Sony BDP-S790 3D Blu-ray player
This Blu-ray player works with next-generation 4K TVs, and is powerful and speedy
- Excellent features
- Class-leading connectivity
- Fast operation
- 4K is unnecessary, at the moment
- Web browser is mediocre
- Long text input is a chore
Sony's latest, best Blu-ray player is a little pricier than the competition, but it has a few features that make it stand out from the crowd. We think Sony's hit a winner with the BDP-S790's speed and diverse range of features.
Price$ 429.00 (AUD)
Sony BDP-S790: Features and performance
We really liked how fast the BDP-S790 was to respond to remote control commands, and how swift it was to navigate through menus and enter applications. It loaded Blu-ray and DVD movies roughly on par with competitors, booting into the menu of our test Avatar 3D Blu-ray in 27 seconds and into The Dark Knight in 20 seconds flat.
We thought the amount of video customisation available through the BDP-S790’s menu system — accessible through Options while you’re watching a 2D or 3D Blu-ray movie — was excellent. There are several increments for each of the Texture Remaster, Super Resolution, Smoothing, Contrast Remaster and Clear Black options that let you tailor the BDP-S790’s output to suit your tastes.
With a little adjustment, we found that the second increment of each setting produced the most detailed picture with attractive contrast.
This is a Blu-ray player that absolutely flatters high definition content. It produced an excellent picture with our The Dark Knight, Terminator: Salvation and Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 3D test Blu-ray movies, and Avatar 3D came close to looking as good as it did in the cinema (albeit on a smaller screen, of course). Its lower-resolution upscaling is also excellent, bringing just the right amount of sharpening and smoothing to 480p DVD video and accurately de-blocking lower quality downloaded video.
We didn’t have a chance to test the Blu-ray player’s 4K up-scaling — this is a feature that’s only worthwhile when you’re connecting to a 4K TV or projector, and since almost all of these units aren’t going to hit the Australian market until the very end of the year, it’s a bit redundant at the moment. Theoretically, 4K upscaling from a Blu-ray player should be superior to 4K upscaling from a TV — it’s earlier in the chain from the video source to its display — but we’ll reserve our judgment until later. It’s nice to have the feature for future-proofing, though.
The dual-core processor used in the BDP-S790 contributes in a big way to the general speediness of the user interface. Remote control input is mirrored on-screen almost instantly, which is a huge difference from the half-second wait we’ve experienced with older Sony models using the ‘Xross Media Bar’ (XMB) interface. We’ve always liked XMB, but it’s a pain to use on a slow machine — it’s excellent on the BDP-S790 though, and as a result we think it’s even easier and more intuitive to use than before.
Sony has been keeping up with its competitors in updating its Blu-ray players with new video on demand services, and the BDP-S790 continues that trend. Connect it to the Internet, register it on Sony’s site and you’re able to access a large variety of different video apps. There’s Quickflix streaming movies, ABC iView, Moshcam concerts, The Wiggles for the kids, YouTube, MUBI, SBS On Demand, and plenty more. We counted 28 video apps in total. Sony’s Video Unlimited is one of these — it’s probably the most comprehensive movie service available on the device, with a broad range of video from Sony’s Australian distributors.
Music apps also abound; alongside Sony’s subscription Music Unlimited service you can also purchase Berliner Philharmoniker concerts and listen to vTuner and National Public Radio podcasts and broadcasts. There are no photo apps, but the BDP-S790 will happily play any JPEG, GIF or PNG files from an external hard drive or USB stick although it takes a few seconds to load each new photo.
In the Network section of the BDP-S790’s XMB interface you’ll find instant access to Skype (with optional Sony webcam, at $199) and Facebook, and the Opera App Store which lets you access Twitter and install other apps from the Opera TV app library. The range of apps is definitely limited — at the time of writing, there are eight (25 Square Puzzle, Backgammon, Bubbles, Geo Quiz, River IQ, Solitaire, Sudoku, and Twitter) but the option to access these games is a nice time-waster.
The Web browser is also accessible from the Network section, and is a very basic Opera implementation. Every time you want to enter a URL or text, you have to access the on-screen keyboard through a two-step Options menu process. It’s quite convoluted and we think it’s too difficult to be useful; you can use a wired keyboard through the USB port, but you’ll still need to do some selecting with the remote control. It works acceptably well if you’re willing to wait through the difficult text input.
Sony BDP-S790: Conclusion
We have only praise for the BDP-S790’s high quality video output, even though its 4K upscaling selling point is merely academic for the time being. Its video and music on demand features are comprehensive, but the Web browser fails to impress. All in all, we think the BDP-S790 is a worthwhile investment at $429 for someone who wants to future-proof their home in time for their next 4K TV upgrade.
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GGG Evaluation Team
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