Friday, June 30, 2017

From the Epinions Files: Electronics Review: Samsung BD-C5500 Blu-ray Player (written in 2011)

 Note to the Unwary Reader or Would-Be Buyer: 
  
Contrary to the product listing title provided by the Shopping.com or Epinions database, neither of the two models in Samsung’s BD-C5500 series (BD-C5500 and BD-C5500C) supports 3D video.  I figure this is worth mentioning to all interested parties to ensure the accuracy of this review.  

Even though I already own an older Samsung Blu-ray player, certain circumstances – my elderly mom’s failing health and inability to climb stairs –have compelled me to buy a second Blu-ray player so that I can (a) spend a bit of my free time with Mom and (b) not have to get DVD versions of movies I own on Blu-ray disc just so Mom could see them. 

I am a guy of very modest means, therefore I avoid getting the absolutely best of the best in electronics.  Our three HD TV sets are 720p instead of the top-of-the-line 1080i or 1080p (much less 3D models), and neither of our Samsung Blu-ray players have built-in Wi-Fi connectivity to the Internet. 

However, I don’t like buying cheap electronic devices; I already had one horrible experience with my first DVD player because I did not buy one from a more established brand name. Thus, I try to go for the high-middle ground and get the less high-end, without-all-the-bells-and-whistles models from such companies as Samsung and Sony. 


A look at the BD-C5500

To the casual observer, the player looks very much like a standard one-disc DVD player; the BD-C5500 sports the universal Blu-ray logo on the top surface of its glossy black exterior, but other than that, it resembles any of Samsung's newer DVD players. 
When you look at the BD-C5500 , you have your basic Open/Close Disc Tray button on the top left corner, the disc tray itself set to the left of the display panel, the Power On/Standby Button on the bottom right hand corner, the aforementioned display panel, and a cluster of function buttons on the upper right corner of the player.

The back of the unit has all the video/audio out jacks that all of us who own DVD players should be familiar with, most of them being the red, white and yellow "female" connectors that mate with the "male" plugs of standard RCA cables (one of which is included with the BD-C5500 model; owners of the BD-C5500C model get a HDMI cable that connects to the HDMI (High Definition Media Interface) socket of a LCD or plasma HDTV set).

Of course, the unit has a HDMI output jack where you can connect a HDMI cable; the BD-C5500 doesn’t come with one, whereas the –C550C variant does.  (Why Samsung insists on not including the HDMI cable with all its players is, in my view, a bit disconcerting; it’s the recommended connection method, so why not just pack one in the box for an extra $7.99?)

Other connections include a USB host port (for flash drives which contain software upgrades), a built-in Ethernet port and a  slot for an optional Wi-iFi adapter (which allows users to get Internet TV services and explore their Blu-ray discs’ BD Live features), and a "component video out" connection.  The USB port, incidentally, is only for software upgrades and can only be used with standard USB flash drives.  
  
Setting it up: If you don’t buy a HDMI cable……

The best way to do this, obviously, is to get a HDMI cable at the same time you get your BD-C5500 and hook it up to your HDTV set.  This is, perhaps, the best way to enjoy the full 1080p video and digital sound from your Blu-ray discs.  Thus, the following tip on setup applies only to consumers who want to try their BD-C5500s “out of the box” if they neglect to get a HDMI cable at the store or on the Internet. 

If you own any DVD player that doesn't require an S-Video cable - in other words, one with the standard RCA A/V input/output cables - connecting the BD-C5500 will not require a PhD in rocket science.  If your DVD player still works is still connected to your HDTV's AV1 I/O jacks, and you have room in your media center or TV stand, simply plug the RCA cables into the I/O jacks in the AV2 area (usually found on the side of the TV).

Once you connect the RCA cables to the TV and the Blu-ray player is in its desired spot in your media center, plug the power cord into your wall socket or, better yet, a surge-resistant power strip.  If the Samsung Blu-ray "Welcome" screen doesn't appear and no sound is heard, check your RCA cables and make sure the plugs are properly mated with their corresponding socket;  if any of your connections looks wrong (the red output plug is in the yellow socket, say), simply unplug the player from the power source, and  carefully disconnect the BD-C5500. 

Make sure your output plugs match the I/O jacks in either the AV1 or AV2 areas, and then carefully connect them.  Once this is done and you've set the player back in its place in your media center, plug the BD-C5500's power cord into the wall socket or power strip.  

Press the Power On button; you should now see your start up screen and hear a musical chime.

