If you're hoping to watch 3D movies on your new 3D TV, then you're going to need a compatible Blu-ray player to go with it. Samsung's BD-C6900 is just such a machine, with a mountain of extra features to boot. It's available now, at a premium price of around £300.
We're excited by what this player offers, even though we're not massive fans of 3D. Online functionality and media-playback options mean it's more than just a bog-standard Blu-ray player. It's truly a home media hub.
Pinnacle of style
The C6900's funky design really impressed us. The window that allows you to see your spinning Blu-ray movie isn't entirely necessary, but its pulsing blue light looks pretty cool. You can switch it off if you want to. The player is also relatively tiny, which is a refreshing change, considering that players from as recently as last year were still pretty massive.
On the front, there's a concealed drive tray, simple LED display and a single USB socket. On the top of the player, on its right-hand side, you'll find some touch-sensitive buttons. These are by and large a pointless extra, but they do look very cool. If you put something on top of the player, they'll be rendered useless, though.
On the back, there's quite a healthy selection of sockets. There's an Ethernet jack for taking advantage of Samsung's networking and Internet TV options, and the player also has built-in Wi-Fi. You get component and composite video outputs too, although we think these are going to be ignored on this player -- 3D won't work over component, and who wants the standard-definition quality of composite these days? There's also 7.1 analogue audio out for connecting the machine to an AV receiver. The provision of these RCA-style jacks means that you can use older receivers and still get the benefit of lossless audio.
In addition to all of this, there's an HDMI socket. This is an HDMI 1.4 connector, which means that it's able to trigger your TV to automatically switch into 3D mode when a 3D disc is playing. It's worth pointing out that, if you run this HDMI through an older, non-3D-compliant AV receiver, then your TV probably won't be able to automatically switch to 3D. Is that a massive problem? We think not, but it's worth considering when you set your equipment up.
3D out of the box
Unlike some 3D Blu-ray players, the C6900 supports 3D from the moment you unpack it. There's a massive 3D logo on the top of the unit to remind you of this, but, if you're using 3D discs, it should be pretty obvious when a movie starts too.
All you'll need to start enjoying Blu-ray 3D movies with this machine is a 3D-encoded disc and the right number of glasses for all the eyeballs in your house. Your TV will need to be 3D-capable too, but we're assuming you know whether yours is or not.
Glasses not included
Although the player is 3D-ready, it doesn't come with a pair of 3D glasses. A voucher is included for a pair of free glasses, though, as is the case with Samsung's 3D TVs. Extra glasses cost between about £60 and £100 at the time of writing.
3D glasses are expensive, and the ultra-comfortable Samsung models are also rather fragile. We managed to break a set by sitting on them. If you've got young children, it might be worth considering buying some of the glasses that have a full frame, rather than the cheaper, half-framed sort that we used. We have to congratulate Samsung, however, on making 3D specs that are a million times more comfortable than the ones provided by Panasonic.
The name 'Internet@TV' is wrong on every level. It's a grammatical disaster and it's factually inaccurate, considering the C6900 isn't a TV. The service to which the name refers, however, is actually quite cool, and certainly worth having.
Like Sony and Panasonic, Samsung has developed an Internet portal, with 'walled garden' content that you can access from its Blu-ray players and TVs. Within this portal will eventually be video content from the likes of YouTube, the BBC and LoveFilm, with plenty more stuff on the horizon too.
If you want to catch up with your favourite iPlayer shows, then the C6900 will soon be able to make it happen. If you're a LoveFilm subscriber, with one of its 'unlimited' packages, then you'll be able to stream movies to the player over the Internet. And YouTube will let you watch plenty of adorable cat videos.
We like the Internet@TV service, at least in theory, but much of it isn't launched yet. We've seen Samsung's LoveFilm offering on another device, and we have to warn you that the picture quality of all these Internet services isn't up to much. There's certainly no high-definition content here and that really matters on a large TV -- we tested this player with Samsung's 55-inch UE55C8000 LED-backlit 3D TV.
During testing, we also noticed that plenty of updates needed to be applied to the player to get it online and working with any of the Internet@TV services. You should only be confronted with updates once in a blue moon, but it's still quite frustrating when you have to wait around for them to complete.
Holy Java load times and menu performance, Batman
Too often, Blu-ray players cost Ferrari prices, but deliver Fiat speeds. Happily, the C6900 is an exception. At £300, it's expensive, but it did at least have the decency to load our test movie, Vantage Point, in 31.4 seconds. That's the fastest speed we've seen yet from a Blu-ray player, and it's pretty respectable.
Discs with more complex interactive features might be slower to load, but the player showed us that it's no slouch. The process of moving through the menu systems is also a piece of cake, and they're as smooth as silk. This is good news if you're the sort of person who likes to explore special features on discs. Certainly, this player encouraged us to look around our test movies more than we usually do.
Picture quality and 3D performance
Most Blu-ray players are more than capable of blowing us away with their awe-inspiring picture quality, and the same is true of the C6900. The detail in movies like District 9 made them looked epic, and 3D animated movies were full of the beautiful colours we'd expect.
One word of caution, though -- the C6900's remote has a button on it marked 'full screen'. Please don't press this button, because it summons forth demons who will eat your cat, terrify your children and potentially melt your face off. Actually, all of that would be preferable to what it actually does, which is zoom into a 2.35:1 image, cutting off the left and right edges to remove 'unsightly' black bars. If you're the sort of person that thinks the 2.35:1 cinema ratio should be distorted in this way, then we don't think you deserve to own a Blu-ray player at all. Consider yourselves warned -- use this feature, and we'll send the boys round.
We have no reason to believe that how a 3D picture looks is related to your player -- your TV is what makes or breaks your experience here. Nonetheless, we tested clips from Monsters vs Aliens and the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Both looked stunning, and the 3D experience was truly joyful.
Advanced media playback
As well as its online video options, you can also play media files from memory sticks and portable hard drives. The C6900 can handle most types of video -- even HD H.264 files in MKV containers -- which is great news. If you're looking for a way to enjoy downloaded movies or TV shows on your telly, the C6900 would be a good option.
The Samsung BD-C6900 is a terrific Blu-ray player, with excellent 3D capability and good Internet functionality. It's more expensive than most standard players, but we think it has enough features to make it a worthwhile purchase, even if you don't yet have a 3D TV. If you do have a 3D telly, we'd urge you to buy it.
If you're looking at buying the C6900 along with a TV, then it's worth pointing out that Samsung has an all-in-one package that allows you to purchase the Blu-ray player, a 3D TV, two pairs of 3D glasses, and a 3D movie, with a significant saving. Watch out for deals like these, as they'll be more and more common as time goes on.
Edited by Charles Kloet