With more and more users strongly ensconced in the PS3, looks like it is end of days for HD Blu-ray disc spinners with the standalone disc spinners going under £90 – a catchy bean that is sure to attract any gadget geek. Guess Samsung begs to differ here with unveiling players like the Samsung BD-D8900 which has a lot more on offer as against bare movie playback, which includes HDD on board together with 3D technology. Don’t we all love convergence? Look like the Korean manufacturer is all set to unveil an absolute epitome of technology packed in a stylish unit like the Samsung BD-D8900 that promises to get rid of all those boxes cluttering beneath your TV. It is so very remarkable in its scope, in that it literally makes the PS3 seem a little restrictive particularly with Samsung trying to sweeten the deal furthermore by offering a £50 cash back (for a limited period). So the BD-D8900 sure does prove to be a technology buzzword, as it manages to blend a 3D Blu-ray spinner, PVR with 1TB HDD, Freeview Decoder, internet service hub and Media Player all in one. Improvising its sibling Samsung BD-D8500, this new model packs double the amount of storage capacity (1TB) in comparison to its predecessor in addition to a second HDMI output (audio-only) that is onboard just in case you wish to have individual HDMI feeds to your sound system and display. Then again, it is pretty much identical in all other aspects. Well, it is up to you to decide if this justifies the extra price tag, as we personally don’t really believe it does, as the difference between a 1TB and 500GB shouldn’t really work out so much assuming that an additional HDMI connection wouldn’t really cost this much. Nevertheless, the BD-D8900 is no doubts an awesome spinner.
What you get
Also called the PVR (personal video recorder) or HDR (hard disk recorder) the BD-D8900 simply put is a Sky+box for Freeview with the addition of HD goodness. The latter requires the spinner to be much big in size than the prior incarnations of PVRs. The box packs a hard disk that comes with a whopping capacity of 1TB, which comes in handy for all the HD fans. The spinner is capable of recording 240 hours of HD programmes/480 hours of standard def content with the ability to even rip music CDs with comprehensive track listing and cover art downloading by default that can also be transferred as MP3s to a USB.
Features at a Glance
- Full screen capabilities
- 1000 GB of HDD Media recording
- Hyper Real Video Engine
- BD Profile 2.o
- Smart Hub
- 1GB Local Storage
- 2D to 3D conversion
- 3-Second Boot time
- 1080p DVD output
- BD Wise Auto image Setup
Design and Connectivity
Well in order to accommodate all of the above technology, it calls for a chassis of some size and the Samsung BD-D8900 3D Blu Ray Player humbly obliges. It is a fairly stylish unit and comes in a classy blend of glossy black and chrome finish that is obviously Samsung familiar. Check out the cool embellishments like the window on top through which you can view the discs whirring around and the 3D logo which glows at the top, which is kind of hard to miss, upon a disc being loaded. Thankfully, this can be turned off from the settings menu, if you find it too flashy. It sure does look to be a chunky chap at 64mm tall and 430mm wide. On the flip side, not that it lacks charm or the required refinement. For starters, the spinner is devoid of any clunky tray for disc loading and uses a slick slot loader instead, try feeding it with a silver platter and watch it hungrily slurp it in. There are also touch-panel controls with an illuminated disc mechanism, courtesy the semi–transparent lid. We guess you really wouldn’t be keen on hiding this flamboyant hulk away in your cabinets. In the front, right behind the flip down panel you get to see a CI slot, which comes in fairly handy with accessing paid services namely Sky Sports over Freeview, and you also find the USB port for media playback right here.
Coming to the rear of the BD-D8900, regardless of all its functionality it doesn’t really look crowded at all. You get two HDMIs with one of them for audio only, which comes in handy at routing lossless DTS HD and Dolby TrueHD Master Audio soundtracks from Blu-ray spinners to receivers that are AV compatible (non-3D) with the primary output delivering 3D straight to your stereoscopic display. Also on offer are digital optical audio outputs, phono AV together with an Ethernet connection. With Wi-Fi being onboard you wouldn’t need a dongle. The component video output is also on offer, but then you might want to be aware of the fact that it doesn’t help with Hi-def.
