Samsung’s budget Blu-ray players are usually among the best value machines on the market. They might not ooze luxury, but they always offer bags of cutting-edge features at affordable prices, with solid performance to boot.
The BD-E6100 is the latest budget deck to emerge from the Samsung stable and we’re hoping it continues the company’s fine track record in the value-for-money stakes.
Design and connections
Things don’t get off to the best of starts when you pull this deck from the box. Its bodywork is light and plasticky, clearly an area where Samsung has saved a few pennies. It also lacks the cool touches found on Samsung’s step-up combi players like the BD-E8500, namely the touch-sensitive display and disc slot – instead you get a clunkier disc tray and clicky plastic keys, which serve their purpose but not with same sense of sophistication.
That said, at 37mm the deck is unfeasibly slim, which could be helpful when installing it in smaller spaces like the bedroom or playroom, and the gloss black finish is as sleek as ever.
The sparse rear panel is another indication of the budget price tag, but to be fair this deck’s core buyers only require the basics anyway – HDMI handles most AV needs.
There are just three sockets on the back – HDMI and coaxial digital audio output and an Ethernet port. The HDMI out is v1.4, making this deck 3D ready, plus there’s also a USB port on the front for playing back media from memory devices.
Here’s where the BD-E6100 really earns its corn. It’s packed with all the latest mod cons – DLNA networking, web content, extensive media support, easy connection to wireless devices – but the best part is that it comes with built-in Wi-Fi, which feels generous at this price as many rivals would make you fork out for an optional USB dongle. The Ethernet port provides an alternative way of hooking up to a network, and as a bonus you can use the BD-E6100 as an wireless access point for other devices to get online.
This network connection provides access to Smart Hub, Samsung’s gorgeously presented Internet portal. The range of content is impressive, with BBC iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube, Picasa, Dailymotion, Facebook and Twitter among the higher profile apps on offer. The limited number of free video services means it’s no match for Sony’s line-up but there’s still plenty to keep you entertained – plus new apps can be added from the Samsung Apps menu when available.
Instead, Samsung bulks out its offering with reams of games, puzzles and lifestyle services that aren’t as compelling as the above but add a touch of fun to proceedings. There are two different ‘zones’ you can visit – Fitness, which offers workout videos and tools to measure your progress, and Kids, which pulls together stories, video clips and educational tools aimed at children. Completing the line-up is Family Story, a service that lets you share photos and messages with other Samsung owners who don’t dabble in social networking sites.
There’s also a built-in web browser, which can be used with a USB keyboard and mouse, but it’s not worth bothering with due to its snail-like slowness.
The BD-E6100 can stream content from home network servers like PCs and NAS drives, or stream directly from smartphones using Wi-Fi Direct. True to form, Samsung’s format support is extensive – AVI, MKV, AVCHD, MP4, ASF 3GP, VRO, VOB, DivX, XviD, MPEG-4, WMV, MP3, WMA, FLAC and JPEG. Alternatively you can play these formats directly from USB devices.
The BD-E6100 boots up quickly, and when you fire it up for the first time it helpfully runs through essential stuff like wireless setup and a software update check.
The onscreen menus are a real joy to explore, thanks to their intensely colourful HD graphics and simple design. The Home menu’s large animated icons provide quick access to every function and the straightforward setup menu leaves no stone unturned. The cursor moves quickly too, which makes for a generally smooth user experience.
All available content, whether it’s found on the network or USB device, can be accessed through the AllShare Play interface, a new addition this year. It lists content types on the left and connected devices on the right.
Even the remote can’t blot the copybook. It’s not too big, not too cluttered and perfectly ergonomic. The layout of the large, clearly labelled buttons is spot-on too, enabling you to operate the deck without looking down every time you press a key.
The Samsung loads discs quickly, taking 20 seconds to start Java-light discs and around 40 for those with Java-heavy content.
Once it’s up and running, the BD-E6100’s picture quality really dazzles. 2D Blu-ray discs smack you round the face from the word go thanks to their punchy detail and rich, natural colours.
Edges are crisply defined with no signs of oversharpening, and there are no digital artefacts to undermine the sharpness either. Different colour tones blend into each other without any banding and subtle shading like cheekbones and creases on clothes, are clear.
Dark scenes stay lucid and easy to follow thanks to the nicely judged contrast. If we’re being picky, Panasonic’s players add a little more colour subtlety and fine detail but it’s minor stuff – on the whole there can be few complaints over the Samsung’s pictures.
Switching to 3D, the Samsung’s pictures are every bit as mesmerising and absorbing as we hoped. The layered picture looks sharp and poised, with a clear sense of depth, while shots of landscapes really look like they’re going back into the distance. Motion blur isn’t a problem and the image is comfortable to watch.
You can listen to music through the HDMI or digital audio outputs but the quality is dependent on your sound system – through ours, we got a lively, nicely balanced and engaging sound with CDs and digital files from USB.
The BD-E6100’s build quality is nothing to write home about, but if you can live with that then it has a lot to offer. Its features-to-price ratio list is superb, offering web content, Wi-Fi, DLNA streaming, USB support and 3D all for under £100 online. It can’t trump Sony on Internet content and Panasonic offers marginally better pictures, but otherwise the BD-E6100 is a terrific budget Blu-ray player.
Manufacturer and model
Component video output
Composite video output
Digital audio outputs
Dolby True HD decoding
DTS HD Master Audio decoding
DLNA media streaming
Supported media formats
AVI, MKV, MP4, ASF 3GP, VRO, VOB, DivX, XviD, MPEG-4, WMV, AVCHD, MP3, WMA, FLAC, JPEG
Dimensions (main unit) W x H x D
430 x 37 x 194mm