Sherwood BDP-5003 Blu-ray Disc Player
At a Glance
The Sherwood BDP-5003 is priced at $250 (as of 2/18/09), and not surprisingly it's a stripped-down, feature-free model. It lacks BD-Live and native Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio support. Of course, such omissions might be forgiven if the unit could deliver outstanding images for such a reasonable price.
The Sherwood's images aren't outstanding, but they are acceptable--most of the time. The player gave its worst performance on regular DVDs, where it had to upconvert the image. We noticed in our The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King test that the image (a night scene) was overly bright, although that did allow us to see more detail. On our The Phantom of the Opera DVD test, one judge noted that the faces of women on the stage seemed to "burn together."
It did better with Blu-ray discs, but was still inferior to our reference player, the Sony PlayStation 3. One judge noted that in a scene from The Searchers, the image looked softer and less three-dimensional than on the PlayStation 3. For Mission: Impossible III, the same judge noted that the colors were duller and the image was softer. Altogether, we gave the BDP-5003 mostly Good scores for Blu-ray Disc image quality, with a few Very Goods and Fairs.
The player is reasonably responsive, loading a Blu-ray disc in a decent but unexceptional 76 seconds. It could pause the playback almost immediately--as good or better than most--and we saw only a very slight lag when skipping chapters.
The design of the BDP-5003 is fairly attractive--it's glossy black, with physical buttons at the right, one each for Play, Stop, Previous Chapter, and Next Chapter. The on-screen menus, however, are far less attractive. Even worse, the menus are unintuitive: They offer no explanations, and an action that you'd expect to show you an option instead selects it.
I found the remote control lightweight and comfortable in my hand. It has some convenient touches, but also some annoyances. For instance, the Play and Pause buttons share a rocker button (the kind that TV remotes use for channels and volume control), making them very easy to find with your thumb. But the Menu and Pop-Up Menu buttons are difficult to find and press, way too high up the remote from the core navigation buttons. The remote is neither backlit nor programmable.
Sherwood added one nice feature I didn't expect: The power button on the player itself actually turns the player completely off, so that it uses no electricity at all. (Most players' buttons put the unit into a standby mode, which draws less power than the on state does.) Of course, if you use this option, you can't turn the player back on with the remote. The remote itself has a Standby button that "shuts off" the player in the conventional, really-still-on-so-you-can-use-the-remote form.
Unfortunately, the player's power button seemed delicate. The one on our test unit had a way of getting stuck so that we couldn't turn the player on. Sufficient fiddling on our part would eventually prompt it to work. After a couple of experiences like that, you're likely to give up on the power button and just use the remote's energy-wasting standby button. A Sherwood representative told us that ours was "the first report of this problem."
If you're shopping on a tight budget, Sherwood's BDP-5003 is worth considering. But if you want more features and better image quality, we'd suggest looking elsewhere.