Now, although the BD-C5500 does have a quartet of function buttons off to the right of the display panel (Play/Pause, Stop, Search, and Skip), most of the time you'll be using your remote control, which has the aforementioned functions plus a baker's dozen of others, such as Pop Up Menu, TV/AV Device selection, a separate On/Off switch for your TV (if you own a Samsung TV, the remote is preset to work with it; the manual contains a page of  manufacturers' codes to program your remote to turn on/off sets made by most HDTV manufacturers, including Aiwa, Hitachi, LG, Magnavox, Philips, Sony and Zenith.  

There are also TV Channel Selection and Volume Up or Down keys,  a button that turns Subtitles On/Off, a numeric keypad,  an Info button, Audio buttons that activate sound options on Blu-ray or DVD discs, and a bunch of specialized buttons that work with specific Blu-ray discs.  In essence, the BD-C5500's remote can also be a basic, no-frills TV remote as well, especially when the player is connected to a Samsung TV or the remote is programmed with the proper manufacturer's code (provided in the manual).

First impressions 
  
When I bought my first Blu-ray player back in 2008, I hadn’t yet purchased any Blu-rays so I tested it with a few DVDs.  Those played nicely (and why wouldn’t they?) but I couldn’t really tell any measurable differences because I didn’t yet own a HDMI cable.

DVD Playback Observations

•·         The audio and video quality of DVDs - particularly those of feature films along the lines of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or The Longest Day  - are about the same on a Blu-ray player as they are on a standard DVD player…maybe a bit better if you have a HDMI cable. With regular RCA cable connections and without the benefits of the “up-converting effect of full HD video or audio, the quality of the sound and picture from the DVD is about as good as that of a standard analog TV channel on an HDTV: you can see and hear it all right, but it can't compare in clarity or crispness to a Hi-Def channel. 

This is to be expected, since the DVD was designed for sets with 435 lines of resolution, while the Blu-ray discs have resolutions of 1080 pixels.  (My TV can display 720 pixels, not quite the max but close enough.)

•·       On 16:9  TVs, when a DVD contains either an episode from a TV show or a pre-1954 feature film not shot in CinemaScope or any other "widescreen" format, the Blu-ray player will not stretch the image to fill the screen (unless you hit the Full Screen button on the BD-C5500’s remote).  Instead, it'll replicate the "curtain" or "vertical letterbox" effect HD channels use to make "full screen" 4:3 aspect TV images appear at their "proper" ratios, albeit without the fancy colors or effects most HD channels use on their curtains. 

Of course, how you set up your Blu-ray player determines all playback options, but that’s how my BD-C5500 does things in its present playback mode.

•·         When playing the DVDs which contain the original theatrical release versions of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, the letterbox and curtain effect are combined and the movie images appear on the TV surrounded by a black "square."  

Apparently, the 1977, 1980, and 1983 versions of the Classic Trilogy were transferred to the DVD format from the laserdiscs rather than from a digital negative, so the 2006 discs lack the anamorphic widescreen format borne by their "updated Special Edition" 2004 counterparts (which are also included In the Limited Edition '06 two-disc packs).


Blu-ray Disc Playback:  The sound and picture quality of a 1080p Blu-ray disc, and I have about 15 0r so now are excellent.  Remember how sharp and clear movies looked and sounded on DVD in comparison to VHS videotape when "digital video discs" were the New Best Format?  

 Well, the Blu-ray disc's clarity and crispness are comparable to the difference between analog TV channels and Hi-Def ones.  The colors are more vivid, the image is much sharper, and on a TV with kick-butt speakers or a home theater sound system, the audio signals are clearer and more "movie-like."   (How much sharper is the image, you ask? According to one of those introductory presentations on a Walt Disney Pictures Blu-ray, Blu-ray discs boast an image that is six times as sharp as standard DVDs.  I’m no expert, of course, but I believe this is true.) 
  
Features 

BD Live™  
Category of Blu-ray Disc (BD) player. 2.0 (BD-Live) employs internet connectivity and more local storage. 

HDMI CEC 

High Definition MultiMedia Interface. CEC ensures HDMI components can be controlled by one remote. 

Progressive Scan 

Progressive scan depicts the lines within each frame sequentially for optimal, film-like picture clarity. 

Samsung Apps Platform

BD Wise™ 

Technology that automates the best resolution setting possible for viewing Blu-Ray or DVD products. 

Black Finish

AllShare™  


Audio 

Dolby Digital Decoder 

Decodes Dolby Digital data so that its dynamic stereo surround sound can be used. 

