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The Samsung BD-D8500M 3D Ready Blu-ray player, hard disk recorder and free-to-air HD receiver is a feature rich high definition solution. It has a 500GB hard disk, full HD 1080p output, DVD upscaling, FreeviewHD, and the latest DTS and Dolby decoding for great surround sound. It will also play DivX movies, MP3 music and JPEG photos from a disc or USB device and connect to the internet for additional content such as BD-live Blu-Ray material.
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We read many reviews of this unit before buying it. They all said how good it was. We have been using the BD-D8500 for almost a week, it's attached to a brand new Samsung TV.
First the good: picture and sound quality are excellent.
Now the bad: when we first got the unit, the optical disc player did not play blurays although it did play DVDs. After a few hours of messing about it finally started playing blurays, like there may have been some dust on the lens perhaps? We have also noticed the aerial connection is a bit dodgy and just lightly moving the cable can cause interference or total "loss" of signal.
But it's the little things that really let this unit down. The user interface just isn't intuitive enough, especially compared to the older Sony unit we had previously for standard definition content. What's worse is the infuriating messages and other behaviour. For example, if you're watching a recorded program on HDD and the unit is scheduled to start another recording during that time, a message appears asking whether you want to switch to the channel to see if the schedule needs updating. Eh? You have to answer yes, no or cancel. So you press no. A minute later when the recording starts, it stops playing the recorded program you're watching and switches back to live TV! And not even back to the channel to be recorded, but to the channel you were last watching! Why would anyone design it to behave like that? So you then have to go through the needlessly convoluted menu to get back to the recorded program, which starts at the beginning again and you have to search through it to pick up where you were kicked off. Another example, you're watching a program in chasing playback, it gets to the end of the program so it displays a message saying "recording complete". When it does this it stops playing the program and goes back to live TV. Why display the message, and why stop playing? So you have to go back and start playing the recorded program again and fast forward back to the point it kicked you off again. Useless!
Deleting recorded programs is a rediculously convoluted process involving a number of un-intuitive button inputs. You certainly can't easily delete a program after just watching it which means you collect large numbers of programs cluttering up the list. In fact as soon as it gets to the end of a recorded program it then immediately starts playing the next which can be confusing.
The EPG is very slow to navigate unlike the near identical Samsung TV EPG we have.
We've also found that the unit will switch on randomly by itself at times. This has happened 3 times in less than a week. We got woken up at 02:30 in the morning the other day because when it switches on the TV also switches on! We have come home to find it on, and it's done it once while we were in the house. It's not like it's switching on to record something either, it just seems completely random!
When it's working properly and not irritating you with it's bizarre behaviour, the picture quality is excellent. BUT there are some serious firmware issues, both in design and with bugs. Samsung: get rid of all those utterly pointless messages and stop it from switching away to something other than what the user is trying to do!!!! We've also found build quality is questionable. Not good.
EDIT: I reported some of these issues to Samsung: 1. Irritating messages and the stopping of playback when recording starts/stops: Samsung said they'd "pass it on" and that I should pursue any warranty issues with Amazon (though obviously this is a design issue) Not amused. 2. Turning on by itself causing TV to switch on: Samsung said to contact Amazon as that is the arrangement between Samsung and Amazon. However, I've since worked out myself that you can stop it switching on by itself by changing this setting: Settings->Support->Software Upgrade->Download in Standby Mode=Off (from the default of 2 hours) So we don't get woken up in the middle of the night anymore! Hopefully this will help others. Obviously it's a bug that when it switches on to do a software update it's also outputting to the TV causing that to switch on but I doubt you'll convince Samsung of that. If you search for "samsung switches on middle of night" you'll find it's a fairly long-standing issue with Samsung kit, yet they told me to talk to Amazon about it.
So we've managed to work-around one of the bugs but the irritating design issues remain. If usability is the most important thing for you, you may be better going with Sony.
Update after owning for 6 months. I've now got an even lower opinion of this unit and Samsung "Support" and absolutely do not recommend buying it. Not only are all the problems already reported present, there is now a new problem which is even worse. If you rewind or fast-forward while playing back a recording, the consequent playback is often jerky at about half frame rate which makes you feel sick trying to watch it. All of the problems have been reported to Samsung and they seem to have done absolutely nothing to reproduce the issues themselves.Read more ›
I swapped a DigitalStream DHR8203U PVR for this product, as I couldn't cope with the DigitalStream's poor picture quality relative to my TV tuner's. It also solved my present problem of not having a Blu ray player. I bought it to match my 40" Samsung LED backlit TV, and they work very well together.
Setup was very easy. Network detection worked well, although the text input (for passwords, etc.) is rather clumsy. Picture quality from the tuner seems top notch. Blu ray output quality looks equally good. Upscaling from DVD amazed me; I've never seen my DVDs look so good. The on-screen user interface is intuitive and sleek. Also, I really like the Samsung remote controls.
