capsule review

Sony BDP-S1 Blu-Ray Disc Player

At a Glance
  • Sony BDP-S1

    TechHive Rating

Sony's BDP-S1 ($1000 as of 2/20/07) excelled on our performance tests. It scored in the top two for image detail, color quality, and brightness and contrast across both our high-definition and our standard-definition tests. In scenes from the Blu-ray Disc version of the movie Rumor Has It, our test jury could virtually count the hairs in the stubble on Kevin Costner's face. The high-definition advantage was also evident in the background's depth and detail--in chapter 3 of The Phantom of the Opera, for example, when we were looking at the background of the stage; and in chapter 10 of Rumor, where we could see the depth in the crowd. In Mission: Impossible III, when the camera pulled back in the Vatican, hallways and staircases looked three-dimensional, and the cobblestones in front of the Vatican rendered clearly. Shadow detail in the black-and-white Good Night and Good Luck was so sharp, we could see the costume details on background characters who were located in the shadows.

Also, the BDP-S1 also produced the best audio in our tests: Its output was clear, crisp, and natural sounding. In addition to our formal tests, I performed some informal tests using The Last Waltz. This concert film's sound track blew me away when piped through our test setup (Pioneer's Elite VSX-82TXS audio/video receiver and NHT's Classic series 5.1-channel surround-sound system).

The BDP-S1, unfortunately, was sluggish and cumbersome to use compared with the other players we tested for our High-Def Video Superguide. It tied with the Pioneer model for last place in our responsiveness tests. Getting from startup to the point where the player is ready to do anything takes more than a minute.

For all the similarities between the Sony and the Pioneer, the two units have significant differences. Sony's player lacks the Pioneer's ethernet port and its digital media adapter (which together add enable the Pioneer to stream media across your home network).

The Sony also lacks a user-friendly design. The power and eject buttons are thin, metallic slivers that are difficult to press. These buttons sit at the very top of the front panel, with labels placed above the buttons, on the top of the unit; this poor positioning makes the buttons even harder to find, identify, and press if you have another component on top. When you do press a button, you get no tactile feedback, so you can't be sure you've actually made contact; the unit's slow response time compounds this problem. The remote control's design isn't much better. I found the remote cluttered, with too many buttons that are too alike in size and shape. Design gripes aside, though, the Sony BDP-S1 player excels at playing Blu-ray discs. For this player's above-average price, you get tremendous image quality. And the clarity of its sound should impress audiophiles and casual listeners alike.

Lincoln Spector

This story, "Sony BDP-S1 Blu-Ray Disc Player" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    Pros

    • Amazing picture and sound quality

    Cons

    • Poor on-unit button design
    • Poky response time
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