- Written by Chris Heinonen
- Published on 03 September 2013
Introduction to the Samsung BD-F5900 Blu-ray Player
Samsung made a big show of their updated Smart Hub interface at CES this year. For many people the important distinction between Blu-ray players now is the quality and variety of streaming content available and not the disc playback itself. The last player I tested from them had some very innovative search features at that time, though sometimes the results weren't fully accurate which reduced the usefulness. As that was close to two years ago, Samsung has had plenty of time to remedy the issue.
With the heavy push towards streaming, and Samsung putting a lot of emphasis there on this new player, I was very hopeful for a nice online experience as I opened up the BD-F5900.
SAMSUNG BD-F5900 BLU-RAY PLAYER SPECIFICATIONS
- Design: Blu-ray Player
- Streaming Support: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, VUDU, HuluPlus, Amazon Cloud Player and dozens more
- Connections: HDMI 1.4a, Coaxial Audio, USB Front, Ethernet
- Dimensions: 1.6" H x 14.2" W x 7.7" D
- Weight: 2.6 Pounds
- MSRP: $120 USD
- SECRETS Tags: Samsung, Blu-ray, Video
Design and Setup of the Samsung BD-F5900 Blu-ray Player
The trend this year with Blu-ray players seems to be designs that you aren't supposed to put something on top of. Sony has a strange angled top on their line, and Samsung has gone even further by putting touch sensitive controls on the top of the BD-F5900 player. In doing so, Samsung has also created a player with a design that I am not a fan of for multiple reasons.
First, the touch-sensitive buttons mean that if you put a device on top of the BD-F5900, you can't power it on, open or close the disc tray, or do anything else because those buttons are now hidden. Second, those buttons are very sensitive, and I often found myself slightly brushing over them, which caused my movie to stop and eject, or the player to power down. There is no option in the settings to disable the touch sensitivity and only use the remote. Finally, when I did place another device on top of the Samsung, the Wi-Fi connection instantly stopped working well. Netflix would continually buffer, and trying to play back an HDX file in Vudu didn't work. It seems the Samsung is designed to not have anything on top of it, no matter what.
The rear of the BD-F5900 is very basic, with an HDMI port, coaxial audio, and Ethernet. A rear USB port would be nice, but the only available one is on the front of the unit. If you want to utilize BD-LIVE you'll need a USB drive sticking off the front of the player. One nice thing in the Samsung design is the remote control. The playback buttons are visible in the dark, which makes it much easier to use than the remotes from other players. It isn't fully backlit, but it is better than the competition.
Setup of the Samsung BD-F5900 is quick and easy with the automated tutorial it runs you through. There was a firmware update for my player, but it installed quickly and I was up and running in under 10 minutes probably.
The Samsung BD-F5900 Blu-ray Player In Use
With your standard Blu-ray movies, the BD-F5900 is a fine performer. Menus and loading are relatively quick, and the image looks correct when watching a variety of titles. There is no clipping of colors or pixels, and so the image on-screen with films looks just like what was on the disc. I don't have any glitches or errors with discs not loading, which are all too common now, but even early screener copies of films play back just fine.
On DVD content, the playback looks much choppier that it does on my reference Oppo BDP-103. At the start of the Porto Corsa race in Cars 2 there are a number of pans around the racetrack and those have a very choppy feel to them. I don't notice this with Blu-ray content, but since DVD is encoded differently, it seems to only affect this aspect.
The biggest change in the Samsung from the prior model I reviewed is the updated SmartHub interface. Previously the SmartHub was divided up into multiple sections, lack the ability to customize it much. The new interface allows for far more streaming services or apps on the screen than before, but you can also customize it to how you want it. You can even setup multiple users, so my wife can see her choices, and I can see what I'm interested in.
The one aspect I find confusing is the bottom of the screen would say "More Apps", which leads to a second page if there are a lot of apps installed. A label of Next Page is clearer about what this is for, as the App Store is used for adding more. A small nit-pick, but it was the only confusion I had with the new setup that is overall great.
My go-to apps for testing, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and Vudu, all work great for the most part. Netflix has the Kids interface option, and the rest of the apps all sport their standard interfaces and not custom skins. I also installed the Amazon Cloud Player app, which I'm finding more and more useful. The one issue I did have with the apps is Amazon Instant Video triggered a restart of the player once. It never repeated, so it may be rare, but it did happen.