Again, Blu-ray output is restricted to 480i complying with the AACS copy protection protocol. Furthermore Freeview HD is output at 576p, in contrast to the HDMI option, thus taking care of the issue of online piracy with a single stroke. Performance-wise, the BD-D8900 sure does put in a nice performance, but cannot be labeled the fastest spinner when it comes to loading titles as it takes roughly a minute and a half after loading the BD-live enabled disc in the tray to the time the Fox logo cares to show itself. Nevertheless, the controls are fairly responsive with the picture over HDMI neat and crisp.
Samsung is one such manufacturer that has always been magnanimous when it comes to features and the BD-D8900 Blu Ray Disc Player is no exception to that concept. So let us start with our favourite, the Smart Hub, the new web portal of Samsung that offers you an assortment of apps on your TV screen. It is not just the content that has gone through a makeover since last year with the addition of the BBC iPlayer to the Internet@TV, but the presentation has also turned awesome. The snazzy and bright Smart Hub menus has its apps icons all neatly laid out in a grid format that allows you to segregate them into folders, (just so there are several members of a family using them and wish to separate their content from others). Addition of new apps happens rapidly and easily via the App Store. Few of the existing apps would include the Google Maps, Daily Motion, BBC News, Picasa, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter along with a plethora of other less popular and specialist apps. Again, you also get to access a whole load of games, puzzles and activities for children, a fairly family-friendly feature. Again, though it doesn’t really match up with the BRAVIA Internet Video of Sony, wherein the TV content looks to be huge, it is not really far behind too. The Your Video feature which is relatively new looks up for info on movies, both old and new, giving you the option to like and share the same on social networking sites. The search mode, which is also new probes for keyword-related content on YouTube, Your Video and Facebook, and excludes the Freeview EPG in that search.
Moving on to the DLNA AllShare feature – this allows for streaming of content from networked devices namely NAS drives and PCs. It list of formats supported go on to include WMA, DivX HD, MKV, MP3, WMV and AVI to name a few, but then streaming is not possible with AVCHD files, which you can alternatively play from the disc. The above list can also be played via the USB port. The BD-D8900 also comes in handy with ripping music CDs onto your hard disk and you can copy the same to a USB if you wish to or even stream them. However, there is no Blu-ray recording as it is a straight-up unit.
Along with playing 3D Blu-rays, the spinner also converts pictures from 2D to 3D. This is not just applicable to DVDs or Blu-ray discs alone, but also to the Smart Hub videos and content streamed from network or USB devices and Freeview recordings/programmes, with the facility to alter depth with settings ranging from 1-10.
There is a whole array of features onboard offered in terms of digital TV too that goes on to include dual HD tuners for Freeview that comes in handy at changing channels during recording, but this is constrained by its obvious restriction to record just one channel at a time. Then there is the Time Shift with which LIVE TV programmes can be paused or be watched from the start even as it records, a 8-day EPG with series link together with the rest of the features that is broadcaster-controlled akin to other PVRs. Polite dialogue boxes aids in activating series, and with it being set, the Schedule Manager displays all instances when the specified series is being shown, together with the rest of scheduled recordings.
