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

Review Sections

As a test, we downloaded one of the two Australian-focused sports apps: the BigPond NRL Game Analyser (replace NRL with AFL for the other one). When you're doing this, a ”Memory Usage” bar on the screen shows that a total memory of a little under 800MB was available. This app uses about 3.5MB. Facebook uses 6.7MB.

The app allows you to jump to all the highlights (scoring plays, errors, fouls, penalties and so on) shown in streaming video (you can select one of three qualities, depending on your connection). It covers all games in four competitions (including State of Origin) for 2010, 2011 and 2012, and will work for 2013 and on as they are played. When people talk about interactive TV — this is the real deal.

Use of Bigpond apps is unmetered for those who use Bigpond as their ISP. Likewise, Bigpond Movies — which isn't cheap to watch streamed — is unmetered. If you prefer, you can sign up with Quickflix for its pay-per-view service.

While we whinged before about lack of support for iOS, you can use features that require text entry quite easily by just plugging in a cheap USB keyboard.

Other stuff

The biggie feature in this unit is the twin tuner PVR. There really isn't a lot to say about this. It worked, it worked smoothly and the quality was fine. And with a 500GB hard disk, you ought to have plenty of capacity.

If we were in charge of Samsung, we'd make two small changes. First, the unit should ask for confirmation before stopping recording when you hit the Stop button. Second, it'd be nice if the unit could be set to buffer whatever video you're watching continuously, rather than having to be invoked (by pressing the Pause key.) If you do remember to hit Pause and then Play, then at any time, you can rewind live TV up to 90 minutes.

The unit supports DLNA media from your network and also plays media from USB. It covers lots of formats, but is a little tricky. It happily supported some high resolution FLAC music files, but internally, it converted 96kHz and 192kHz sample rates down to 44.1kHz (which is CD standard). If you want a real high resolution audio player, this isn't it. (Note: we switched off PCM downsampling in the menus, and it did deliver two channel 96kHz PCM from DVD without alteration).

The best thing about this unit is that it did all it was supposed to do quite quickly and smoothly, with no sense of gears grinding away beneath the surface. Our only real reservation is that it's a couple of hundred dollars more expensive than some competing devices.