Naturally for such an affordable system you’re not getting every feature Sony has to offer, but there’s more than you might expect. One high profile absentee is DLNA media streaming, leaving discs and USB devices as your only way of playing digital content, but thankfully the system retains the superb BRAVIA Internet Video.
With BBC iPlayer, Demand Five, YouTube, LoveFilm, Eurosport and Sony’s Qriocity on board, not to mention a range of music services, Sony’s line-up of online entertainment is still unrivalled – particularly when it comes to video content – and adds value to any product in which it’s found. On the downside there are no social networking sites, which won’t appeal to frequent tweeters or status updaters.
You can also browse any internet site you like thanks to the built-in browser, although the fiddly operation and lack of Flash support will have you running back to your laptop quicker than you can say ‘cookies’.
Elsewhere there’s 3D support (but no 2D-to-3D conversion) and you even get an iPod/iPhone cradle in the box, another way of liberating your digital music collection (it connects to the rear USB port). When playing media from USB storage devices, the BDV-EF200 supports a healthy range of formats, including MKV, XviD, WMV, MP3, WMA, JPEG and AAC, but this is yet another recent Sony product that doesn’t support DivX, which could be a turn-off if you have loads of movies encoded in this format. But fans of hi-res audio will be pleased to learn that the BDV-EF200 plays Super Audio CD.
There’s a range of sound modes – Music, Movie, Sports and the curiously-titled ‘Game Rock’ – plus you can select to output everything in two-channel stereo. The Options key allows you to access a bunch of picture presets, Standard, Brighter Room and Theatre Room, as well as three different types of noise reduction.
That’s about it on the features front, except for the usual stuff like HD audio support (Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio), BD Live (which requires a 1GB USB device), BRAVIA Sync, a sleep timer, 1080p DVD upscaling and 1080/24p output. Power output is quoted as 350W.
The simple nature of the system makes it easy to setup – the three speakers have pre-attached cables that connect to the back of the main unit using colour-coded plugs. After that the Easy Setup mode guides you through the crucial settings, and main menu’s use of Sony’s tried and trusted Xross Media Bar (with intersecting axes) makes it a cinch to explore internet content or make changes in the setup menu. Of greatest use are the speaker settings, which let you control the volume of each channel, enter speaker distance and check the levels with a test tone.
It’s all controlled by a remote that boasts logical button placement and good labelling, although it is rather cluttered and the volume control is too far down.