Operation-wise – guess Samsung have gone that extra mile this 2011 on their Blu-ray lineup in making their menus feel and look welcoming and clear-cut with smart usage of vibrant graphics, chunky fonts and straight-forward menus. Importantly, the onscreen design is a real delight to use and doesn’t really stop you from opting for the product. Well, there are some hitches like the menu slightly dragging especially the menus relating to DLNA, but guess the delays are not really significant. The best of the lot would be the main menu, which uses animated icons that are neatly laid out in a platform with corresponding floating options above. Almost everything can be accessed from here with the inclusion of EPG, USB, Smart Hub HDD content, DLNA playback together with all vital Settings menu, which again is a cakewalk to be used. The recorded TV menus take the form of blocks each with a thumbnail that can be sorted by Date, Name or Channel wise. Also on offer is an assortment of editing features that allows you to delete parts of your recording with the use of an intuitive onscreen editing tool, but then accessing that feature is not an easy task. So is the task of setting up your ID for Smart TV for apps like Twitter and Facebook. Furthermore, keying in mail IDs and passwords via the onscreen keyboard that has been designed to replicate a mobile phone is complicated too requiring you to toggle through diverse pages of words and switching between various entry methods. Fortunately, there is the “Remember by Details” box and checking that would make you go through the process just once.
Getting to the rest of the setup process looks pretty much simple, setting up the Wi-Fi for instance, guides users (especially the not-so-tech-savvy) using simple graphics and explanations. Yet another feature that makes using the deck a pleasant one would be the petite dialogue boxes that rush to your rescue by popping up when encountered with a conflict or stuff that you need to know namely timer schedule changes or recording clashes, with any such happenings, the deck will let you know about it. Yet another helpful feature keeps you posted on when an SD programme selected by you is shown in HD.
Again, try hitting the info button as you watch TV and you will witness the best of onscreen info banners seen until date. The details that are displayed is pretty comprehensive with coloured icons being used for stuff like resolution, subtitles, aspect ratio, Audio format and description. Even better you are allowed to browse the entire line-up of channels to know what’s on days before the scheduled telecast. Usage of USB/DLNA content is easy too they share the same menu layout as the Recorded TV display. Likewise the EPG also dons a classy design that manages to squeeze a 6-channel, 2-hour programme grid, synopsis of programmes and controls and the live TV box all into one screen without giving a cluttered feeling. Well, there is one hitch though, it is not possible to read the names of the programmes in the grid, which is actually a shame.
All of the above is wonderfully controlled by a remote that is user-friendly sporting chunky tactile keys, big lettering and sensibly laid out. Life is made furthermore easy with the playback keys that glow in the dark and dedicated buttons for 2D to 3D conversion and the Smart Hub. If you wish to explore more hit the Tools button for additional options, that includes an array of picture presets and User setting, which allows for adjustment of various picture parameters. On the flip side if you own a Samsung TV that has a Freeview decoder of its own, you can manage it with a single remote, but that gets kind of confusing at times as to which decoder are you currently using. While it is a powerful combo, it is sure to confuse the technically-weak.
3D and 2D Blu-ray Playback
Blu-ray images look spectacular in this Samsung BD-D8900 3D Smart Blu Ray Player with HDD. The clean and crisp pixels are digitally transferred from the disc to the screen resulting in pristine images with signs of noise witnessed only from the disc. Textures and fine details are taking in its stride and rendered dazzling acuity. Regardless of the 3D content being viewed via active shutter glasses, 3D images look vibrant and sharp, but with the advantage of additional distance and depth, the effect looks downright absorbing.
Users might want to be aware of the fact that while using a Samsung TV and Blu-ray player together, the deck is detected by TV’s smart connectivity via HDMI and seemingly improves the overall experience as the features and settings are interlinked and giving the feeling that the deck and the TV are one and the same, which is actually both good and bad. With two remotes and two menus looking almost identical it gets confusing to figure out where Blu-ray disk player went? It would have been nice if Samsung had distinguished the menu system particularly upon being connected to a TV with identical menus! Well, if it is smart enough to identify two Samsung devices being connected, then it could’ve might as well altered the colours of the menu! Are you listening Samsung?
Picture Quality – TV Tuner
The deck has a magnificent HD playback with abundant details on HD channels and is devoid of any artefacts like noise or blockade with stuff looking great. Colours look natural and deep with diverse shadows and shades on background and clothing that looks smooth and devoid of banding.
