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Samsung BD-P3600 Blu-ray Player Reviewed

* May 11, 2009


Samsung's 2009 line of standalone Blu-ray players includes three new Netflix-enabled models: the BD-P1600, BD-P3600, and BD-P4600. We have not performed a hands-on review of the mid-level BD-P3600, but here is an overview of its features. This Profile 2.0 player supports BonusView/picture-in-picture playback and BD-Live Web functionality, and it offers both wired and wireless network connectivity, as well as onboard decoding and bitstream output of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio and 7.1-channel analog audio outputs. In addition to the ability to play streamed content from Netflix, the BD-P3600 supports the Pandora music service and allows you to stream digital movies, music, and photos from PCs on your network. It's worth noting that the top-of-the-line BD-P4600 has most of the BD-P3600's features (minus the multichannel analog audio outputs) in a sleek, wall-mountable form factor that adds $100 to the price.

In terms of video connections, the BD-P3600 offers HDMI, component video, and composite video outputs. For HDMI, the output-resolution options are BD Wise (an auto mode for Samsung TVs), 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p/60, and 1080p/24. The setup menu includes an option to enable 1080p/24 output if your TV accepts this signal type; once you enable the feature, the player will always output 1080p/24 when it is available on Blu-ray discs. For component video, the output-resolution options are 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i. The setup menu does not offer any picture controls, such as contrast, brightness, sharpness, or noise reduction.

The BD-P3600's audio outputs include HDMI, optical digital (no coaxial), and both 2- and 7.1-channel analog. This is the only model in Samsung's 2009 standalone Blu-ray line to offer multichannel analog audio outputs, which makes it the best choice if you own an older, non-HDMI A/V receiver. As I mentioned, the BD-P3600 has onboard Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, and it also passes these high-resolution audio formats in their native bitstream form over HDMI, for your A/V receiver to decode. The setup menu includes the option to set speaker size (but not make level adjustments) for the analog outputs.

The BD-P3600's disc drive supports BD, DVD, CD audio, AVCHD, Divx, MP3, and JPEG playback. (Previous Samsung Blu-ray models did not support the Divx, MP3, and JPEG formats.) This model has 1GB of onboard memory for storing BD-Live Web features; you can add the player to your home network either by using the back-panel Ethernet port or by attaching the supplied 802.11n adapter to one of the two USB 2.0 ports. These USB ports also let you add more storage for BD-Live content and play back MP3, JPEG, and Divx files. The BD-P3600 lacks advanced control ports, such as RS-232 or IR.

Highs Points
• The BD-P3600 supports 1080p/24 playback of Blu-ray discs.
• The player has internal Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding and can pass these formats in bitstream form over HDMI. It has multichannel analog audio outputs for use with older A/V receivers.
• It supports BD-Live Web content and can play picture-in-picture bonus content.
• It offers access to the Netflix and Pandora streaming services.
• The supplied Wi-Fi adapter supports 802.11n, which is better for streaming video.
• The player has its own internal memory, so you don't have to invest extra cash in an external storage device for BD-Live features.
• The two USB ports allow for easy playback of digital movies, music, and photos.

Low Points
• This player lacks the Silicon Optix HQV video processing used in last year's higher-end Samsung Blu-ray player.
• The BD-P3600 lacks RS-232 and/or IR ports to integrate into an advanced control system.

Conclusion
This full-featured Blu-ray player is competitively priced with other mid-level models that offer access to some type of streaming VOD service. Samsung further sweetens the deal by adding wireless network connectivity, onboard memory, and support for the Pandora music service.
 
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