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Samsung BD-J5900 review: Curved Blu-ray player a straight-up solid value

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Samsung BD-J5900

(Part #: SSGBDJ5900)
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The Good The Samsung BD-J5900 is one of the fastest Blu-ray players we've tested for under a hundred dollars. The unit offers decent streaming options, and only a dedicated streaming box will do it better for the same money. Image quality is excellent.

The Bad The design is unattractive, and the player doesn't offer any basic indicators, not even power. The ergonomics of the remote and the user interface -- especially the "seek" function -- could be improved. Some rivals offer better features for the same price.

The Bottom Line The Samsung BD-J5900 offers excellent image quality, speedy disc access and great bang for the buck.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Ecosystem 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 9.0
  • Value 8.0

Times are tough for the humble 1080p Blu-ray disc. This year it's being attacked from two fronts: streaming apps like Netflix and the approach of a brand new 4K disc format. Sales of Blu-ray discs declined ten percent last year and show no signs of recovering.

So where does this leave existing Blu-ray collections? In a good place actually. Players are so inexpensive now, and Blu-ray discs are so cheap, that for a certain movie fans, especially those who value Blu-ray's superior image quality to streaming, it still makes sense to invest in both. And unlike Netflix's ever-morphing collection, you'll have them for life.

The Samsung BD-J5900 is one of the preeminent examples of the modern Blu-ray player. It loads discs quickly, it offers excellent picture quality, and it has an eye to the future with a decent selection of streaming apps.

If you want a better streamer, buy a Roku , but if you want to spin discs, our top choices come down to this Samsung and the Sony BDP-S5500 . The Sony is our pick because it offers better usability and a better mix of features, including the ability to stream games, for the same price. But the Samsung is a very good player in its own right too.

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Design

Paging H.R. Giger. With its striped sides and curved shape this player looks like an offcut from an '80s sci-fi horror set. If your living room looks like the deck of a spaceship, it may just fit in. The reason for the curve? It's Samsung's thing, I guess: soundbars, TVs and now Blu-ray players.

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The player lacks any kind of display, not even a light to tell you whether it's on or not, though if you use the Instant On feature, technically it's always on anyway. There are just two buttons on the front -- Power and Play.

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The onscreen interface is just as attractive as the previous year's version, with links to all of the pertinent services and a prominent Disc icon. Navigation is fairly simple and I liked the ability to add your own shortcuts to your favorite streaming services.

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The remote control is pleasantly compact but I've seen better designs, and not just because it lacks a Netflix button. For example, the Audio and subtitle buttons are just above the thumb on remote, which is an unusual place to put them as you should rarely need either. In contrast, Sony's superior remote puts the more often-used Popup and Top Menu there instead.

Features

While the $249, £189 J7500 is the all-singing, all-dancing player -- with 4K upscaling and streaming to (but not from) Samsung's multi-room system -- the $99.99, £89.99 J5900 strips this back to the features you actually need. In addition to spinning discs, it offers offers a decent selection of streaming services including Netflix, Amazon and YouTube (plus Hulu in the US; BBC iPlayer in the UK). Serious streaming customers will probably want to go with something like a Roku, however, with its much larger selection.

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The player also includes a selection of Opera TV apps though at the time of writing none of them were very compelling. Landscape Channel, for instance?

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