Although I was told the product had a Lovefilm app, it currently doesn't. Samsung tells me that this will come within two weeks. BBC iPlayer works very well with no pauses on my system.
I've not yet tried 2D-3D conversion, so can't comment on that.
The biggest frustration with this product is that although it has two Freeview+HD tuners, only one is "attached" to the hard drive, so it's impossible to record more than one channel at a time. But I knew this limitation before I bought it. Although I'm hoping that a future software upgrade might address this "issue", I doubt it.
At the time of writing, this Samsung product is very new to market so it's relatively quite expensive. Also, it has the annoying limitation of single channel recording, which is not present in other, cheaper products. But this Samsung looks and feels like a quality product. Personally, I was willing to compromise this functionality for a single box, quality product solution. I expect that others won't be prepared to make that compromise and other products will soon outshine this Samsung.
I'm happy with this product because it does what I need, and does it well, but with the one-channel record limitation I can see Samsung selling very few or the price dropping quickly.
One other point to note: if you buy a Samsung product from Amazon, your guarantee is with Amazon, not Samsung. This might not be a problem but when I had an issue with my TV, the Samsung helpline were unwilling to talk to me. Also, I have heard that Samsung offer longer guarantee periods than the one-year Amazon guarantee, but I have no proof of this.Read more ›
I have owned this device for about a month and used it daily as a PVR and also as a media player. I bought it because my Panasonic DVD/HDD recorder had lost its DVD capabilities. I almost always watch recorded TV rather than live and wanted to see that in HD on my new TV.
I had been alerted to some of the firmware issues but went into it with my eyes open in the hope that the firmware would be upgraded and everything would come out all right in the end. I had accepted that I would only be able to record one channel at once and it seemed that the ability to make a permanent copy of recorded TV would be lost, although I could not see why. I more often watch BBC and so I would make use of the built in wifi and IPLayer to reduce the actual scheduled recording. Iplayer downloads to a USB hard drive on my PC might provide a way of having a permanent collection of valued recordings if and when the law changes.
I was also looking forward to making use of the media player features. The sales proposition offers very wide codec support but it seems that these kinds of devices are rather suck-it-and-see and I was prepared to be disappointed.
So how has it worked out in practice?
Firstly, I completely agree with other reviewers about picture and sound quality. I have a good Sony TV and the picture is just as good as the one from the Sony tuner. It is good for both SD and HD programs. It is good with DVDs but I haven't yet offered it a Blu-ray.
As a media player from a USB attached HDD the video codec support is very good. It has even played some MOV files although that isn't a supported container, the actual video codecs being acceptable. Comparing this with my Sony TV which has very limited codec support I see that it does a very good job with lowish bitrate files which frighten the Sony into blocks and pixels. Although it likes to index your files and present them alphabetically, it can also present a folder view and sort things by date. There is a "Full screen" button which toggles around "Original - mode1 - mode2" My experience has been that Mode1 mostly results in pictures being scaled up to fill or make best use of the screen area.
The photo picture is less happy. The "Full Screen" button doesn't work and the zooming features are clumsy, too many button pushes away and reset themselves for each new photo. Worse, I find that having showed it a USB with rather a lot of photos, it now says "too many photo files" and will only show some of them. deleting whole swathes doesn't help. This would seem to be a result of its enthusiasm for indexing content. The database has filled up and I don't see how to reset it. The problem propagates to another USB HDD of the same manufacture.
The device connected to my Virgin Media (Netgear) Superhub using WPS very smoothly. IPlayer is present although not entirely correct. The channels view seems not to work but I can find programs by search and they play well.
I have not found the user interface to be quite as irritating as some others. Navigating the guide is slow and glutinous but I use only a small range of channels and setting up suitably trimmed favourites list gets the buttoning distances to a reasonable level. There is also a channel list which can be used to quickly navigate channels without program info. Otherwise responses are good enough. There is no delete button for recorded programs and you have to: button to "edit" mode, select all the programs to go tool button and then scroll down to delete toggle back to "play" This is a rigmarole if you do one at a time, but quite efficient for getting rid of a batch.
The manual is rather minimal and not too helpful. Actually you have to learn it by doing. Most kids would find it simple.
