Samsung BD-D6900 review
That Samsung’s latest high-def hero has touch-sensitive controls, a brushed metallic top, a gloriously slim 33mm profile and is able to silently slip out a disc from within won’t surprise anyone; this has been a brand at the coal face of product design for some time now. What might shock you is what’s inside the BD-D6900, because as well as being able to spin 3D Blu-ray discs this machine also has a Freeview HD TV tuner.
As such it does away with the need for a separate set-top box in one stroke, though at this high price perhaps it should be packing something special. Don't mistake the BD-D6900 for a hard disk recorder, though - no such gigabyte-laden goodies lay inside (for that you’ll have to consider its pricier, chunkier sibling, the BD-D8500).
Although this deck sports a completely different look and feel on the outside, the two sisters share a lot of the same highs and lows.
Smart Hub is one of the major pleasures they share even though it’s an online content service that’s not yet firing on all cylinders. Oddly it’s accessed from the machine’s otherwise excellent icon-led user interface’s “internet” shortcut, and there’s no dedicated button on the backlit (so useful in a darkened home cinema) remote control, either. Stuffed with apps ranging from BBC iPlayer, Lovefilm, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to Acetrax, AccuWeather, Rovi TV listings and Google Maps (as well as umpteen simple games), it’s a chaotic and colourful screen that makes up this increasingly engaging service. It’s fun to use though arguably not quite as slick or quick as Panasonic’s Viera Connect nor Sony’s Bravia Internet Video.
Sadly we weren’t able to review Samsung’s exciting new addition to Smart Hub, the Explore 3D app, because it’s not yet available on the company’s Blu-ray players - not even the 3D-ready models. Samsung assures us that this shouldn't take too long to fix.
What is in Smart TV is “Your Video”, an IMDb-style database of online information about films currently stream-able on Lovefilm and Acetrax. We’re told it learns what you like and makes suggestions, though exactly how useful that is isn’t yet clear. While you’re logged in you can Tweet and “Like” things if you’ve signed into the Twitter and Facebook apps, respectively, on the SmartHub homepage.
There’s also a nice “search all” function here that uses a free text input screen to look for content on any source, whether it be on Lovefilm, a USB stick or on a networked PC, but it’s not a process for those short on time - it’s quicker to have a look on each device/app than using the virtual onscreen keyboard.
Freeview HD functions are handled by a single tuner, but there is one recording option on offer; insert a USB stick into the front or back of the machine and the BD6900 can make spotless recordings from the utterly gorgeous electronic programme guide (kudos to Samsung’s design team here, it’s an absolute cracker). Just as useful is the pause/rewind live TV function, which again relies on a USB stick but, like every aspect of this machine, is easy to do. File streaming over Wi-Fi or playback from a USB stick (DivX, DivX HD, WMV, MP3, WMA and JPEG) also proves a cinch, while the provision of a 1GB Flash memory for BD-Live downloads convinces us that Samsung has thought of everything.
Better than comprehensiveness is quality; 3D Blu-ray playback is accurate and full of natural-looking depth, while 2D is generally excellent (Blu-ray shines while Freeview standard-def channels can be soft and noisy, though still watchable). Even a process that converts between 2D and 3D works to some extent, though whether this stop-gap feature appeals depends on what you have it convert. Full HD upscaling isn’t on a par with Panasonic decks, certainly, but in all other areas - colour, clarity and motion - this deck delivers in spades.
You’re paying for style as much as you are for convenience, but for those after a 3D Blu-ray disc player and a Freeview HD set-top box, Samsung’s BD-D6900 offers a tempting all-in-one solution, albeit one without PVR functions. Strapped with slick Smart Hub online content hub that includes BBC iPlayer, a swish Freeview HD interface and excellent 2D and 3D Blu-ray, nothing should stop owners of a Samsung LED TV pairing it up with the BD-D6900.