Even in an age when media is increasingly streamed to mini boxes like Roku and Apple TV, a disc player is still a must-have for those who already own a cache of discs. Thankfully, all Blu-ray players double as streaming-media boxes, too, so you can have your cake and eat it too.
To that end, the Samsung BD-F5900 is an affordable machine ($120) that offers almost everything you need in a disc player and a "smart" set-top box, with overall performance being a standout. This is the quickest player CNET has seen up until this point with the trade-off being that it also uses more electricity in its fastest, Quick Start mode. You do get to choose between pure brawn and power-saving brains, though.
Picture quality is very good and the interface is uncluttered and easy to use. The player comes chock-full of features and many of them are quite useful. In essence, it gets most everything right.
There is very little to dislike about the attractive BD-F5900. It's one of the best Blu-ray players available at the price, and should serve disc and streaming-media fans equally well.
From the earliest CD players to the latest Blu-ray players the designs haven't changed that much: a disc drawer on the left side with controls on the right. Cosmetic touches go in and out of fashion -- drawers that cover the fascia of the player, trapezoidal shapes -- but the basics are the same. While Samsung did experiment with pebblelike players, the BD-F5900 is back to the basics, though with a couple of twists.
The first is that rounded corner on the right-hand side which gives it a sophisticated, almost Art Deco appearance. The second is the circular control panel borrowed from swanky Samsung Bluetooth docks such as the DA-E750. The panel includes a Play/Pause button, Stop, and Eject, in addition to a power button that is closest to the user, though this could be annoying initially as this is usually where the Stop button is.
The onscreen menu seemingly takes inspiration from the tiled Windows 8 user interface with its large rectangles, but it's nowhere near as annoying. The three main boxes -- Movies & TV Shows, Apps, and Photos, Videos & Music -- are fairly self-explanatory and a small icon in the corner advises that you can simply press Play if there is a disc in the tray.
The remote control is compact but features plenty of shortcuts and commands. The directional pad is a little cramped, and it's easy to hit Exit instead of Left or Right. The Netflix shortcut is welcome.
The F5900 comes with a gaggle of features that rank from mandatory all the way down to "use once and forget about."
This player fits in the middle of Samsung's Blu-ray lineup and offers better value than the one below it (the BD-F5700). The BD-F5900 reviewed here has a better suite of apps (compared with just 11 on the F5700) and adds 3D playback as well.
The apps offered by the F5900 range from Netflix to Amazon Instant to YouTube; the only major item that is missing that other players have is NHL. The player doesn't have HBO Go, but the onboard Web browser supports Flash, so adventurous techies can try their luck on the Web.
As an aside, if you choose to go further up the line, the only additional feature the $10-more-expensive BD-F6700 offers is 4K upscaling, but I'd wager the scaler in your very expensive 4K TV would be better than the one in a $130 Blu-ray machine.
Back to the F5900: it also includes screen mirroring through AllShare Cast (Intel WiDi 3.5) and a ridiculously fast Quick Start mode (0.5 second). The F5900 has a dual-core processor, and as a result the Samsung is surprisingly zippy.
The BD-F5900 offers an intriguing CD ripper that allows you to connect a USB disk and rip 192Kbps MP3s to it from the disk drive. Nifty, but users may want the option to rip to higher bit rates or other formats such as FLAC.