The Sony BDP-S790 ($270) is the flagship Bluray player from Sony. Its major features include streaming with a direct link to Netflix as well as the Sony Entertainment Network (SEN) along with...
Excellent Image quality and upscaling, very fast response, streaming, 4k capable
Good, not great sound quality, doesn't always play bluray, dvd
The Sony BDP-S790 ($270) is the flagship Bluray player from Sony. Its major features include streaming with a direct link to Netflix as well as the Sony Entertainment Network (SEN) along with ability to surf the internet. It is fully 3D capable for 3D bluray movies. In addition to Bluray, the Sony plays DVD, music from compact disks (CD), the higher end super audio CD (SACD), ROMs for DVD,CD and BD. It can be wired via hdmi, rca, ethernet; it also has a wireless lan built into the unit. For future proof, image resolution is 4K capable, well above 1080p; this is for the upcoming 4K content and displays. Party and Skype options are also available, but were not tested.
Setup is simple, but is best achieved by connecting an hdmi cable from an HDTV. After starting the player and the TV, press easy setup. Be wary of using an older standard definition TV. This was done with the video selected just to test the unit using the rca video. When the unit was confirmed working, it was reconnected to a 1080p projector with an hdmi cable. However, the sony would not output 1080p. Repeated calls to customer service did not solve the problem, as hdmi was selected, cables were unplugged and the unit was restarted. Finally there is a reset to factory default settings which did overcome the odd video lock and allow full 1080p resolution via hdmi on the projector.
As the reviewer has older legacy equipment for sound processing and not a modern audiovisual receiver (avr), the hdmi was used only for the image to the projector. The 2 channel rca audio out was routed to a older Dolby Pro Logic processor. There are two hdmi terminals which can be used for two display units or for connection to a display and an avr. A unique feature of the sony is separation of the video and audio signals in the hdmi connection. This is believed to improve the sound quality; while this could not be checked, it was selected to only have the image sent to the projector. Video goes through the hdmi1; audio through the hdmi2. Aspect ratio was selected for the modern 16:9 which comprises most movies. An old TV may have the 4:3 selected.
User interface is mainly through the remote. But the unit does have some unique touch sensitive controls on the top edge. On the left over the logo, wiping one's finger with a little pressure will start the unit. Lights on the top right edge will flash and can be used by wiping finger for load, play and stop. These do work, but take getting used to the proper pressure that is required. The remote is full featured with buttons a little small but acceptable. For projector users it is not backlit. Using a small flashlight solves the problem, of course, but much nicer if backlit like projector remote. Easy, however, to get used to in the dark for main controls on bottom such as pause, play or even adjusting numerous image quality controls.
Performance was mainly compared to an audiophile $1000 Oppo BDP-95, with limited comparison to the non-audiophile $500 Oppo BDP-93. Movies tested were Bluray Hugo, There's something about Mary, Caddyshack, Terminator and DVDs Raiders of the Lost Ark and Austin Powers.
Sound quality was good to very good with the sony and oppo 93 especially with the THX Terminator and Raiders. The Oppo 95 was excellent (even has 7.1 rca outs); especially obvious was the opening sequence of Raiders with the arrows and rolling boulder sounding real. Also the Nazi plane fight on the ground at the dig site had explosions and the propeller very realistic. With sony and oppo can adjust sound with delay as needed to synch with image, but neither was tested.
Repeated testing, however, showed image quality to be superior on the sony. The oppo 93 and 95 have the same image processing, so the 93 was not further tested. Every movie was sharper with the sony. Hugo was impressive with both sony and oppo, but slightly sharper with sony. Oppo won due to better colors; reviewers did note some issues with sony color tables that have been corrected with firmware updates. Terminator was a tossup. All other movies sony won. Mary was very sharp on Sony with makeup detected as well. Contrast was also clearly better on sony with darker night scenes when sleazy Dillon is listening in his car to Mary. Caddyshack is an older, rough bluray. While a few scenes were too red with the Sony, its sharpness edge over oppo was surprising. Grass was more clearly resolved. Dangerfield watching Knight golfing early can make out leaves clearly on Sony. And most stunning was the pool scene. This was very good on oppo, but was like a real pool with sony as water looked real and people were much clearer. Perhaps sony was upscaling this older movie as sony easily beat the oppo for upscaling the dvds. Austin Powers opening dance number is fuzzy on oppo, clear on sony. Raiders also blurry on oppo throughout, but clear on sony. Sony again had better contrast, with whiter whites, but Raiders colors more accurate and vivid on oppo. Sony also had a better 3 dimensional image as seen in the Warner Brothers opening logo. Can see depth as it rotates on sony.
Speed was also much better with the sony. While load times for both were similar, there were always twice as many hdmi handshakes with the oppo. Remote speed was frustratingly slow with the oppo. The sony with its dual processor was very fast. Even slide scene into pool in Caddyshack could be stopped framewise with sony; not possible at all with oppo as too slow.
Sony has been upgraded now with firmware and does seem better with colors. Firmware process goes through sony site with ethernet cable and is complicated with the procedure needing to be followed exactly. Can order an upgrade cd from sony, too.
The surfing, Netflix and SEN were accessed some and seemed to work. Having just DSL did not test streaming movie. High speed network with wireless router would be best.
Sony does not always play as Amelie played once in 20+ tries and had to play Talented Mr Ripley on $20 Magnavox. Did not test the 4K resolution as need a 4K source and display; there is limited available at this time.
Sony has played 3D Hugo well, as if the viewer were standing there watching on-set.
Cds, not SACDs, have been tested and sound quality is good but not at oppo 95 audiophile level.
Extensive image controls exist on sony which seem to sharpen/improve picture at low settings. Too high settings give a leathery skin look to faces. These controls are texture remaster, super resolution, smoothing, contrast remaster, clear black, noise reduction.
In summary, this flagship streaming 3D 4K capable Sony bluray player has world class image resolution and dvd upscaling. The dual core processor gives fast responses to remote commands. Sound is still good to very good, but only has two rca out and cannot compete with worldclass audio out from Oppo 95.