Samsung BD-H8900 review

A decent Blu-ray player for those looking to avoid monthly subscription services

Samsung BD-H8900

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Twin Freeview HD tuners and 3D Blu-ray playback sounds like a marriage made in heaven, but there's little to love about how this over-worked machine lurches around its cluttered user interface. It's not a bad problem – Virgin's TiVo has exactly the same issues – but the BD-H8900 isn't quite as shiny as it first appears. That's a shame because it's otherwise supremely talented at everything from digital file support to disc playback.

We liked

There's as much content here in terms of apps and streaming TV services as on previous Samsung smart Blu-ray players and TVs, but it's packed within a a tighter, savvier user interface than before. Whisper it, but Samsung's designers appear to have been heavily influenced by recent LG TVs.

Browsing and watching pre-recorded Freeview HD programmes is cleanly done through apps on the home page, with the contents of attached USB thumbdrives and computers shown, too. HD pics from all sources impress, but it's the handling of digital files that's the highlight, with support stretching to the likes of AVI, MKV, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, WMV and AVC HD for video.

Music comes in WAV, FLAC, APE, AIFF and OGG lossless files as well as WMA and MP3, while photos stretch to GIF and PNG as well as JPEG. It's even possible to use keywords to search for content across any connected devices, too.

Skipping around digital TV schedules while continuing to watch live TV is a breeze, while disc loading speeds are impressive, too; it takes a mere seven seconds to begin playing a fresh disc.

We disliked

Despite the user interface looking better than ever and a far cry from the cluttered look of Samsung products from a few years ago the BD-H8900 is a tad slow to navigate, while apps load slowly.

Apps are mostly there, but hard to find, while inspecting Freeview HD recordings is a bit of a mess, too, with dynamic thumbnails tricky to comprehend at a glance. It's unnecessarily visual and all a bit confusing. A Films & TV Shows tab dominates the Smart Hub, too, despite being a sideline feature at best. I wasn't much impressed with the look of standard definition channels, which seem soft and blocky.

While initially impressive, the remote control proves laking in a few departments – there are just too many buttons serving virtually no purpose. No wonder it's so big.

Final verdict

Just like Virgin's TiVo box (though with one less TV tuner), the BD-H8900 lacks the processing power to truly be a breakthrough product.

It's the best value of Samsung's two pricey Freeview HD recorders, but for all of its flexibility, 3D Blu-ray disc playback and excellent digital media-friendly design, the navigation and operation is a low-point.

So too is a muddled approach to key apps, with second-rate apps too high-up on Smart Hub and many catch-up TV apps hidden in an online store. Video quality is generally very good and digital file handling excellent. It's not perfect, but for anyone after a catch-all solution without monthly subs, this is as good as it gets.

Jamie Carter

Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and He also edits two of his own websites, and that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),