Samsung BD-D8900 3D Blu-ray player PVR review

1TB hard disk recorder with Freeview HD and 3D Blu-ray
Photo of Samsung BD-D8900 3D Blu-ray player PVR
£380

There’s not much Samsung’s latest Blu-ray equipped, PVR hard disk recording ‘media hub’ can’t make a stab at, but it’s not quite the all-round home entertainment solution it thinks it is.

Let’s start with the good stuff. Apps and games from Samsung’s ‘Smart Hub’ interface, an IPTV-based platform that brings BBC iPlayer, among others. WiFi networking of media files – with hard disk support is also here, as is 3D Blu-ray playback – and even 2D-to-3D conversion.

It’s heady stuff, and it’s not over yet: two DVB-T2 tuners enable the BD-D8900 to fetch digital terrestrial channels from both standards Freeview, and Freeview HD platforms.

Not all areas of the UK can get the latter’s addition of BBC One HD, BBC HD, ITV 1 HD and either Channel 4 HD (England), S4C Clirlan (Wales) or STV HD (Scotland), so it’s worth checking your area’s status here before diving into the BD-D8900.

What you get
The BD-D8900 is what’s commonly known as a personal video recorder (PVR), or hard disk recorder. Put simply, it’s a Sky+ box for Freeview, with added hi-def goodness.

The addition of the latter requires it to be a lot bigger than previous incarnations of PVRs: inside the BD-D8900 is a hard disk with a whopping 1TB capacity, which is essential for those with a HD habit.

This machine can record 240 hours of hi-def programmes, or 480 hours from regular standard definition channels, while music CDs can also be ripped to the HDD (complete with tracklisting and cover art automatically downloading), and hence can even be transferred to a USB stick as MP3s.

Flexibility & recording
The BD-D8900 can pause live TV, and even rewind it, though it’s not quite as flexible as you might think.

It’s only possible to record one channel at a time, which immediately ranks it below a Sky box – and it pales in comparison to a Virgin Media TiVo box, which possesses three tuners, all of which can record at once.

Still, there’s plenty of flexibility elsewhere; a great-looking, albeit occasionally slow, electronic programme guide (EPG) stuffed with the 100+ channels we tuned in is easy to navigate.

It’s then possible to make one-touch instant recordings, set a series link, and even get information on transmissions of programmes in the future.

Sadly, despite its Blu-ray optical drive, the BD-D8900 can’t export Freeview HD recordings to a BD-R disc, as Panasonic’s (higher-priced, though with smaller HDDs) DMR-BWT700 and DMR-BWT800 machines can.

The BD-D8900 also fails to perform recordings when it’s indulging in another of its hobbies – WiFi streaming.

Connected to a home broadband network either by wired Ethernet LAN or a built-in wireless receiver, the BD-D8900 can fetch digital media from a PC. We even managed to get it working from a networked Mac running TwonkyMedia, though the BD-D8900 does uses the PC-centric DLNA protocol.

During tests on what Samsung calls its ‘DLNA AllShare’ feature, we managed to stream a plethora of files including AVI, MOV, MP4 and AVC HD – though oddly the system rejected the MKV and WMV files we tried.

We say ‘odd’, because we were able to MKV and WMV videos, as well as AVI, MPEG, MOV and MP4, using the BD-D8900′s USB slot .

Here, the missing codec is hi-def camcorder file AVC HD, though the real shame is that streaming is limited to times when there are no recordings being made on the Freeview tuners.

Samsung Smart Hub

If you do miss something altogether, Samsung’s Smart Hub will prove useful, though there’s more here than just BBC iPlayer. Also on offer is Lovefilm streaming – great if you’re a member – Acetrax Movie streaming (a similar service), countless games, and a live BBC News feed (sourced from the BBC website).

A ‘Your Video’ page nicely collates films and other content – along with cover art – from various sources, so a search can be done across many outlets, though oddly this doesn’t take information from the Freeview EPG.

Recording quality and 3D
Re-run a show recorded by the BD-D8900, and you’re guaranteed a pixel-for-pixel match (there are no low-quality options to save space), while Blu-ray playback is pin-sharp.

The 3D effect from suitable discs is good, though the quality will depend more on what kind of 3D display you’re watching on

Less impressive is the 3D conversion of 2D discs, which is plainly a basic feature that doesn’t actually take into account the content of video – as such it’s a ‘one size fits… nothing’ result that’s highly uncomfortable to watch.

Company: Samsung

Website: http://www.samsung.com/uk

Contact: Samsung on 0845 67267864

Positives
  • Oversize HDD, DVB-T2 tuners, WiFi, user interface.
Negative
  • No BD-R archiving, mutually exclusive streaming and TV recording, 2D-3D conversion.

Verdict

Capable of being a high-spec media engine in a living room, we're not completely convinced that the BD-D8900's streaming capabilities are good enough, though the addition of BBC iPlayer et al is tempting.

So too is the Freeview HD feature, though even there some recording options are a touch limited.

Still, considering the price we'd judge the 3D-ready BD-D8900 to be fair value for what is an awe-inspiring feature haul.