Dolby Digital Plus Decoder 

Decodes Dolby Digital Plus data so that its dynamic stereo surround sound can be used. 

Dolby True HD Decoder 

Decodes Dolby True HD data so that its dynamic stereo surround sound can be used. 

DTS Decoder   

Deciphers DTS data so that its dynamic stereo surround sound can be utilized. 

DTS HD Decoder 

Video 

HD Upconversion 1080p Full HD Picture QualityUltra-Fast Play 
  
  
Wireless Connectivity 
·         

Wi-Fi Ready (requires LinkStick™ adapter) 

Inputs and Outputs
 

2 Channel Audio Out 

Terminal used to send audio streams between components without interference. 

Component Video 

Jacks that accept analog video information along two or three separate signals. 

1 HDMI Output 

High-Definition Multimedia Interface. The industry standard for transmitting HD video for display. 

Optical Digital Audio Outputs 

Terminal used to send digital audio streams between components without interference. 

2 USB 2.0 

Compatibility
 

MPEG2, H.264, VC-1, AVCHD, DIVX HD, MKV, MP4, WMV9, 3GPP, HD JPEG 


Blu ray video, BD-R/RE, DVD video, DVD/DVD +/-R, DVD +/- RW, CD/CD-R/CD-RW, USB storage 

Dimensions (W x H x D)
 

17.1" x 1.7" x 8.1" 


Because I have not bought the LinkStick™ adapter, I don’t know anything (beyond what I saw on the Samsung website) about the player’s Wi-Fi capabilities. However, this is what Samsung says the player can do when it’s hooked up to the Internet. 

(From the official Samsung web site) 
  
Next generation entertainment comes home to roost. All the content on your PC can be directly streamed to your Blu-ray player (wirelessly or via ethernet) allowing you easy, plug and play access to your favorite videos and media files….. 

Enjoy music and videos On Demand. With BLOCKBUSTER On Demand, you can rent or buy movies and watch them instantly on your Internet-connected HDTV or Blu-ray player. Choose from thousands of titles, including the latest releases and favorite classics, with no monthly fee
 

Knowing my own attitudes about the Internet and TV, I am probably not going to bother getting a LinkStick adapter unless I get an irresistible urge to try any BD Live features on my movies.  However, it’s nice to know that the Wi-Fi capabilities are there in case I do change my mind and decide to hook up with Samsung’s Internet@TV service and get its various apps. 
  
A few…um…issues regarding playback 
  
Even though I can’t really complain too much about this player because it has only been here a week, I have noticed that it occasionally has a few little hiccups when it plays back discs of either the Blu-ray or DVD persuasion. 

Every so often, after the disc tray closes and the player starts to read the disc, it loads the content fairly quickly (10 seconds for a DVD, 15-20 for a Blu-ray), but the menu options don’t quite work. I will see the menu options, yes, but the little “cursor” thingies that one sees when using a remote control don’t show up, thus not allowing the remote to work properly. 

I get around this by simply rebooting the player, i.e., turning the BD-C5500 off and then turning it back on; this has worked each time the glitch has occurred, but I am going to try and see if a firmware upgrade will fix the problem. 

Addenda: I updated the firmware with the latest version (v.10.20.1 from December 2010) and it appears to have fixed the issue described above.

About firmware upgrades 
  
A word of advice to Blu-ray player newbies:  Get in the habit of checking the Samsung web site for firmware upgrades.  The movie studios that release their feature films on Blu-ray love pushing the new format’s performance envelope, so every so often they’ll pack more data into new discs that may not be compatible with the firmware that already exists in the players.  

Obviously, we consumers can’t be throwing perfectly good hardware into the trash and buy new players just so we can play such discs as the upcoming Complete Star Wars Saga (due out in September 2011), so Blu-ray player manufacturers offer free downloads of model-specific firmware that can be installed via network, USB devices or CD-ROMs.

Addenda: Regarding the USB port, I erred in reportiing that it is only good for firmware upgrades.  Obviously I didn't read my manual too closely, but according to fellow Epinions member Ames100, the USB port is good for "playing video, audio, or photo files from any external USB drive, including portable USB hard drives in FAT or NTFS format."

On the whole, we're happy with the BD-C5500.  It works well - except for that minor issue I mentioned earlier - and it is easy to use, set up and even upgrade.  Mom likes it because the video quality is so sharp that she can see all the details in a movie (even the subtitles) in spite of her weakened eyesight.  I like it because I now can share those movies I have in Blu-ray format only and can keep her company without having to buy more DVDs that I don't need to own.