Blu-ray players have come way down in price in the last couple of years, so the main question most buyers will have about the Samsung BD-D6700 is: why should I spend $270 (current street price) on a Blu-ray player? Samsung's answer is dual HDMI outputs, which are necessary only if you have a non-3D-compatible receiver and demand to hear the real Dolby Digital True HD or DTS Master soundtrack. Less demanding listeners can hook up the optical digital audio jack instead of the second HDMI output and get basically the same sound quality.
There's plenty to like about the BD-D6700 overall, including built-in Wi-Fi, tons of streaming video services and smartphone control, but all of those features are available on the step-down BD-D6500 too, which is almost $100 cheaper. Buyers who don't need dual HDMI will get more bang for their buck by spending a little more for the Sony PlayStation 3 Slim or by going with a cheaper alternative, whether that's Samsung's BD-D6500 or a competing Wi-Fi Blu-ray player.
The BD-D6700's silver sheen stands out among the glossy black boxes of its peers. Its two-tone black and silver design gives it a retro feel, as silver A/V gear reminds us of, say, an old cassette tape deck. The BD-D6700 loses the disc drawer in favor of a slot-loading design, like many of Samsung's 2011 Blu-ray players.
Right under the disc slot is an LCD display with touch-sensitive buttons. This allows the BD-D6700 to have a completely uncluttered exterior, and they worked fine, although we generally prefer hardware buttons.
The included remote is very good and we love that Samsung gave it a dedicated Netflix button, making it easy for anyone to jump right to the popular streaming video service.
The BD-D6700 can also be controlled by a smartphone. Applications are available for both iOS and Android, although we preferred the Android app in general. The best part about the app is you can use it for text entry, which you'll need to do a lot of when searching or when you first register all your streaming media accounts. Note that you won't be able to use the app to search within streaming media apps, such as Netflix, however.
The main user interface for the BD-D6700 looks modern and colorful by Blu-ray player standards, although it pales next to the simplicity of, say, the Apple TV.
The UI has four main icons: My devices, My content, Internet, and Settings. Overlap between categories makes accessing them less straightforward. Content on an attached USB drive, for example, can be accessed via either My content or My devices, and the same goes for content stored on a networked computer.
The Internet icon takes you to Samsung's Smart Hub interface, where you'll find all of the BD-D6700's streaming media services. We'd love it if a few major services (like Netflix and Pandora) were available at the top level, right on the main interface, although the dedicated Netflix button on the remote helps in that regard.
Smart Hub is more ambitious than any of its competitors. There's an application store, a customizable home page, search, recommendations--really the kitchen sink approach to dealing with digital content. Unfortunately, most of the implementation is clunky and search in particular is disappointing.
While we appreciate Samsung's effort to innovate in this space, we felt the more focused, curated content portals offered by Panasonic and LG made for a better user experience. Most of the time we only want to access a few major services like Netflix, Vudu, and Pandora, and the rest of the stuff just gets in the way. Samsung may improve the service as time goes on, but right now it needs work.
Check out our full review of Samsung's Smart Hub for more info and comparisons of the content portals offered on Panasonic, LG, and Sony Blu-ray players.
|Key Blu-ray features|
|3D Blu-ray||Yes||Onboard memory||1 GB|
Also note that the 1GB of onboard memory is a step up from Samsung's cheaper BD-D6500, which doesn't have any onboard memory. On the other hand, the onboard memory is only used for BD-Live features, which we never find ourselves using.
|Streaming media features|
|Other: Rovi TV listings, USA Today, Google Maps|
Samsung has one of the most comprehensive selections of streaming media apps in 2011, especially on the video side. Standard services like Netflix, Vudu, and YouTube are covered, but also some standout extras, like MLB.TV and Hulu Plus.
For us, the main ingredient missing from Samsung's streaming media offerings is Amazon Instant Streaming. While competing services like Vudu are a compelling alternative for video-on-demand movies, Amazon Instant offers by far the largest selection of TV shows for pay-per-view watching, including both network and cable shows. We also appreciate that it's tied into our Amazon.com accounts, which means we're able to watch our purchased content in a browser as well. If you're looking to cut the cord or just supplement your existing cable subscription, we've found Amazon Instant Streaming to be the best TV content provider. That said, CinemaNow and Hulu Plus offer a solid collection of TV content, so it really comes down to which service you prefer.