The Gadget: Samsung's startlingly thin BD-P4600 "Touch of Color" connected Blu-ray player—geared to a style-conscious buyer who likes hanging electronics on walls.
The Price: $500 for style, connectedness and decent—but not perfect—video file support
The Verdict: It's a crazy, unexpected piece of hardware, so thin and light that the press photos don't really do it justice. Still, since it basically does the same thing as Samsung's cheaper BD-P3600, and LG's new wired and wireless Blu-ray players, I can't help but think the $500 sticker price will be a bit prohibitive for anyone not using it as a decorative wall-hanging piece.
Setup was easy. It comes pre-loaded with Netflix and Pandora, and I first connected it via Ethernet to a sweet Linksys Powerline adapter which ran downstairs to my router, and was running with HD 30 Rock episodes in no time. Not forgetting what Samsung wants us all to remember, that this is a Blu-ray player, I popped in T2, and soon saw Arnold emerging naked from a molten sphere of energy.
Despite its thinness, the rear fan (which you see in the gallery) was not noisy at all. I had a movie playing at a low volume, and could hear everything, and couldn't distinguish the fan's white noise from the other white noise in the house.
My only trouble I had was with networking. It says on the box "Wireless" but when you open it up, you find it requires a separate Wi-Fi dongle. My head quickly did the math: "Consumer-electronics software plus plug-in dongle equals call to tech support." Sure enough, even though it recognized my SSID and let me input a password just fine, it was unable to connect. (The solution, it turned out, was to enter my network password under WPA2 instead of WPA.) The other weird thing about the wireless dongle is that it clearly wasn't designed for this wall-hanging player—if you have it plugged in on the side USB port, you can't press the player flush against the wall.
The pleasant surprise was that the video decoder can read XviD and DivX movies, at least the ones I tested. It wasn't down with DivX 7 MKV, but it liked some older AVIs. It also didn't like H.264, but for some reason that seems to be a hard codec for these off-the-shelf software players to master. MP3s played fine, though it was filenames only—no metadata for you.
What's the takeaway? For movies, even ill-gotten ones, it's a good box. Netflix and Pandora are surely only the beginning, too. If Amazon Video on Demand is already on Panasonic, Sony, TiVo and Roku products, it's surely a matter of time before they sign with Ole Sammy. Ditto for Rhapsody, which seems to find its way into a lot of connected devices.
In the end, it makes sense if you have a simple bedroom setup that you don't want to mess up with a big "entertainment center." But bear in mind, when you wall mout, you still have to worry about the wires coming out of the back, and until they make a sleek glassy cable box to go with, you're always gonna have something bulky under your TV set. [Product Page]
Not only stylish, but quiet and lightweight—easy enough to hang on a wall.
Netflix and Pandora are currently the only net media streaming apps, but we expect more to come.
Wi-Fi and other networking features are not for amateurs, but if you figure it out, you can watch XviDs streamed from a PC.
Price is pretty damn high, and many functions can be found in other products.