mm high) are perfect for slotting in an AV cabinet or perching under a bedroom TV.
The most distinctive feature is the curved front corner, a pointless but attractive quirk introduced on last year’s range. On top, a circle of touch-sensitive controls sits inside the curve, including play, stop, open/close and power keys.
Samsung has squeezed an LED readout, disc tray and USB port onto the slender front panel. The display shows elapsed time and other choice words in large digits, which are comfortably legible from a typical viewing distance.
Our only design reservation concerns build quality – the bodywork has the light, plasticky feel of many budget Blu-ray decks and doesn’t inspire confidence in its long-term durability, but that’s no great surprise for the money.
On the rear panel is a typically sparse selection of sockets for a budget player. There’s an HDMI output (capable of handling 3D and upscaled 4K video signals), an optical digital audio output and an Ethernet port. Unlike most high-end players, there are no dual HDMI outputs, analogue outputs (stereo or multichannel) or other sockets for legacy amps – this deck’s target audience simply doesn’t need them.
The BD-H6500’s slender frame is stuffed with features, reinforcing its position as one of the best-value Blu-ray players around. Heading the bill is Samsung’s selection of online content – accessed via the built-in Wi-Fi connection – which once again features the UK’s four main catch-up TV services: BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5. As far as we’re aware Samsung is still the only company to offer all four of these services.
They’re joined by a plethora of other video apps (56 at the time of writing), including YouTube, Viewster, BBC Sport and News, Vimeo, Netflix, LoveFilm and Dailymotion. Among the 36 ‘lifestyle’ apps are Napster, Twitter, Facebook and Picasa, alongside vTuner internet radio. Add the wealth of games, sports, information, education and kids’ apps to the mix – not to mention a built-in web browser – and you’ve got a formidable web line-up that offers something for everyone.
If you get bored of Samsung’s selection you can play your own content stored on PCs, phones or NAS drives connected to the same network as the BD-H6500. There’s also Wi-Fi Direct if you want to beam content from a mobile device without going through a network.
But there’s a nifty new twist to this deck’s network functionality. It’s also designed to work in tandem with Samsung’s new Sonos-challenging multiroom speaker system (WAM750 and WAM550), allowing you to play a CD on the H6500 and send it to multiple speakers around the house.
Format support is wide-ranging. On the music side it will play hi-res FLAC files (but converts them to 48kHz) as well as MP3, WMA, AAC and WAV, while supported video formats include DivX HD, WMV HD, MKV, AVI, 3GP and MP4.
Elsewhere you’ll find screen mirroring, which lets you view your Android phone or tablet on a TV over a network, 3D playback, 4K (UHD) upscaling, a DTS Neo:6 mode and support for HD audio formats. The Tools menu offers a range of picture presets (Standard, Movie and Dynamic) and a user-defined mode that allows you to adjust sharpness, noise reduction, contrast, brightness, colour and tint.
Samsung has revamped the onscreen menus for 2014, although it’s more of a subtle tweak than a full-on overhaul. The Home menu is your jump-off point for any function, broken down into four sections – Play Disc, Films and TV Shows, Multimedia and Apps. Each section is represented by a large panel containing stylised illustrations (as opposed to actual cover art). It’s easier on the eye than last year’s over-simplified design.
The row of recommended apps running along the bottom provides quick access to popular content, as well as icons for Screen Mirroring and Settings.
The Films and TV Shows menu presents a range of movies available from on-demand services (illustrated by their poster art), providing cast/crew details and related content, although none of the content we selected was available to watch – we could only post about them on Facebook and Twitter or favourite them, which seems pointless.
The Multimedia menu displays content stored on networked servers, USB drives and cloud storage. The first screen shows all the connected devices, followed by series of folders until you reach your content. To make the most of network streaming you should upload music to the online sharing software Samsung Link, as it supports a wider range of formats than Windows Media Player. It works smoothly, but it’s a pain to set up and took nearly half a day’s use before our Samsung Link-registered PC appeared in the list of devices.
