Samsung’s 2012 Blu-ray line-up has impressed us thus far thanks to a whole host of connected features, DLNA support and great picture quality, but until now we hadn’t seen any multifunction players. The BD-E8500 is the first, a hybrid Blu-ray/PVR with twin tuners, a 500GB hard disk and Samsung’s Smart Hub online portal.
It’s a little larger than the average Blu-ray player, but that’s something we can forgive based on its extensive feature list, and you won’t struggle to fit it in an AV rack. From the front, the combination of silver and black mirror-finish plastics give the player a sleek look, as do the touch-sensitive LED buttons. There's no disc tray. Instead, Samsung has opted for a slot-loading mechanism, leaving the USB port as the only break in the otherwise flat front panel. It's a shame the plastic flap covering it feels so flimsy. If it snaps off, there's no way to get it back on again.
The minimalist approach is applied to the back panel, too, with the BD-E8500 having a small scattering of inputs. It has a single HDMI and one composite video output, digital optical and analogue RCA audio outputs, an Ethernet port, a second USB port and an aerial input and output. There’s also a rather large cut-out on the side for a Common Interface card in case you want to add subscription-based television channels to the EPG.
If you prefer not to run a cable from your router to the BD-E8500 you'll be pleased with its integrated Wi-Fi. New for 2012 is Soft AP, which lets you connect other devices directly to the player rather than through your router. It’s simple to set up and ideal if you don’t already have Wi-Fi in your house or want to extend the signal to other areas of the house with a HomePlug.
Once connected, you'll be able to use the AllShare Play DLNA streaming function to access content from any connected PC, laptop or NAS device. You can also play the same files locally using either the front or back USB port, assuming you have a large enough flash drive or external had disk. We tried all our usual test files and didn’t encounter any issues with DivX, MKV or MP4 videos.