Samsung's 2015 Blu-ray lineup includes four models: the BD-J5100, BD-J5700, BD-J5900, and BD-J7500. All four players include access to streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, VUDU, YouTube, and Pandora, as well as the Opera TV service that includes a lot of niche Web apps. The basic BP-J5100 offers only a wired Internet connection, the step-up BP-J5700 adds built-in Wi-Fi, the BD-J5900 further adds 3D playback, and the top-shelf BD-J7500 adds 4K upscaling. I requested a sample of the BD-J5900, which can be purchased for $100 or less, depending on the retailer.
The BD-J5900 is a medium-sized player by current standards, measuring 11.4 inches wide by 8.7 deep by 1.5 high and weighing 2.2 pounds. It has a slightly curved shape, so the front is a little narrower than the back, and the top and sides have a ribbed texture. I'm not crazy about that aesthetic choice, as it just looks a little cheap to me. The front panel has a slide-out disc tray to the left; in the center is a Type A USB port (hidden behind a pull-out cover) for media playback and BD-Live storage; to the right are buttons for power and eject. The back panel sports one HDMI 1.4 output, a coaxial digital audio output, and an Ethernet port.
The supplied IR remote control arranges a lot of similarly shaped black buttons in a rather cramped layout, and it lacks backlighting. There are no dedicated buttons to launch apps like Netflix and Amazon Video, but it does include TV controls like power, source, and volume. Samsung does not offer a mobile app to control the player via a smartphone or tablet, but the BD-J5900 does support Screen Mirroring so that you can share content from compatible mobile devices. The player also includes DLNA support to stream media files from a DLNA-friendly media server or NAS drive.
The BD-J5900's Home Page allows for quick access to most every service you might want to use; but, like the remote, it feels a little cluttered--it's not quite as intuitive as the Home Page of LG's BD550 that I recently reviewed. The top row features large icons for Play Disc, Photos, Videos, and Music. Below that is a row of smaller icons for apps like Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, Netflix, and Opera TV Store, as well as icons for Screen Mirroring, Change Device, and Settings.
In terms of disc playback, the BD-J5900 loads DVD and Blu-ray discs very quickly, and I experienced no issues with disc skips or freezes. You can enable 24p playback via the Settings menu if you want to output Blu-ray films at their native 1080p/24 resolution. As expected at this price point, there's no Source Direct mode to pass all discs at their native resolution. The player has Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding; it's set by default for PCM digital output to handle the decoding internally, but you can switch that to Bitstream to let your receiver handle the decoding. I had no issues passing Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD MA, and 7.1 PCM soundtracks via bitstream to my Harman Kardon AV receiver. Likewise, 3D playback worked just fine.
The BD-J5900 passed all of the 480i and 1080i processing tests on my HQV and Spear & Munsil test discs, and it cleanly rendered my favorite 480i torture-test scenes from the Gladiator and Bourne Identity DVDs, producing no blatant moire or jaggies.
I experimented with media playback using both DLNA and USB sources. The player has solid file compatibility: playable formats include MPG, MP4/M4V, AVI, MKV, WMV, MOV, WMA, MP3, AAC, and WAV. The player does not support FLAC or AIFF. Just as I experienced with the LG BD550, the BD-J5900's DLNA video playback was unreliable; many supposedly compatible files on my Seagate NAS drive were not available to play, and the ones that were available were often ridiculously slow to begin playback--to the point where you're convinced that the player is frozen, but it's not. And that was with a wired network connection. Via Wi-Fi, I had even less success. Photo and music playback, on the other hand, were generally reliable, although some of my Photo folders that contain a lot of files were slow to load. Via USB, media playback was much quicker and more reliable across the board.
In the area of smart apps, Samsung has included the important big-name services like Netflix, VUDU, Amazon Video, Pandora, and YouTube, but this Blu-ray device doesn't have the complete, comprehensive Web package that's offered through Samsung's Tizen-based Smart Hub TVs. The Opera TV service includes mostly specialty, niche apps, many of which I've never heard of. The available apps offer reliable playback, but they don't load or navigate as quickly as you'll get through a Samsung TV or a standalone player like a Roku or Amazon device.
• The BD-J5900 loads discs very quickly. It can also power up instantly if you enable Quick Start (which is off by default).
• Disc playback was reliable, and the player's deinterlacing/upconversion abilities are good.
• This "smart" player includes access to big-name apps like Netflix, YouTube, VUDU, Hulu, Amazon, and Pandora. It has built-in Wi-Fi for a wireless network connection.
• You can stream personal media files via USB or DLNA
• Movie playback over DLNA was slow and finicky.
• The user interface is a bit cluttered. Plus, every time you want to move from a disc to a USB drive to a DLNA server, you must go to "Change Device," which is not very intuitive.
• Apps like Netflix and YouTube don't load as quickly as they do through the best dedicated streaming media players. The remote lacks a keyboard for faster text entry.
• The player lacks an "auto resume" function to remember a disc's previous stopping point the next time you insert the disc.
Comparison and Competition
LG's comparable 2015 Blu-ray player would be the BP550 that I recently reviewed, which is also a 3D-capable smart player with built-in Wi-Fi. LG's player is the same price and has similar performance, but I think it has a better user interface/remote, and there's an LG mobile app for control and media playback.
Sony's comparably featured 2015 model is the $100 BDP-S5500, also a 3D-capable smart player with built-in Wi-Fi and Miracast from your phone/tablet.
Panasonic's DMP-BDT270M is a 3D-capable smart Blu-ray player with 4K upscaling for $120.
If you need a new disc player to spin your CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs (including 3D), Samsung's BD-J5900 is a good disc player offered at a great price. It powers up quickly, loads discs very quickly, and offers good video performance. Unfortunately, its streaming and personal-media functions are average at best; you're better off using similar functions in your smart TV or getting a standalone streaming player. If you're looking for one device that unites both disc playback and smart TV services in the most intuitive way, I recommend you keep looking (and be prepared to spend more). But if all you need is a good disc player, the Samsung BD-J5900 is worth a look.
• Check out our Blu-ray Players category page to read similar reviews.
• Samsung Leads in 4K TV Sales, Report Shows at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Samsung Smart Hub 2015 Wel Platform Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.