Now that Wi-Fi and extensive support for streaming media services like Netflix have become commonplace on midrange Blu-ray players, manufacturers have struggled to find ways to stand out from the pack. Samsung's differentiating feature on the BD-C6500's is Samsung Apps, an expandable platform for streaming media and other Internet services like Twitter. Though it may not achieve the same popularity as Apple's App Store, the platform is already well-stocked with names like Netflix, Vudu, Pandora and YouTube.
Aside from Samsung Apps, the BD-C6500 is also one of the few players to keep 7.1 analog audio outputs, which is a bonus for anyone with an older non-HDMI AV receiver. On the downside, the BD-C6500's operational speed was in the lowest tier of players we've tested this year, coming in even slightly behind the Vizio VBR200W. We'd also keep our eye on the BD-C6500's user reviews, as last year's Samsung players seemed to have reliability issues, although we didn't experience any issues during our test period. The Samsung BD-C6500 wouldn't be our first choice for speedy playback, but it's the most feature-packed non-3D player we've tested at this price level.
The BD-C6900 might be the flagship model in Samsung's lineup, but we think the BD-C6500 is the best-looking player. The BD-C6500 has a more refined look, eschewing the all-glossy-black style for a brushed-metal look, although the cabinet is actually made of plastic. There's an LCD display in the center of the unit and to the right are a few illuminated touch-sensitive buttons. We found the touch sensitive buttons responsive and liked that the power button stayed lit when the player was turned off, unlike the completely dark (and confusing) design of the Vizio VBR200W.
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 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). From there 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 Samsung said that 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 the option to rate apps, which would make it easier to find quality programs.
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 straightforward, with the most important buttons, like the directional pad and playback controls, falling easily under the 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.