The Samsung BD-P1600 delivers very good-looking Blu-ray playback and adds a host of multimedia goodies previously found only in higher-end Samsung models, including BD-Live and Pandora streaming to your TV and home-theatre sound system.
Unfortunately, in a few simple areas, the Samsung BD-P1600 put its foot in its mouth.
The Samsung BD-P1600's video chipset is different from - and unfortunately not as good as the Silicon Optix Reon chip (used by the Samsung BD-P2500 we tested last year). When playing Blu-ray discs, the BD-P1600 sent very good but not spectacular images to our HDTV, regularly besting our reference player, a PlayStation 3, by a slim margin.
"Just a hair sharper than the PS3" we noted while using the Samsung BD-P1600 a 'Mission: Impossible III' scene (chapter 7) involving a lot of camera movement and detailed architecture.
The Samsung BD-P1600 had more trouble with a scene from The Searchers (chapter 20) shot in daylight but set after dark. In this hard-to-reproduce scene, the image seemed too dark on the BD-P1600, even though it did show more detail than the PS3 did. The Samsung's best performance came in its handling of the opening sequence of the animated movie 'Cars', where it offered vibrant, saturated colours; the "PS3 looks washed out by comparison" wrote one judge.
The Samsung BD-P1600 didn't fare well with standard-definition DVDs, which the player must upconvert to 1080p. We found images softer and less detailed on the Samsung player than on the PS3. Our judges split on whether the unit did an acceptable job of upscaling, but none of us thought the output was very good.
All BD Live-capable players have an ethernet port. With the Samsung BD-P1600, you can use that port to enjoy Netflix's and Pandora's video and musical offerings. (You'll have to sign up for these services and manage them via a computer.)
The Samsung BD-P1600 comes with a USB 2.0 port for use with a 1GB flash drive (for BD-Live functions) and for playing MP3 music and displaying JPEG photos. To find the files you want to play, though, you have to search through folders on your flash drive (or external hard drive). Another problem: although the USB port doesn't support video, a poorly placed menu option suggests that it does. The player has on-board audio decoding of Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HS Master Audio Essential.
For reasons unknown, Samsung decided to put a big flap over the front panel of the Samsung BD-P1600. The flap swings open when you eject the tray - and it stays open until you remember to close it, meanwhile posing a scrape hazard to anyone who walks by the player too closely. The BD-P1600 is shallower and lighter-weight than its predecessors, helping it fit easily into tight spaces.
The Samsung BD-P1600's setup menu is a good-looking, legible full-screen affair, though it lacks explanations of its options. If you press the remote's Display button while watching a movie, a big box on the side will pop up, listing the title, chapter numbers, time elapsed, and some technical information. When you press Pause or skip to the next chapter, a leaner, more useful information display pops up, showing you time elapsed and total time.
The Samsung BD-P1600 is one of the fastest Blu-ray players we've tested, getting a disc up and running in just 42 seconds. There's a very slight wait when you skip a chapter, and none at all when you press Pause.
Other recent Samsung HDTVs have had excellent remote controls, but not this one. Many important buttons - such as the ones for Play, Pause, and the disc menu - are well placed but too small. Meanwhile, the setup button is quite large - and how often do you use that? The remote isn't backlit, although a few commonly used buttons glow in the dark. It is, at least, programmable.