I must talk about the PVR bugs! One in particular is very irritating. It has been described by Andrew in another review. Let me describe a typical evening scenario. I like to watch channel 4 news. I'm ready to start at 7.30. The program has been recording since 7 and will do so until 7.55. The manual warns that programs in progress don't appear in "My contents, recorded TV" but doesn't tell you where they can be found. Actually I find the program in the guide and there is a red blob showing that recording is in progress. Select the program and I am watching it live. I then skip back to the program start and proceed as normal with recorded content. This is a "time shift" type scenario. At 7.55, the recording stops. "Recording completed" is proudly displayed and I'm now watching Channel 4 live again at 7.55. Oh well, I find the recorded program in My contents. Unfortunately I have lost my place and have to fast forward to find where I was. I start watching again. But oops, what's this? "Preparing to record .." Then "Recording started" and again I'm back watching live TV. Oh yes I had set to record a program at 8pm! Never mind, back to My contents, find my place again which has to be done by fast forward as the "Resume play" feature is for some reason missing. Settle down to watch again but, oops I forgot that there is another recording starting at 8.30 and this time it is a lot further to fast forward and a bit more annoying.
There is another bug which is potentially even more annoying. Sometimes it misses a recording. I think this happens if the actual times of two programs to be recorded overlap. Then it doesn't truncate the first or start the second late. It just doesn't record the second. No apology or explanation in the results list in the schedule manager. The device stops you scheduling programs that must conflict but seems not to deal with conflicts that happen at run time. I'm only sure that I've seen this when the first program is manual by time. This is a way of setting up a recording for say every day where the "series link" option doesn't appeal.
I have been very disappointed with the support offered by "My Samsung" on the website or by phone in response to reports of thse bugs. I have first had a request to upgrade firmware. I was nervous about this as I have two reports of the device becoming inoperable after upgrading to 1004 and 1005 respectively. After upgrading to 1006 without benefit, they are proposing that it must be hardware because the firmare is up to date and that I should take it to a repairer under the warranty. They are giving the impression that they do not know of the interrupted playback feature although they must do from Andrew's evidence.
The device is now away at the repairers and I hope to have it back one day. I will add a comment to let readers know what comes of that. Meanwhile, as I am pessimistic about this being anything to do with hardware, I would very much like to know if anyone else either is affected by these bugs or is definitely not affected i.e they have used the function and it works fine. If there is clearly a common problem then it should be possible to mobilise some people power to get it fixed. Please add comments to this review either way.
One professional review had the headline that this was a "jack of all trades but master of none". Actually, some of what it does is masterly but it is a lot worse than a barely competent operator in other respects.
I now have the box back from the repairers. Rather a lot of time-wasting I'm afraid. After 1 week, the repairman reported that Samsung had advised him not to attempt to reproduce my problems pending advice from them. He had seen the message about too many photos. I checked up again 2 weeks later. They were just packing it up to return it. Nothing had been fixed and there was no comment regarding the PVR bugs. On "too many photo files" they were advising that I should access content via the network from a PC as there might be a compatibility issue with the USB hard drive. This was actually an up-to-date Samsung Story Station - not impressive.
So after 3 weeks, they had avoided getting any independent confirmation of any problems, fixed nothing and given poor advice about one of the problems. I said that I could not accept back the box under these conditions and managed to persuade the repairman to see the first PVR problem for himself - this would be easy as it was totally reproduceable. He did this and was motivated to contact Samsung. They then "escalated" the problem so I was hopeful that perhaps something would happen. A week later, I have the box back. Everything I know is verbal from the repairman. Samsung know of the PVR problems, if there is a fix it will arrive as part of the normal firmware upgrade process without, I presume, any special notice to me. I was warned that Samsung are only likely to do anything if the problem is reported by enough users.
All of this has the appearance of a charade. The problem obviously is software and probably affects all PVR users. The PVR is a significant part of the function and it is quite bad. Why wouldn't Samsung be keen to fix it? Despite my earnest postings, I have not discovered any unhappy users other than the ones who have reviewed here. I can only conclude that it has not sold well. Samsung may have written it off as too problematic and are just applying delaying tactics to problem reports. This is sad for me and may be bad for Samsung. When we buy kit from a reputable manufacturer, we expect serious problems to be fixed. If the problem is software, then we have an expectation that it is fixable and will be fixed. Samsung may see a poor cost/benefit from the BD-D8500. Potential customers may well assume that the same will apply to next year's model and avoid what may have evolved into a decent product.
Second Edit (06/11/2011)
I have tired of the PVR and got a Panasonic DMR-BWT700 as well. I have had two previous Panasonic HDD/DVD devices and so I'm familiar with the look and feel. The BD recorder seems to offer a way of keeping permanent copies of valued programs and that is the other reason for the purchase. It is a great relief to be able to rely on the programs being recorded and to be able to watch them without interruption. Being able to record 2 programs at once is also good. I'll keep the Samsung as a backup and for it's video playing abilities. I can't imagine it would have much resale value.
Third Edit (09/11/2011)
I have just discovered that the BBC I-player includes Radio which is sadly lacking from the version on my Sony TV. It seems like all these devices are masters of none. You just have to buy lots of them if you want to have all the features and all of them working.Read more ›