Samsung BD-E8500A Blu-ray/HDD recorder review: Samsung BD-E8500A Blu-ray/PVR

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The Good Good DVD/Blu-ray picture performance. Excellent twin tuner PVR. WiFi for convenient connectivity. Excellent range of smart functions.

The Bad Progressive scan conversion only adequate on DVD. A bit expensive. Access to TV recordings burying deep in menu.

The Bottom Line The Samsung BD-E8500A offers smooth TV and disc video performance with perhaps the best set of 'Smart' features available

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8.1 Overall

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Samsung's BD-A8500A delivers movies from disc, but also incorporates a 500GB twin tuner PVR. It's well built — weighing a decent 3.2 kilograms, and its design quite attractive.

It has a perfectly adequate remote for normal use, but as a smart unit, it may be better suited to homes that are largely in the Android eco-system — specifically the Samsung one — rather than in iOS. For example, there are features that are simply too much of a pain to use without a better interface than what is provided by the standard remote control, and while there is an Android app, there appears to be none for iOS.

The output facilities are basic, as is the norm these days. Just the barest minimum of analog (stereo audio and composite video) and one HDMI. But new media is supported with front and rear USB sockets. The manual, weirdly, says that you need to use the front USB for persistent storage for BD-Live operation. That's wrong. A 2GB space is reserved on the hard disk for this purpose.

Playing discs

For Blu-rays and DVDs, the unit is practical and fast. It uses a slot type disc loader, which seemed to grab the disc gently, but firmly, and was quick to eject it again when you hit the button. There is a row of touch sensitive spots on the front panel for control.

The picture quality was generally very good, but not state of the art. No problems with regular Blu-ray discs, but some content on 1080i50 movie discs and on Australian DVDs tricked the processing into thinking it was video-sourced rather than film-sourced, generating visual artefacts. You can set the film/video detection to video or to auto, but not to film, which would have overcome this.

Still, most discs played without this visual problem, and it is so common anyway that many viewers are inured to it.

Smart features

Samsung's “Smart Hub” page is the centrepiece of its internet-based functions. A few things are installed on this, but you can add many more via the ”Samsung Apps” page. This is divided into categories, all of which are reasonably well populated. For example, under ”Sports” there are seven apps.

There are kids' games, Twitter and Facebook (although, I couldn't get that one to work), Samsung's music player, which provides access to lots of music for free — so long as you only want to hear the first thirty seconds of each track. There are about 30 video-streaming apps, including YouTube, Vimeo, BBC News and so on, plus ABC iView, and SBS On Demand for catch-up, but there is no catch-up service for commercial Australian TV stations yet. Though, these things are being updated all the time.