Pros: Reliability, Warranty, Ease of Use, Build Quality, Connectivity, Look/Feel, Image Quality, Backlit remote
Cons: Getting a bit long in the tooth compared to today's players
So what do you get with the 5000ES? It's from a bygone era where Blu-Ray players were just that -- Blu-Ray players, for watching movies on disc!! So taking the age of the player into account, you don't get much in the way of the way of extra features -- no 3D playback, no wi-fi, no apps or web browser. It can play back CDs, DVDs, and BD discs, but not SACD, since Sony makes and still produces a matching ES series SACD player. The main features of the 5000ES, I'd say, are the ridiculous build (or overbuild) quality, the vast array of connectivity options, and Sony's custom-tweaked Marvell video processing solution.
The very first thing you'll notice about this player is its imposing physical presence -- it is roughly the size of three modern players stacked on top of each other. The 5000ES features an all-metal construction with an incredibly handsome brushed metal fascia. It's made in Japan and tips the scales at a hefty 22 pounds. It has a center-mounted disc tray that's whisper-quiet; it glides open smooth as butter when you press the "eject" button. In comparison to the audible whirring and whizzing that my newer Panasonic player makes, you'd never know the Sony was even turned on. It's that quiet when in operation. According to Sony, the 5000ES utilizes an R-Core transformer for increased performance and a frame and Beam Chassis construction for increased rigidity. It's safe to say that this product is over-engineered. During playback, the top of the disc tray stays illuminated a deep blue, and there are several small, subtle LED indicators of the face of the player: One each to indicate that the disc is either playing, stopped, or paused, plus one each to indicate that you're watching 24p content, listening to a lossless audio track, or that the player's Super Bit Mapping processing is engaged. The included remote is standard Sony fare, but includes a backlight. As an ES component, the 5000 is accompanied by a 5-yer manufacturer warranty.
Connectivity: This is where the 5000ES really outdoes modern players. It has almost every connection you could think of for video, and a lot of options for audio as well: HDMI (which is all I'm using to connect it to my A/V Receiver), Component (HD capable as this player was produced pre-analog sunset), Composite, S-Video; for audio, HDMI, digital coaxial, optical, 7.1 analog out, and a separate 2-channel analog out for dedicated stereo use. it's also worth note that Sony claims that the analog audio connections are kept on an isolated circuit board from the other connections for better performance. of course, all of the analog connections on this player are gold-plated. According to many who own this player, it has very high-quality DACS built-in. Many in the official owner's thread here on AVS have remarked that it doubles as a high-end CD player for this very reason. In addition to the aforementioned audio/video connections, it also features a wired ethernet connection for BD-Live content and firmware updates, RS-232 for control system integration, a control/IR input, and a recessed USB input to attach storage for BD-live. Sony provides a translucent blue 1GB flash drive with the player.
Setup: Setting the 5000ES up is a fairly straightforward affair. I currently have it connected via HDMI to my AVR and hard-wired to my router. The player features Sony's familiar XMB interface with large side-scrolling icons that make it easy to adjust audio, video, colorspace options, etc. It auto-detects the resolution and aspect of your display.
Performance: As far as disc loading goes, it's not super fast, but considering its age, it isn't all that bad. I'd estimate it takes about 50 seconds to a minute to load most discs, and about double that for Java-heavy titles or titles that establish an internet connection. It loads DVDs and CDs instantly. Image quality is exceptional for Blu-Ray discs as well as standard DVDs. This can be attributed to Sony's high-end 14-bit video processor packed in this player that serves two functions: Super Bit Mapping and the HD Reality Enhancer. Super Bit Mapping is enabled through the menu and is meant to smooth color gradations before they are output to your display; HD Reality Enhancer can be engaged or adjusted on-the-fly while viewing a movie, and can be used to sharpen or soften the image, reduce film grain, or attenuate noise or other artifacts in the source. While I am generally not a big fan of these types of features, I have seen them make a positive impact on the picture, especially for standard def content. Using good judgement, it can slightly tweak the source image to make it look more pleasing but can also add edge enhancement and other undesirable artifacts to the picture. On the whole though, I'm a fan of it for regular DVDs. For instance, when watching an old DVD copy of the Raiders of the Lost Ark, I noticed a big difference in the opening jungle chase/golden idol scene as I adjusted properties of the HD Reality Enhancer. Engaging Film Grain Reduction a tick (there are three levels of adjustment here) or two rendered a drastically cleaner image without any discernible loss in detail. To my surprise, it presented a noticeably different image depending on how these settings were adjusted versus the Sony's processing being completely off. I prefer to leave it off for Blu-ray viewing because it can make the image look a bit too processed.
All in all, the 5000ES is a great player and one of my favorite pieces of equipment. I doubt we'll see another BD player of this quality from a mass-market manufacturer ever again. I only wish it could read 3D discs so I'd never have to use any other player in my setup!