The BD-D8500M is the aircraft carrier of Samsung's fleet of Blu-ray players. It's large, surprisingly under-designed, and packs a great deal of features behind its jutting prow, including TV recording capability, 3D support and Web connectivity. It's available for around £320 online.
More Meat Loaf than Kylie
When we say the BD-D8500M is large, we're comparing it to the company's other Kylie-sized disc spinners. Measuring 430 by 64 by 299mm, the dimensions of the BD-D8500 are conventional enough, so it will sit quite happily in any equipment rack.
The front of the unit is pleasingly clean. Controls comprise a touchscreen panel, and the disc mechanism is a slot-loader, rather than a tray. The build quality is good. The deck comes with Samsung's one-size-fits-all regulation remote control.
The BD-D8500M is as much a PVR as a 3D-compatible Blu-ray player. It has twin Freeview HD tuners and a 500GB hard drive. Operational noise is low, with the hard drive seemingly well insulated.
The BD-D8500M also throws in Samsung's Smart Hub Internet TV and apps portal for good measure. If you're looking for one box to do it all, then the BD-D8500M could be for you.
Connectivity is straightforward enough. There's a pull-down flap on the front for USB-based media playback, while, around the back, you'll find an HDMI, phono AV, digital optical audio output and Ethernet jack. The deck sports integrated Wi-Fi too.
There's also a component output, but this has been hobbled. Not only does it restrict the Blu-ray output to 480i but it also prevents you from watching the Freeview HD channels in hi-def. These are output via component at 576p. At this stage, manufacturers might as well just junk the component connection and be done with it.
Record your heart out
The PVR side of the BD-D8500M works well enough. Select shows from the large, clear electronic programme guide and you'll be given the option of recording the entire series, as well as recording shows from a list of related recommendations. We elected to record Popstar to Operastar and were duly asked if we also wanted to record The Pathetic Decline of Televisual Entertainment in the 21st Century. You can partially delete some of a recording, should you want to tidy it up for some reason.
There are some issues, though. You can't pop over to Samsung's Smart Hub portal -- perhaps to watch BBC iPlayer or browse YouTube -- while you're recording to the hard drive. Neither can you stream media across your network from a PC or network-attached storage drive while recording a show. Try either and the deck prompts you to cancel your recordings. Thankfully, you're at least allowed to spin a disc while recording.
Slow and steady Blu-ray
The BD-D8500M is compatible with both 3D and 2D Blu-rays, but its disc-loading times are slow. The Java-heavy Blu-ray release of Goldfinger took 1 minute and 11 seconds to load. This compares to 1 minute or less on most stand-alone players.
The Blu-ray picture quality is generally good. Images pop with detail and colours are vibrant and nuanced.
The BD-D8500M offers all the audio codec support of a standard Blu-ray player, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Given that there's only one HDMI output, however, it's worth remembering that you'll need a 3D-ready AV receiver or home-cinema system to hear lossless soundtracks from your Blu-ray discs.
If you're short of things to play on your 3D TV, the BD-D8500M offers a 2D-to-3D conversion feature. Samsung offers probably the best conversion tech around at the moment, although we still wouldn't watch faux 3D even if you threatened to chop our thumbs off.
The appeal of the BD-D8500M as a media streamer largely depends on how you intend to use it. If your movies and music are offered up on a USB thumb drive, then it'll work fine. The deck played our collection of HD content in MKV wrappers, AVIs (with subtitle support), TS files and MOVs without a problem. Music compatibility is limited to MP3 and WMA files.
Stream across a network, though, and you may well encounter problems. We tried playing our test files via four different NAS devices, each running different media server software, and lost MKV compatibility on all of them. You'll probably have more luck streaming from a PC running Windows Media Player 11 and Samsung's own Allshare software. The BD-D8500M is certainly a fussy networker.
Samsung's BD-D8500M is an attractively specified deck, albeit one with enough foibles to warrant pause for thought. Its inability to multitask when recording rather undermines the all-in-one convenience pitch, and its generally bumpy media performance could prove tiresome. In many respects, the BD-D8500 is a classic jack of all trades and master of none.
Edited by Charles Kloet