Rummaging around the Home menu unearths more treats, such as DLNA media streaming from a laptop or PC. Enable media sharing and your computer’s name appears in the music, video and photo menus – simply select it and you can search your PC’s media folders. The list of supported formats isn’t as wide-ranging as Samsung or LG’s systems, but all the common formats are covered.
Also under the Music menu is a service that allows you to watch concerts by the Berliner Philharmoniker, although this is a premium service that requires online registration. It’s joined by the National Public Radio service, a series of radio programmes from stations around the world. Don’t forget that the network connection can also be used to stream or download BD Live content linked to Blu-ray discs. Chuck a built-in FM radio tuner into the mix and we don’t think you’ll be getting bored any time soon.
Elsewhere there are even more features to discover. The front and rear USB ports allow you to play digital media from MP3 players, iPods and other memory devices. The system supports a variety of formats including DivX, MPEG-1/2/4, WMV9, MP3, WMA, AAC and JPEG as well as AVCHD from discs.
There’s built-in decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio, and the Entertainment Database Browser with Gracenote looks up track information and cover art when you insert a CD, although you have to be connected to the internet. You also get a range of sound EQ modes, D.Bass for boosting low frequencies and a selection of picture settings including various noise reduction modes.
Rig up the system for the first time and Easy Setup runs you through the key options to save you having to go back and set them later. Then you can plug the supplied microphone into the back of the main unit and launch the Auto Calibration mode, which tweaks the sound to suit your room’s acoustics.
The onscreen menus are beautifully presented in a slick, modern design. The Home menu uses the Xross Media Bar layout, used to great effect on Sony’s standalone players and the PS3, which is incredibly easy to follow and scrolls from option to option with pleasing urgency. It’s been around for a while now but the use of intersecting axes still feels fresh and innovative, even with the improvements made to rivals’ operating systems.
The Quick Start mode boots up the system in a few seconds, but when activated the system requires more power in standby. As for disc loading, it took an astonishing 35 seconds to close the tray and load Terminator Salvation, one of the fastest times we’ve clocked.