Despite the lack of built-in Wi-Fi, Sony makes it worth your while investing in the wireless adapter (or plugging in a LAN cable) with a decent array of networking features. We’ve said it many times before, but its BRAVIA Internet Video service is worth the money alone. There’s an unrivalled selection of applications, ranging from video services like YouTube, LoveFilm, BBC iPlayer, Demand Five, Sky News, Eurosport and Qriocity, plus music and radio sites.
As well as enjoying these prescribed sites you can also surf the internet at large using the built-in browser, but be warned that it’s a cumbersome, time-consuming process due to the time it takes to enter text and to its intolerance of Flash (the deck does support a USB keyboard, however).
Unlike the BDP-S380, which doesn’t support DLNA media streaming in any form, the S480 allows you to stream content from other DLNA-compatible devices on your home network, including MKV and AVCHD. Not bad for such an affordable player. But if you prefer your media playback to be a little more local, then the deck also supports a range of formats from USB devices – we loaded our flash drive and were able to play MP4, AVI, WMV HD, XviD, MP3, WMA, WAV and AAC. But like the BDP-S380 there’s no support for DivX, which is sure to put off some potential buyers.
Elsewhere on the features front you’ll find the Gracenote-powered Entertainment Database Browser, which allows you to look up details about the movie you’re watching. It’s a neat feature that could help settle a few armchair arguments. Also appealing is the player’s support for SACD – looks like Sony isn’t ready to give up the ghost on its cherished hi-res audio format just yet.
Also on-board is smartphone control – the deck acts as a media renderer and can be controlled using an iPod Touch, iPhone or Android phone. You’ll find similar features on Philips' and Panasonic’s latest players. It also supports the Party Streaming function, whereby the S480 works in conjunction with other compatible Sony products to send and receive music (as a ‘Party Host’ and ‘Party Guest’ respectively).
Aside from that the S480 performs all the tricks you’d expect, such as support for HD audio formats (decoding and bitstream output), 1080/24p output and 1080p DVD upscaling.
Using the BDP-S480 is a blissfully simple experience, thanks to Sony’s slick operating system. The Xross Media Bar is as cooperative as ever, skating from option to option without hesitation, plus the BIV, setup and network icons are laid out in a logical cross-axis fashion. That said, anyone keen to experience the delights of niche sites like Golf Link or Tagesschau will need to scroll quite far down the vertical ‘Video’ menu to reach them, given the vast array of sites further up the list.
On the compact remote – which features a neat arrangement of nicely-sized and well-labelled buttons – you’ll find an Options button. Press it during playback and you can access a modest range of video settings, which include noise reduction and three picture presets. The Options menu also provides quick access to a useful range of often used playback features. In general the onscreen design is excellent, which means you won’t have any trouble whether you’re streaming files, playing Blu-rays or making tweaks in the setup menu.