Review: Samsung BD-P4600

[Editor’s note: we tested a new version of this player with an updated software. The Netflix streaming worked perfectly. Because of this we upped the BD-P4600’s rating from a 6 to a 7.]

Its glossy black finish and polished Darth Vader design make Samsung’s newest Blu-ray box, the BD-P4600, stand out from every other player on the market. Well, it actually doesn’t stand anywhere at all — it comes with the metal brackets to mount it on a wall or plant it on a desktop pedestal. And like Lord Vader, this model packs some serious force with its built-in streaming for Pandora music and Netflix movies.

But for what it ultimately delivers, we’d like something more down to earth. Initial installation proved to be a troubling process of trial-and-error steps to get all the features working properly. Like all entertainment electronics today, the bulk of setup and navigational controls falls to the remote, also encased in a shiny black luster. Basic controls are hidden under the front panel with easy-to-miss, touch-sensitive backlit buttons. Discs are inconveniently slot-loaded on the side. And it’s a good thing that there’s Wi-Fi. That means one less cable to pack into the cramped port compartment underneath.

Playback of Blu-ray discs as tested with Planet Earth and The Dark Knight was exceptional. Also, the Samsung is one of the first players that loaded Blu-ray in a fast 12 seconds — that’s fleet-footed compared to previous players. Standard DVD playback, alas, did not provide the tight 1080p upscaling we would have expected with images and movement. It’s not bad, just not sharp. Pandora streaming worked without a hiccup and showed all our previously set channel selections.

Netflix was a different story. Our player routinely reported error messages and was never able to stream any films. We’re not sure if this was our broadband connection or Samsung’s hardware. We’ll try out a new player in the next few weeks and see what the problem was.

For $100 less, you could pick up Samsung’s BD-P3600, a player that has all the same features as this model but comes in a non-wall-mountable chassis. But really, would you want to watch The Empire Strikes Back on a Blu-ray player that didn’t look like it was made in a dark corner of Coruscant?

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