Samsung BD-D5700 Review: An Easy-to-Use Blu-ray Player, at a Reasonable Price
At a Glance
Thanks to a simple first-time wizard, an animated home screen, and exceptionally useful on-screen menus, you should have no trouble setting up or using the Samsung BD-D5700. Once you get it going, you'll find an excellent selection of Internet content available through a convenient on-screen hub. Although the image quality wasn't the best we've seen, it was nothing to complain about, either. Not bad for a value-priced Blu-ray player ($140 as of November 17, 2011).
When you first turn on your new BD-D5700, a simple wizard walks you through three essential settings: the language for the on-screen menus, the aspect ratio settings (explained with pleasing and informative graphics), and the network setup.
Once that's done, you'll find yourself at the attractively animated and easy-to-use home screen. From here you can select a source (disc, Internet, USB, and so on), or choose Settings to further configure the player. If you pick the latter, you'll find helpful, nontechnical explanations of your choices, such as 'Select when pausing a scene with little action.'
Not everything about the user interface is spot-on, though. For example, the BD-D5700 won't give you much information about the disc you're watching. Press the remote's Info button, and you'll get only the time elapsed, the total time, and the title and chapter numbers. The Tools button, which allows you to change settings, gives you a little more, but not much.
You won't be disappointed when you press the Hub button (although I wouldn't recommend doing so when you're watching a disc). This action brings you to the "Smart Hub," the BD-D5700's central screen for accessing Internet-based services. Among the services already on the player or downloadable for free are BBC News, Hulu Plus, Netflix, Pandora, and three pay-per-view services (Blockbuster, CinemaNow, and Vudu). Samsung plans to add more apps over time. It also offers its own YouTube app, a boon since the app is reasonably well designed and easy to use.
What makes the Hub a "Smart" one is its ability to search and browse across multiple services. For instance, I used the Your Video browsing tool to check out Rango, and found it available on all pay-per-view services, allowing me to compare prices. Unfortunately, the Search tool is limited in scope; for example, a listing for 30 Rock showed only episodes available on Vudu for $1.99 apiece--no mention of the show's free availability (for subscribers) on Hulu Plus and Netflix.
When you pop in a disc, the BD-D5700 starts playing it reasonably quickly--39 seconds in ourIndependence Day test--but not exceptionally so (our fastest player took just 24 seconds).
And when it starts playing, the images that the BD-D5700 outputs to an HDTV are very good, but not extraordinary. It tied with our reference player, a Sony PlayStation 3, in most of our tests, and performed significantly better in two tests.
The first was the black-and-white Good Night and Good Luck test (chapter 1), where its images were definitely sharper. They were also slightly darker, which neither hurt nor improved the image. Black-and-white poses challenges that color does not, and the greater detail visible in our tests suggests that the BD-D5700 handles grayscales well.
The BD-D5700 also bested the PlayStation 3 noticeably in our animated Cars test (chapter 1). The images had more depth on the Samsung player, and the sheen on the cars popped out more. This result suggests that the BD-D5700 is a good choice if you have kids or are yourself an animation aficionado. Most players in our recent evaluations tied with the PlayStation 3 in the Cars test or were insignificantly better.
If your audio receiver can't handle the big, Blu-ray-specific sound formats such as Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio, the BD-D5700 has an option to convert all of your audio to Dolby Digital or to DTS. This feature is useful if your receiver is digital but lacks support for those surround-sound codecs.
You can bring media files from your computer to your TV via the BD-D5700, either from a USB storage device (such as a flash drive) or over your home network. To use the network, you must have DLNA server software running on your computer; Windows Media Player works.
This player can handle MP3 and WMA music, JPG photos, and a good selection of video formats (you'll find the list on pages 14 and 15 of the downloadable manual). If you want to present your photos in a slideshow, the BD-D5700's options include a wide variety of transition effects and the ability to pick background music. The background-music option isn't available over a network.
The largish remote control feels good in the hand. You'll quickly learn to recognize its large, easy-to-hit buttons by touch. It isn't backlit, but the play-control buttons (Play, Pause, Skip, and so on) glow slightly in the dark. You can also program the remote to control your television, which can come in handy.
You can download a Samsung remote-control app from the Apple App Store or the Android Market, too. Mobile remote-control apps have only one real advantage over a physical remote (at least after the "Oh, wow!" factor has worn off): Smartphones and tablets have QWERTY keyboards, making text entry much easier when you're searching for online content. QWERTY text entry works for some of the search tools on the BD-D5700, but not on Hulu Plus or Netflix--two searches you're likely to use frequently.
The Samsung BD-D5700 is a superb Internet and multimedia machine that also happens to do a very good job playing DVDs and Blu-ray discs. That's enough to make it a good choice at a value price.