The one feature on the Samsung that caused the most issues for me before, and still does, is the Search feature. If I'm looking to watch a movie, like Cars, I can use the Search feature and Samsung will show me all the ways I can watch it across the different streaming services. This time when I searched for Cars and then hit OK, it instead brought me to Michael Jackson: This is It. That is the title that was highlighted in the interface before I hit search, so there is some bug that is causing issues with Search still. If Samsung can get all the issues ironed out in this it will be a nice feature, but as with the last time I tested it, it remains a little buggy.
Overall I find the BD-F5900 to be good for Blu-ray content, with quick loads and menus, and to have the best streaming interface of a Blu-ray player I've used this year, but to have a bit of an issue with DVD playback.
The Samsung BD-F5900 Blu-ray Player On The Bench
On our DVD and Blu-ray Benchmark, I ran into a couple of issues with the Samsung that were uncommon to see. The main issue I saw with Blu-ray content is that it loses a lock and has artifacts on the 3-2 PF-T cadence tests on the updated Spears & Munsil test disc. The more I worked to figure this test result out, the more I realized I should stop putting much weight on it. There are around 15-20 Blu-ray titles out there that are this format (which are 1080p24 films that were released at 1080i60 resolution). The odds of having one are very low, and 1080p24 masters are replacing them all the time.
The bigger issue is failing 3-2 PF-T on DVD content as well. Almost all DVDs are mastered this way, because DVD content is interlaced. This is probably what causes the stuttering that I noticed in Cars earlier. If you enable 24p output for DVDs in the Samsung menu, then this passes, but it also then outputs non-24p content (TV Shoes, Documentaries, and Concert Videos usually) at 24p, resulting in a weird cadence and choppy video. So Samsung can do this, but something in the firmware seems to be doing it wrong with the output set to 1080p60. Because of this failure, and because of failing the CUE tests as well for DVD, I would suggest not using the Samsung if you have a large DVD library. These two flaws are a big deal for that, and they drop the overall Benchmark score by a lot. For straight Blu-ray content it does fine, though mixed film and video also sees a good bit of combing on scrolling text.
On our HDMI Benchmark, the Samsung does very well overall. There are very, very small errors from a bit of dithering, but those are totally acceptable and will never get noticed in real world content. RGB has larger errors, but they are still small. The main thing I would want to see improved in the future is support for YCbCr 4:2:2.
At the moment, the Samsung BD-F5900 is the fastest Blu-ray player out there I've tested. Every title loaded very fast, and the menus are very responsive as well. It's the first player to get to the start of The Dark Knight in under a minute, and didn't have any slow results. If you want speed, the Samsung has it.
The bench tests present a bit of a mixed bad. Loading times are fast, YCbCr 4:4:4 is good, and Blu-ray performance overall is pretty decent. However, the poor DVD performance really drags down that score. I have to say if you have a large DVD library, the Samsung BD-F5900 player won't be for you.
Conclusions about the Samsung BD-F5900 Blu-ray Player
I really wish the Samsung BD-F5900 had better DVD performance since it would make for an easy recommendation. As it is, it performs well with Blu-ray content and is a great streaming player, and so if that is the only content you plan to use, I'd say to go ahead and get it. If you want to use DVD content, that is where we run into issues.
If the only things you watch on DVD are films, then you can enable the 24p mode for DVD and be fine. If you also watch concerts, or TV, or some documentaries, then you'll need to turn that mode off every single time because otherwise the image will be jumpy and stutter. This issue really seems like a firmware bug to me, and Samsung is looking into it but they can't promise a fix, so I have to score it as-is.
The other thing preventing me from loving the Samsung is the design. The touch-sensitive controls on top, and the inability to place anything on there without Wi-Fi starting to have issues, are bad design choices to me. You can't defeat the touch sensitivity, and so for many people it may not work well. Placing buttons on the front would be better, and I also want a USB port on the back so you can use BD-Live without a thumb drive sticking out the front.
So we have a mixed bag here. The Samsung has flaws, but it has some nice benefits as well. It feels like it is very close to being a great player, but just needs one more revision to fix the problems that it has. I hope they do, as the streaming interface is my favorite on players so far this year, and that is the way the market is going. As it is now, you'll have to weigh the pros and cons yourself to see if it will work for you.