It's a Blu-ray player positioned right in the middle of Sony's new five-strong range – above the entry-level BDP-S1200 (£69) and BDP-S4200 (£89) but below the £199 BDP-S6200 and top-end BDP-S7200 (£249).
It’s compact in size but big on features, equipped with built-in ‘super’ Wi-Fi, DLNA streaming and access to the Sony Entertainment Network – oh, and 3D Blu-ray playback of course.
SEE ALSO: Sony BDP-S4100 review
The BDP-S5200 continues Sony’s ‘Sense of Quartz’ design theme of previous ranges, which looks immensely stylish. It’s mostly gloss-black with a series of several sloping triangular panels on top, but this time the front panel is mirrored, giving it a more glamorous appearance than its predecessors.
In the corner of the mirrored panel are power and open/close buttons, while the front of the player sports a USB port and a skinny disc tray. Interestingly there’s no readout on the front, so you’ll have to rely on the onscreen displays.
The other distinctive aspect of the BDP-S5200 is its size – at just 265mm it’s half the width of most Blu-ray players, making it ideal for placing in the bedroom where space is limited. Sadly, like most budget Blu-ray players, build quality is a let-down – the light, insubstantial plastic casing doesn’t inspire confidence in its long term durability.
SEE ALSO: Samsung BD-H6500 review
On the back is a typically sparse selection of sockets, but that’s par for the course on a budget deck. You get an HDMI output, a coaxial digital audio output and an Ethernet port for hooking up to the internet. That should suffice for most people, but if you want dual HDMI output or analogue audio ports then you’ll need to invest in a more expensive player.
The BDP-S5200 is a 3D-capable player, but doesn’t feature 4K upscaling – that’s only found on the BDP-S6200 and 7200.
It also features what Sony calls ‘super Wi-Fi’, which means it’s been engineered to have a stronger signal than conventional Wi-Fi, hopefully resulting in smoother streaming and more responsive web browsing.
SEE ALSO: Pioneer BDP-160 review
Hook it up to the internet and you can access the Sony Entertainment Network, which includes a wealth of video, music and on-demand movie apps. The line-up is excellent – on the video side, there’s Amazon Instant Video, Netflix and Sony’s Video Unlimited service, plus You Tube, BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, BBC News, BBC Sport, Sky News and lots of niche services. It’s a shame ITV Player and 4OD haven’t made their way onto Sony’s players – if you want those you’ll need to check out the Samsung BD-H6500.
The music line-up comprises Music Unlimited, Berliner Philharmoniker, National Public Radio and – most useful of all – vTuner internet radio. Other online services include Facebook, Opera TV Store and a web browser.
You can also stream your own music, video and photos from PCs and other devices on your home network. Supported formats include MKV, AVI, XviD, WMV, AVCHD, MP3, WMA and LPCM, but no DivX. You can’t stream FLAC or AAC over a network but you can play them via USB. JPEG, PNG and GIF photos can also be streamed.
The deck also supports Miracast screen mirroring technology, which allows you to display the screen of a compatible mobile device on your TV over a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connection. Gracenote automatically downloads data about movies and songs.
The BDP-S5200 employs the same Xross Media Bar home menu used by last year’s players and several generations before it. We love this slick, intuitive interface but we were hoping for a new look just to freshen things up and bring it more in line with Sony’s flashy BRAVIA TV menus.
Still, you can understand Sony's reluctance to change it. It’s instantly useable and makes it easy to find the option you need. The menu features two intersecting axes, with the categories running horizontally and the corresponding options listed vertically. Press the direction keys and it skates between options quickly. Every app is illustrated by an icon, which makes it easy on the eye. The setup menu is found at the far end of the bar and covers every angle.
The same style of menu is used when exploring networked devices or USB drives. It slides from left to right and when you find your content it’s listed alongside artwork and file details. We had no trouble using it. What's more, the Wi-Fi connection is strong and stable, ensuring smooth, uninterrupted video streaming as promised.
During disc playback you can access the Options menu, which slides in from the right of the screen. As well as a range of disc playback options, there’s a range of video settings, including three presets – Standard, Brighter Room and Theatre Room, plus block and mosquito noise reduction.
The remote is standard Sony fare, with a compact size and good quality rubber buttons. The large direction pad is perfectly placed for the thumb, with buttons for the Home menu, SEN and Netflix below it. All the keys are clearly marked too.
Alternatively you can control the BDP-S5200 using Sony’s superb TV SideView app, available for iOS and Android devices. It offers a virtual remote, a swipe pad and a Free Cursor screen for controlling the onscreen web browser, plus you can launch Sony Entertainment Network apps and use the keyboard to type text onscreen.
In terms of picture performance, the BDP-S5200 does a fine job. It pulls all the pixels off the Blu-ray disc and puts them onscreen, and you can’t ask for more than that. The resulting images are crisp, vibrant and devoid of noise, whether you’re watching in 2D or 3D.
We loaded up Children of Men and its super-detailed visuals look stunning. As Theo walks down Oxford Street in the opening scene, the signs and shop fronts are sharply rendered. It’s a busy shot, with lots of small moving objects moving across the screen, and the player tracks them all smoothly.
The movie’s gloomy, muted colours are expertly judged, picking out and blending all the subtle shades of grey. The few bursts of bright colour, such as the browns and greens of the woodland surrounding Jasper’s home, are richly saturated but stay the right side of lurid.
We also ran the Silicon Optix HQV disc and the Sony aced practically every test. On the Jaggies test, diagonal moving lines are crisp and free from feathering, while the SMPTE pattern of the Video Resolution Loss test looks sharp and steady. The Film Resolution Loss test is the one that usually catches out lesser Blu-ray decks but to its credit the S5200 displays it with minimal strobing. The camera pan across a football stadium is remarkably smooth and stable.
Disc loading is fairly quick too. It took 33 seconds to load up our trusty Terminator Salvation disc, and just 15 for Children of Men.
The BDP-S5200 is a highly impressive budget Blu-ray player, which delivers a knockout combo of stylish design, generous features and striking pictures – all for an attractive price.
The deck’s lightweight build quality and the absence of catch-up TV apps found on Samsung’s players are the only real negatives – in every other respect the BDP-S5200 is a Blu-ray deck you can buy with absolute confidence.
Despite its budget build quality, Sony’s midrange Blu-ray deck impresses with terrific features, performance and styling.
Next, read our Best Blu-Ray player roundup.
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