I picked up a Samsung BD-C5500 Blu-ray device for our living room TV area as a replacement for an older Sony DVD player. My main goal was to get a single device that could access NetFlix’s online streaming service and have a built-in DVD/Blu-ray player. At a cost of $180 USD I am impressed by what this device offers.
Temporary Gap Filler
The Samsung device is an interim solution to our home theater PC (HTPC) gap in our living room. Longer term, I’d like to either build or buy a device over which I have full control of the software: i.e. I choose which OS and HTPC applications to install. Once I get around to implementing a HTPC, the BD-C5500 will be attached to another TV in the house where I expect that we’ll get good use out of the device for another five years or so (especially if Samsung keeps expanding and updating their apps selection).
BTW, the future HTPC will likely run Windows Media Center, Boxee, Plex or XBMC, but it will probably cost $350-$600 to either build or buy a unit that meets my requirements (HD ready, low power consumption, Blu-ray drive, etc). The Aspire Revo 3610, Dell Inspiron Zino HD, ASRock ION 330HT-BD, Zotac ZBOX HD-ID11, Mac Mini, etc. are candidates for the HTPC role.
Unlike many other purchases, I didn’t perform a lot of research into which Blu-ray player to buy. All I was expecting was a basic Netflix user experience similar to the one provided by our Sony PS3 in our basement. Beyond Netflix, having Amazon’s or other on-demand movie services was just a bonus. Since our living room environment isn’t a dedicated home theater setup, I wasn’t concerned about buying a high-end device with the best Blu-ray specifications. While in the store I quickly compared the Samsung device with a Sony device that was $30 USD less expensive, but I decided to buy the Samsung device because the Sony unit was a lot bigger.
I went with the BD-C5500 rather than the BD-C6500 because, as far as I could tell, the only difference between the units is the presence of the built-in wireless networking support in the BD-C6500. Since I already had a network cable in the installation location, wireless was not a requirement. (You can also use a USB-based wireless adapter with the BD-C5500).
To access NetFlix in the near term I could have purchased an HD-capable Roku device for $100 USD, but the Roku doesn’t have a built-in DVD/Blu-ray player and doesn’t appear to have the DLNA support of the BD-C5500 that enables us to browse our photos, videos and music files housed on our NAS server. So we paid $80 more than the Roku HD device, but got Blu-Ray and perhaps a few other features built into a single device.
Similar to the Roku and many other new devices, the BD-C5500 has access to an “app store”. In this case it’s the Samsung app store through which a variety of applications can be installed and updated. Blockbuster and VudDu, both HD-capable video on-demand services, and Pandora are the most interesting of the current crop of services available in the app store.
Although some reviewers had issues with the BD-C5500, I have been happy with the device thus far. Perhaps some of the issues were corrected through several firmware updates Samsung has made available since the device was released earlier this year. You might see low ratings for the device because of those early experiences.
The network speed test is one “issue” that might be more of a bug in Samsung’s speed reporting logic than in the streaming performance of the device: in practice streaming HD videos from Netflix works fine even though the speed test feature reports ~1.5 Mbps. Our actual download speed is ~4 Mbps as observed from other devices in our home.