It’s a Blu-ray player from the lower reaches of Sony’s current range, offering a step-up from the entry-level BDP-S1100. It’s not 3D capable but is designed to provide an easy way of watching hi-def movies in the bedroom or living room – and with built-in Smart functionality it does much more than just play Blu-ray discs.
What jumps out straight away is the BDP-S3100’s size – at 290mm it’s about half the width of most Blu-ray decks, which makes it perfect for second room use. The design is also a refreshing break from the norm. Called ‘Sense of Quartz’ it’s inspired by the look of rock crystals, which explains the sharp angles and slopes at the front and sides. This gives it a flashy, futuristic look, augmented by a sleek gloss-black finish.
Build quality is surprisingly good for such an affordable player. The bodywork is fashioned from aluminium, making it feel sturdy enough, although like most budget players it’s still light.
Along the front slope are four buttons for power, play, stop and open/close. These are stiff and clunky but being a budget model touch-sensitive controls were probably out of the question. The disc tray shoots forth from the front panel, where it’s joined by a USB port for media playback.
On the back is a typically sparse selection of sockets for a budget deck. There’s an HDMI output of course, which pipes 1080p video and HD audio to a TV and receiver, alongside a coaxial digital audio output and Ethernet port. Sounds stingy, but for most users it should be more than enough.
Another major bonus is that the BDP-S3100 features built-in Wi-Fi, so there’s no need to buy and connect a LAN dongle to access the deck’s generous range of network features.
Heading the bill is the Sony Entertainment Network (SEN) portal, which provides a range of internet apps for your entertainment. The list is long and varied, taking in everything from video and music sites to social networking, games and puzzles. But the standouts are BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, Sky News, Love Film, Netflix and YouTube, plus Video and Music Unlimited, Sony’s on-demand movie/music services.
While its selection puts many Blu-ray decks to shame, this year Sony has been usurped as the king of web content by Samsung, whose F series Blu-ray decks offer a full range of terrestrial catch-up TV services (BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport, ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5). Sony will need to address this if it wants to keep pace with its Korean rival.
The BDP-S3100 can also stream movies, music and photos from networked servers, such as PCs and NAS drives, or play them from a USB storage device. The list of playable video formats is decent, including AVCHD, AVI, MKV, MP4, MPEG-1/2/4, XviD and WMV. On the music side MP3, AAC, WMA, LPCM and FLAC are supported, plus JPEG, PNG and GIF photos.
It’s not completely problem free, however – hi-def WMV and AVI files were downgraded to a blurry resolution when streamed (which isn’t the case from USB), you can’t stream MKV over a network and Sony’s lack of support for DivX continues to grate.
Download Sony’s TV Side View app on an Android or Apple device and you can use it to control the player over your network. There’s a QWERTY keyboard and a Free Cursor system that works like a mouse.
It also enhances your viewing experience by showing you real-time details about the disc you’re watching. You can post about it on social networking sites and access other internet apps through your device – although we’re not sure why you’d do that when the device you’re using can already access the internet…
Rounding up the feature list is a surprisingly responsive web browser (but still more hassle than firing up a laptop) and Triluminos Colour, which boosts colour depth on a compatible display.