Samsung BD-C7900: 3D Blu-ray Player Shows First-Rate Images
At a Glance
Though it costs more than many competitors, the Samsung BD-C7900 offers excellent images, 3D, ease of use, and all the Internet and multimedia trimmings.
The Samsung BD-C7900 produces images that are among the best we've seen. This $260 (as of November 22, 2010) 3D Blu-ray player also has two HDMI ports, which saves users with 3D HDTVs from having to make a difficult decision regarding audio output. It's easy to use and fast, and it comes with a good selection of Internet and multimedia capabilities.
PCWorld doesn't test 3D image quality, but the 2D quality wavered between very good and superb. It always outdid our reference player, a Sony PlayStation 3, and in only one test (chapter 3 of the Phantom of the Opera DVD) was the contest even close.
It received straight Superb scores on our black-and-white Good Night and Good Luck Blu-ray test (chapter 1), as well as on our large-format test using the Blu-ray of The Searchers (chapters 4 and 20). The detail on both of these was astonishing, revealing props and minutiae not visible with the PlayStation 3. The Searchers, shot in 1956 in a large format called VistaVision, looked the way we'd expect a big-budget Western from that era to look. The deep colors showed heavy saturation without seeming artificial.
The images weren't quite as impressive in chapter 7 of the Mission: Impossible III Blu-ray. Perhaps because of that sequence's bright, Mediterranean sunlight, the scene exhibited a tad too much contrast. Detail was still excellent, though.
Like virtually all Blu-ray players, the BD-C7900 lets you send the audio to your HDTV or home theater receiver as an unchanged bitstream, or convert it to PCM in case your receiver doesn't support all of the formats. But the BD-C7900 offers an additional option: It can convert the sound to DTS. If you have a DVD-era receiver that doesn't support newer audio formats or doesn't support HDMI, this setting will give your receiver what is probably the best surround audio it can handle.
The BD-C7900 is the first Blu-ray player I've tested with two HDMI ports--a feature that should be standard on 3D players. Why? The 3D technology requires HDMI 1.4, a standard that your receiver--unless it's very new--probably doesn't support. With only one HDMI port on a Blu-ray player, the only way to get HDMI video to your TV and HDMI audio to your receiver is to daisy-chain everything, with the signal going from the player to the receiver to the HDTV. And if the receiver doesn't support the standard, it won't output the data to your TV. Two HDMI ports on the player allow you to connect directly to both the receiver and the TV, and avoid the daisy chain.
Even if you don't have 3D, avoiding the daisy-chain setup has some minor advantages. For instance, you can watch one thing and listen to another.
You can connect the BD-C7900 to your home network via either Wi-Fi or ethernet; through the network, you can connect to the Internet. Samsung offers a large selection of Internet content, including YouTube, CinemaNow's on-demand service, Pandora, and Netflix.
The BD-C7900 also uses your Internet connection to present videos, music, and photos off of your computer. The computer must be running a DLNA server program; Windows Media Player works fine for this job. Or, if you prefer, you can copy your media files to a flash drive and play them through the BD-C7900's USB port.
The interface for working with USB drives has an annoying quirk. When you plug in a device, a menu comes up and asks if you want Video, Music, or Photo. If you pick, say, Video, you then have to select Video, Music, or Photo again. If you pick Video the first time and Music the second, you'll probably get an error message.
This player supports .jpeg images, .mp3 and .wma audio, and a wide selection of video formats. The manual clearly lists all the supported file extensions and codecs.
An interior blue light shines through a portion of the player's top. When you insert a disc, you can actually watch the tray close on the inside and see the disc begin to spin. Since this display is on the top of the drive and not the front, it doesn't distract you while you're watching the movie. And if you wish to get rid of it anyway, the player has an option to turn it off.
But the actual, physical player lacks actual, physical buttons, which is kind of annoying. Pressure points built into the front and top of the device just don't offer the same tactile feedback.
The remote, of course, has plenty of buttons; most are quite large, and the main ones are easy to press. Although the remote isn't backlit, the play control buttons glow in the dark. It's programmable, too.
The menus you control with that remote have large, attractive icons and a logical structure. Select an item and press OK (or the right arrow), and you get a pop-up menu with that item's options. Each option usually has its own explanation, worded to help people without technical knowledge. For instance, one item says "Select when pausing a scene with a lot of action." And if you don't like the look of the menus, you can change them, since this interface has skins.
Press the display button while watching a disc, and you'll get the title and chapter numbers, the time elapsed, and the total time. The BD-C7900 doesn't supply the time remaining; you have to figure that out yourself. The Tools button will at the least give you some technical information (although not much), and allow you to change some options. For instance, you can go to another chapter or change the audio track.
If you're willing to spend nearly $300 on a Blu-ray player, the Samsung BD-C7900 makes an excellent choice.