HD Recording Quality
The spinner records only in the highest possible quality making the recording on hard disk seem great retaining minute details. This would have posed to be a problem if the disc was any smaller than 1TB, but with this kind of high capacity for recording, there doesn’t look to be a concern. Even if there is one, all you need to do is then connect an external disk and voila there it is – record HD videos to your heart’s content.
Standard definition channels also seem strong when viewed both recorded or live with a wee bit of feathering and block noise with rapid movements, but nothing that could prove annoying. Coming to the spinner’s 2D to 3D conversion, it is not that impressive, we would say. It fails to provide an extra depth to most of the scenes, with just a couple of evident floating object instances that remotely look real. On the flip side we are yet to see a manufacturer give us a convincing conversion tech.
Samsung sure does know how to cram as many features possible into a single product and the BD-D8900 looks to be no exception to this trait of theirs. Well, for starters, the deck is no svelte-looking piece and neither does it attempt looking so – now for a deck that packs this many features, there has to be someplace that all these technology needs to go. With its extensive connectivity options to its exhaustive features, the deck sure does know how to work things out of a TV, let alone a disc player. It looks to be a living proof of convergence that blends together a variety of AV components into a single unit. It also explodes with couple of cutting-edge features like comprehensive Freeview functionality to media streaming over Wi-Fi, not to forget the colossal 1TB hard-disk. It is irrelevant whether it’s a smart Blu-ray spinner or a Hi-def PVR, or a tuner with two or more niggles, but this is as good as it can get in a world of Freeview HD as it promises to tick all relevant boxes with the HD/Blu-ray+1TB hard drive combi. Now to pick on a few areas for improvement – Samsung need to work on their network media streaming functionality as it is frustrating when you are not allowed to use the internet features while it is recording. Again, the inability to record two channels simultaneously looks to be a shame particularly in this day and age; Yet, this feature rich player more than compensates the price and presents itself to be a purposeful 3d-ready deck.
Samsung BD-D8900 Blu Ray Disc Player – Technical Specification Table
|Model Name||Samsung BD-D8900|
|Product Type||Blu-Ray player|
|Form Factor||Table top|
|Dimensions H x W x D||430 mm x 60 mm x 299mm|
|Control Button||Touch Key|
|Video Decoding Format||HD JPEG, MPEG, MPEG2/4, AVCHD, DivX HD,
MKV, WMV 1,2,3,7,9
|Video Output Resolution||1920 x 1080 P, 1920 x 1080 I, 1280 x 720 P,
720 x 480 P (720x 576 P), 720x 480 I (720x 576 I)
|Video Scaling||DVD Upconversion|
|Audio Decoding Format||AAC, Dolby Digital Plus 7.1ch, Dolby TrueHD, DTS,
DTS HD Hi-Res audio, DTS HD master audio, LPCM, MP3, WMA
|Playback Media||3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray video, CD DA/CD-R/CD-RW,
DVD-video, DVD R, DVD RW
|Connectivity||Analog Audio Outputs: 2ch
Component Video output
Composite video output
Optical Digital Audio Output
USB Host: 1EA
Wireless LAN Built-in
|Tuner||Dual Tuner, DVB-T2/C|
|Recording Media||Yes (100GB)|
|Timer Recording||EPG (Digital)
Number of recording (1 Month): 50 Events/Month
On Time Recording: Off, 10 min~6 hour
|DVB||Auto channel Scan
Auto clock setting
EPG (digital) – SI-EPG
Logical channel number
Manual channel scan
|General Features||3D convertor, AllShare, BD Wise, Full Screen,
Hyper Real Engine, Karaoke, Local Storage (Built-In Memory),
Smart Hub, Ultra Fast Play, Video Up-scale DVD
Plate size: 3.5”
Recording time (HD, SD): About 20 hours of HD
Stand by/Operating: 1W/33W