However, the web connection does provide full access to BD Live. We gave it the once over (using our 802.11g wireless router) and although everything worked fine, we weren’t bowled over by the experience. With ”Terminator Salvation” in the tray, we selected the BD Live icon in the main menu and had to wait for about four minutes for the Sony Pictures BD Live screen to appear. Once there, we downloaded an HD trailer for ”Michael Jackson: This Is It” and streamed a few SD clips, none of which took a particularly long time to load but the content could hardly be described as compelling. Much better is Movie IQ, a slick widget that provides trivia about the movie as it plays.
We’re also impressed by how easy it is to set the player up on a network. Dip into the Network Settings menu and the deck runs through a step-by-step wizard that describes each stage of the process in clear, understandable English – about a million times more user-friendly than any of Samsung’s Wi-Fi-enabled decks. One of the setup screens involves entering your encryption key using the remote and an unusual virtual keyboard, or you can press the WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) button on your router, if it has one.
As for other features, the player is equipped with proprietary picture technologies found on the company’s BDP-S5000ES player, such as HD Reality Enhancer, which lets you boost detail, smooth out colour gradations and reduce grain, and Advanced Super Bit Mapping, which selects the appropriate colour bit depth.
Audio features include internal decoding of Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio, available as PCM from the HDMI output or through the 7.1-channel analogue outputs. The deck can also pipe raw HD audio bitstreams to a compatible AV receiver, while Headphone Surround offers 7.1-channel sound through headphones, explaining the unusual sight of a headphone jack on the front panel.
Another feature worth mentioning is the Precision Drive HD, which not only spins Blu-ray, DVDs and CDs without fuss, but will also tackle your bent and scratched platters. The Quick Start mode kick starts the player into life from standby in just six seconds, which should satisfy more impatient movie viewers. It’s just a shame that Sony couldn’t speed up disc loading times too – it took a staggering 73 seconds to start playing ”Terminator Salvation”, which is a poor show from the company that invented the format, particularly with one of its own discs!
But that’s the only aspect of the deck’s operation that gives us cause for complaint – in every other way it’s an absolute star. Once again much praise must go to the Xross Media Bar, which is still the slickest and most intelligent Blu-ray menu system there is – just ask any PS3 owner. The intersecting axes, snazzy icons, smooth animation and clear text make configuration a doddle and the Setup section leaves no stone unturned.