It seems like as soon as Blu-ray became a definitively mainstream home theater format, manufacturers scrambled to find a new format to charge extra for--3D. Samsung's BD-C6900 ($360 street price) is the first 3D Blu-ray player we've reviewed so far, and the 3D price premium is steep. The step-down BD-C6500 is nearly identical except it lacks 3D and costs about $135 less. Not to mention the fact that you'll need to buy a new HDTV and pricey 3D glasses, as well as 3D content--which is exceedingly rare at the moment. We also didn't find the 3D Blu-ray experience to be all that satisfying with the Samsung UN55C8000 3D HDTV we used for this test, although we suspect our issues in that area had more to do with the TV than the BD-C6900's 3D performance.
3D-pricing gripes aside, we found the BD-C6900 to be an excellent Blu-ray player. Its outstanding feature set is highlighted by built-in Wi-Fi, the expandable Samsung Apps platform (which already includes services like Netflix, Vudu, and Pandora) and 7.1 analog audio outputs. Its Blu-ray image quality is in the top ranks of Blu-ray players we've tested and its speedy operational performance is bested only by the Sony BDP-S570. If a 3D HDTV is in your future and you're willing to pay the price premium, the BD-C6900 is one of the best Blu-ray players on the market. But if you're taking a wait-and-see approach to 3D--which we'd recommend--save your cash and go with the BD-C6500.
Samsung has a knack for eye-catching designs and the BD-C6900 is no different. Its main gimmick is an illuminated window on the top of the player that lets you see the spinning disc, adding a dimension of depth to the physical design of the player (luckily you can turn the illumination off). Also on the top are touch-sensitive buttons; unfortunately, that location makes them inaccessible if you stack another device on the BD-C6900. From the front, the design features Samsung's standard glossy, black finish, with the disc tray hidden behind a small automatic door on the far left. There's no denying the BD-C6900 looks slick, but the top-positioned buttons are less functional than we would have liked.
Samsung has completely redesigned its user interface, and we like the new look. It's visually appealing, with a wood-grain background and large icons for different media types (Internet@TV, music, video, photos). There are also five large icons at the top for popular streaming services (Rovi TV listings, Blockbuster, Netflix, Vudu, and Pandora), so you can quickly access them without jumping into the more involved Samsung Apps interface. Unfortunately you can't customize which icons show up at the top, so if you're not a fan of, say, Rovi TV listings, you can't replace that with Picasa. Overall, it's an upgrade of prior Samsung user interfaces that makes it easier to jump into whichever service you'd like to use.
If you want to dig deeper into Samsung's online offerings, you can access the Samsung Apps platform (aka Internet@TV; Samsung uses the terms interchangeably). Here you can browse and download new apps, which are categorized into genres like video, game, sports, and lifestyle. All of the current available apps are free, but, according to Samsung, premium apps will be available in the future.
We haven't seen any new apps pop up since we've had the player, so it's tough to gauge how much additional functionality the platform will provide. We also would have liked to see the option to rate apps, which would make it easier to find quality programs.
The BD-C6900's connectivity is a step above most competing players thanks to its inclusion of 7.1 analog outputs. That's a nice plus for people using older, non-HDMI AV receivers, as you'll still be able to take advantage of both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio at their full resolutions. It's also a plus for anyone with existing HDMI-capable AV receivers that lack HDMI 1.4 compatibility. This way you can send 3D video straight to your HDTV and use the analog outputs to connect to your AV receiver.
7.1 analog outputs are a nice plus for people using older, non-HDMI AV receivers, as you'll still be able to take advantage of both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio at their full resolutions. It's also a plus for anyone with existing HDMI-capable AV receivers that lack HDMI 1.4 compatibility. This way you can send 3D video straight to your HDTV and use the analog outputs to connect to your AV receiver.
Samsung has redesigned its Blu-ray remote this year, opting for a wider, flatter clicker that lacks much of the glossy finish that collected fingerprints on the old remotes. The new button layout is simple and straight forward, with the most important buttons, like the directional pad and playback controls, falling easily under our thumb. The number pad is a bit oversized for our tastes (who uses the number pad frequently?) and the eject button could be more prominent, but those are minor issues. The remote can also control a TV.