on 11 March 2014
To be honest, I bought this elsewhere, but scoured Amazon for a good 2-3 evenings intensely researching what would be best for my budget (around £200). You know how it goes, you start thinking "I'd like a subwoofer for my TV" ... research it, then see that you can get a soundbar with subwoofer (built in or separate) for a relatively few quid more ... then you see that you can get a 5.1 system (without DVD/Bluray player) for a few quid more.... and oh look you can get a decent budget 5.1 system WITH Bluray player for less than £250.... I'll just eat less ;)
The speakers all have proprietary connectors at the player/amp end, but are bare at the other end so you could connect extra wire if the supplied lengths don't suit your room (big room!) or better looking speakers... (See "Design" later)
One HDMI in and one out is a bit poor these days, but hey, get a HDMI switcher or spend more on another system and risk getting less (eg Bluetooth). I only have an xbox and a laptop to plug in, one tv out) so it's fine for me.
Bluetooth built in! At this price with this spec, that seems good to me and it connects to my Android Smartphone without problems.
Network - NO wireless built-in and the adapter is an extra £28 or so. Boo. But again, at this price with this spec, that's no biggie. I haven't tried the built-in RJ45 LAN connector, but there's no reason why it won't work. I did buy the Samsung branded wifi adapter and it just works, which is what we want, right? I think I'd have preferred wifi to be built in and Bluetooth as an adapter, but hey ho.
USB drives - I have an external 1Tb Western Digital Passport drive plugged in, which is unpowered, with all my movies on and the Samsung player has played EVERYTHING I've thrown at it. AVI, FLV, WMV, MP4, MKV all work. Sure, not all come out as surround sound but that's down to the encoding, not this unit. My TV can apparently play movies off its USB port, but it's so picky it hardly plays anything, so I've been well chuffed with this Samsung kit. There is an option to load in .SRT subtitle files, but I've not tried this yet (the films I have tried with subs on have been hard encoded into the files or on the Bluray discs)
SOUND: Oh my gawd. In a good way. I'm no surround sound expert, but I think I know enough about sound systems to know whether something sounds good, bad or ugly. I've tried blu-ray discs, films off the external hard disc, music from t'internet, music over bluetooth. All sound very clear, with so much more detail than my old stereo NAD amp could hope to produce. I did ramp up the subwoofer level to 3 or 4 for most films and music however, but this is about halfway up (my sub is one floor up on a wooden floor). The rear speakers do actually produce noises that you can actually hear and are actually delayed - there are options in the player's setup to add delay by telling it how far away your speakers are, but even on the default setting it's quite clear. I found myself looking round at noises coming from behind and to the side of me when I wasn't expecting to hear things off the films, like "What was that??" :/ I've had a couple of cheapo "surround sound" systems in years gone by and was always a bit disappointed by the results. Not here. I have a relatively smallish room, say 5m square and I've not dared push the volume past about 30 (no idea what the max vol is!) So it should be loud enough for most (?) people's needs....
There are plenty of options to fiddle with the sound, plenty of presets to make voices or other details more clear or more "spread apart", if you need that and, unless you're a hardcore basshead, the sub on this system should be fine. Not quite floor rumbling, but not far off. Try putting the sub at the top level (8?) Does anyone ever use sound effect presets for church halls etc??
My LCD TV isn't the best in the world, but this Samsung player has highlighted that I need to reconvert all my films on the hard drive. Blurays are beautiful - I've tried the often dark Prometheus, the glorious technicolours of Life of Pi and a middle of the road (colour wise) Rush. The only bad thing I've noticed is that when the camera is panning across a landscape or room, there's some flickering as if the film needs some extra fps in there, but quite honestly this is probably more due to my (3 yr old LCD) TV than the player. Bluray definitely puts your average DVD to shame.
SPEED: Now that a lot of these systems come with internet connectivity, there's basically a little computer running in the box... You'll notice a sign on the box that reads "dual core"... But I've found it ever so slightly laggy when pressing buttons. Typing login info for Lovefilm etc is a tedious affair, but you obviously only have to do it once.
So everything has apps on it these days.... And along with the usual array of iPlayer, Netflix, Lovefilm, Faceache, Twitter, and YouTube apps, there's plenty of good other apps available for this unit now - like Vimeo, some handy fitness apps with videos and routines to follow (not just yoga) another channel for factual, sci, tech, nature progs, Plex, music (eg Deezer) and radio apps, etc etc. Some educational apps too. Plenty to keep your bum on the sofa! All free too. Yay!
It's black. The player is glossy. The display is unobtrusive and has an option to have it dimmed when a disc is playing (nice). Limited touch sensitive controls on the fascia, but who uses those anyway? Personally, I love the design.
However, I find the design of the speakers.... also unobtrusive.... *cough* dull *cough*. And you can't remove the grills so I have no idea why some of the product pics show speakers with cool looking speaker cones showing. So if you're looking to show your system off, don't get excited at all. Get some aftermarket speakers. But they sound good enough.