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When it comes to high-definition video technologies, I am an early adopter—which makes it a bit odd that I picked up Sony's BDP-S5100 yesterday. I'm very happy I did, because it is a really great...
Fast disc loading. Great image quality, notably good streaming via Wi-Fi . Quieter than the PS3 Super Slim.
4K is right around the corner, mediocre remote.
When it comes to high-definition video technologies, I am an early adopter—which makes it a bit odd that I picked up Sony's BDP-S5100 yesterday. I'm very happy I did, because it is a really great performer that addresses many of my complaints about Blu-ray players. Surprisingly, the Sony player also improved my online-delivery experience, especially the quality of Netflix HD content.
Until last week, I relied on a PS3 for most Blu-ray playback. My first PlayStation 3 was also my first Blu-ray player; I bought it shortly after it was launched. My most recent unit was the recently released "super slim" model, which did not impress me with its build quality or functionality. The sliding-door disc loading and the obnoxiously loud fan seemed inexcusable for a device that still costs almost $300. Out of impatience, I sold it on eBay, vowing to use my PC for Blu-ray playback while waiting for the next generation of consoles to hit store shelves.
The PC-only viewing approach was a failure; while trying to watch House of Cards, I ran into compatibility issues with the main menu. It became apparent that I would need a Blu-ray player to hold me over until the new consoles became available.
I jumped on my electric bicycle and took a trip down to my local Best Buy in South Philadelphia. I took a gander at the latest 3D Blu-ray players—I have a 55" 3D Vizio television, and I do enjoy 3D—so that feature was not one I was going to leave out just to save a few dollars. Among the major-brand players that were available, Sony's was the most expensive. On a different day, that could have changed, depending on which player was on sale. I decided to spend $20 more than an equivalent Samsung and $10 more than an equivalent Panasonic. If nothing else, I knew that the new Sony Blu-ray players have a similar menu structure to the PlayStation 3. I've seen Samsung's Smart Hub, and I was not interested in that interface.
The two things I wanted from the player were quality and speed. I'm happy to report that the BDP-S5100 provides both in abundance. I was especially impressed with Blu-ray loading times, which seemed to be several times faster than my previous machine. Equally important, the speed of the Wi-Fi connection is also much better than a my old unit, as well as the built-in Wi-Fi on my television. This new Blu-ray player had no problem achieving the highest level of quality from Vudu and Netflix using a wireless connection; with my older gear, I had to use an Ethernet cable to maintain maximum quality streams.
The initial setup was fast and easy—the player found my network, connected, and updated itself quite rapidly. Once that was done, configuration was a snap, especially for those familiar with the PlayStation interface. Either way, it's very well thought out and very simple at the same time.
And then came the big surprise: Netflix looked better than I've ever seen it on any other platform. When I decided to buy this machine, I was writing a comparison between Blu-ray, Netflix, Amazon, and Vudu—I had been paying close attention to the discrepancy in quality between Netflix HD and Blu-ray. This new machine rendered Netflix video without the obvious banding that I had seen when using the PlayStation 3, which is the number one non-PC platform for Netflix viewing. With this new player, proper film cadence was maintained, and quite frankly, it looked and sounded great. It's the best decoding I've seen yet for online delivery. And all this through Wi-Fi—honestly, I've never had luck like this with any other device. The price-performance ratio for this Blu-ray player is quite amazing!
With Sony's new S5100 Blu-ray player, what you get—for the cost of a night out at the movies for a family of four—is one truly impressive machine. Who knows, when the PlayStation 4 comes out, I might even keep this player around.