Almost any way you look at it, the Samsung BD-C6500 is a first-rate Blu-ray player. The picture quality is among the best we've seen to date, it has audio options that are particularly friendly to older home theatre surround-sound systems, and it brings internet services such as Netflix, Vudu, YouTube and Pandora to your television, too. And at £150, this model won't break your wallet.
Our image quality judges gave the Samsung BD-C6500 Superior grades (our highest) throughout our lab tests, with only a smattering of Very Goods.
The colours in the computer-animated Cars were exceptional. We noted better white balance (when compared to our reference player, a Sony PlayStation 3) and extremely sharp and reflective water glasses in the first scene from the black and white Good Night, and Good Luck. And the contrast was superb in chapters 4 and 20 of The Searchers: skin colours looked especially dramatic, with the tanned, brown skin of the men marking a contrast against the paleness of the women.
The Samsung BD-C6500 even managed to impress us at the more difficult job of upscaling DVDs. These didn't look as good as Blu-ray discs, of course, but we noted excellent facial details and dimensionality (by DVD standards) in a crowd scene from Phantom of the Opera (2004 version, chapter 3).
Samsung BD-C6500: audio tests
Great pictures should be accompanied by great sound, of course. Any Blu-ray player can send high-quality audio to a modern, HDMI-equipped surround receiver - it just has to send the bitstream down the wire. But older, pre-HDMI receivers can't decode the newer formats, and besides that, their optical S/PDIF inputs couldn't handle that much data. Most Blu-ray players support this older hardware by converting Dolby TrueHD to Dolby Digital, DTS-HD Master Audio to DTS, and surround PCM to downmixed, two-track PCM.
The Samsung BD-C6500 can do all that, but it also offers the option to re-encode everything to DTS - the best-quality surround format the older receivers could handle. This means that your Dolby TrueHD soundtracks are likely to sound better than Dolby Digital, and your PCM soundtracks will still surround you. This feature would have been even better if the Samsung BD-C6500 allowed you to assign which audio formats get converted - re-encoding Dolby Digital to DTS couldn't help and might hurt the sound.
Samsung BD-C6500: internet features
Like so many of today's Blu-ray players, the Samsung BD-C6500 does more than play discs. Hook it up to the internet via ethernet or Wi-Fi, and you have access to Netflix, Vudu, Pandora and YouTube. The Netflix image quality was reasonably good (by Netflix standards), although the Samsung BD-C6500 doesn't offer the newer Netflix user interface, found on the Vizio VBR200W, that allows you to add movies to your queue at the player rather than only on your PC. Samsung's YouTube interface is simple and straightforward, although entering search text can be a bit clumsy.
Vudu, a pay-per-view and pay-to-own service, allows you to stream from a large selection of movies and TV shows, including recent big-name titles just released on DVD and Blu-ray. Many titles are available in standard definition, HD, and what Vudu calls HDX, which is 1080p - like a Blu-ray disc. Is it as good as a Blu-ray? That will depend upon the speed of your internet connection.
Other internet streaming offerings on the Samsung BD-C6500 include Blockbuster OnDemand, Accu Weather, Picasa and GettyImages. It even has Google Maps, although that application makes a lot more sense on a PC or a phone than on a Blu-ray Disc player you will be using with a remote control.
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