Samsung Apps lets you browse and download online content. Downloaded apps are presented in a simple grid – nothing fancy but easy to digest. You can browse content in the Most Popular and What’s New sections or by category – the latter’s selection screen uses more of those lovely stylised illustrations.
In terms of operation the BD-H6500 is super fast. It boots up in under 10 seconds, and when scanning Blu-ray discs or skipping chapters it happens instantaneously, with no long pauses like the Samsung decks of old. The cursor also moves around the menus sharply, while apps like BBC iPlayer load up in seconds. It’s a slick, satisfying user experience. Only the web browser lets the side down – navigating around the onscreen links with the remote is cumbersome (you can connect a mouse and keyboard if you can be bothered).
Disc loading is even faster than last year’s models, loading the clunky, Java-heavy Terminator Salvation disc in just over 20 seconds. Less complex discs start playing almost as quickly as a DVD, which is impressive.
The remote is classic Samsung fare – nicely sized and ergonomic, with clearly-labelled rubber buttons organised into distinct sections. The playback keys glow in the dark too.
The BD-H6500’s performance with the Silicon Optix HQV Blu-ray is impressive. The Video Resolution Loss test pattern looks clean and sharp, and it renders the moving white bars of the ‘jaggies’ test with flawless edges. There is some flickering on the vertical striped boxes of the Film Resolution Loss test pattern however, struggling to lock onto its cadence.
There are no such niggles with movie playback however. The opening scene of Star Trek Into Darkness on Blu-ray looks absolutely stunning – as Kirk and Bones leg it through the undergrowth from the Nibiru natives, deep and vibrant shades of red and yellow burst from the screen. The varying red tones on the ground and amid the layers of vines are smoothly and subtly blended too, giving a convincing impression of depth and three-dimensionality.
The image is wonderfully sharp and solid, and every shot is packed with detail. From wide, CG enhanced shots of futuristic London right down to facial close-ups and textures of clothing, the BD-H6500 renders fine lines and textures with pin-sharp clarity.
Its superb contrast range makes the image look solid and filmic, so when JJ Abrams casts his lens across space, the white Enterprise stands out sharply against the profound blackness. Dark cityscapes and dingy interior shots also look clear and punchy.
3D pictures boast the same superb detail, natural colours and deep contrast, but with the added benefit of stereoscopic depth and layering, all competently passed on by the Samsung. Edges are tight and definite with no obvious bleed or ghosting, and objects move around the screen smoothly.
Other video sources – such as hi-def programmes streamed from BBC iPlayer or MKV files – look similarly impressive, while DVDs look clear and bold with acceptable levels of edge stepping and block noise.
Should I buy the Samsung BD-H6500?
Splash out on the BD-H6500 and you won’t be disappointed. Not only does it look the part in its slim, stylish casing, but it’s packed with features and operates like a dream. Samsung’s online content is still second to none and DLNA file streaming works well.
The onscreen menus have been improved, making the user experience even slicker than its predecessor, and it’s backed up by dazzling picture quality from Blu-ray discs.
However, build quality isn’t great for the money, and aside from the revamped menus and addition of multiroom support – which admittedly will be a brilliant feature for those who have invested in Samsung’s M7/M5 speakers and Hub – the BD-H6500 doesn’t offer a great deal more than its predecessor, the Samsung BD-F6500. That could persuade some buyers to save cash and seek out the earlier model.
But none of this stops the BD-H6500 being a brilliant Blu-ray player in its own right, and is well worth a look if you want a slim, Smart hi-def deck for the lounge or bedroom.
Build quality aside, the BD-H6500 is a brilliant Blu-ray deck that boasts a bevy for features for a tantalising price.
Scores In Detail
- Design : 7/10
- Features : 10/10
- Performance : 9/10
- Value : 9/10