It may be pricier than other models, but Sony's BDP-S790 is a feature-filled Blu-ray player that, if not future proof, stands a good chance of being future resistant for a while.
Sony's BDP-S790 is an excellent example of what we're slowly coming to expect from networked devices, packing in an impressive selection of catch-up TV services, Sony's own Entertainment Network, social media connectivity and — impressively — 4K upscaling, all in a well designed, slim-line Blu-ray player.
Features and design
The S790 is a pleasingly slim player — at just 1.9kg and slightly under 20cm deep, it'll fit comfortably into even the smallest lounge room. The design is remarkable unobtrusive — the front is almost blank, with just the disc bay, a recessed USB port and a small number of capacitive touch controls on the top for eject, play and stop. While the design looks and feels solid and well made, the top is on the shiny side and we quickly left visible fingerprints around the buttons.
On the rear is a LAN port, a second USB, optical out, composite video/audio plugs, plus two HDMI out ports. Wi-Fi is built in. The two HDMI ports might be overkill for an average user, but they do allow for video and audio separation. One could hook the video directly to a 3D capable TV, while using the HDMI 2 port to connect audio via an AV receiver that doesn't allow 3D pass through — we were pleased to note that this is even addressed quite effectively in the operating manual, complete with an illustration on how to get it up and running.
The rear of the BDP-S790.
It's worth noting that while the S790 does support 4K upscaling, we'll need to wait for a 4K TV before we can test this particular feature.
Sony has packed in a host of video, music and catch-up TV apps, both from its own Sony Entertainment Network series and also third-party apps, such as iView, Plus7, and even Skype. The list of supported file types is comprehensive, including MPG, MKV, MP4, AVI, WMV, along with the familiar standards of MP3, WMA and, of course, JPG and the like.
The initial set up of the S790 was simple — we tried both a wired and a Wi-Fi network.The unit easily found both and was quickly connected to the internet.
In terms of playback, the S790 is reasonably swift to load discs. Spider-Man 3 was ready in around 28 seconds, while Clash of the Titans took 24. It responded rapidly to the remote when pausing and skipping, and we were pleased with the onscreen options menu. It sits off to the right side during playback and lets you make a number of audio and video changes on the fly, in addition to the standard options, such as subtitle and chapter changes.
The video was crisp and clean, even rapid action scenes produced a beautiful result. We were also impressed by standard DVD playback — again, a smooth video that was sharp and highly watchable.
Looking at the range of catch-up TV apps that Sony has put on the S790, we found that iView was ready in around 8 seconds, and about the same for Plus7, Network Ten and the like. They all feature a standard grid interface that was intuitive and simple to use. We liked the integration of the remote as well, especially the way the middle control wheel of the remote lets you zoom in and out of the video by clicking up or down, a boon for anyone who finds streaming catch-up too blocky on larger screen TVs.
While pricier than the competition, this is an excellent player that is positively brimming with excellent features. It's unlikely that the 4K upscaling will come into play for some time, but the internet video and music capabilities of the BDP-S790 are excellent. If we had to complain, we would point out that the remote feels rather light and plastic-y — at odds with the nice construction of the player itself, but at this point, we're be splitting hairs. A great device that's well worth the premium price.