Sony’s new BDP-S760 Blu-ray player is a premium model, and the first to appear with a feature that we think will become the norm over the next couple of years: WiFi.
Why WiFi? Because the most advanced feature of Blu-ray is BD-Live, which allows the addition of new features to Blu-ray discs from the internet.
But how many of us have home network connections near our entertainment units? By including WiFi, BD-Live can be provided without the need to rewire one’s home.
Naturally this unit has plenty of other features, including another Australian first: a headphone socket. This is backed up with a ‘Surround’ processing circuit designed to give a surround sense from the headphones.
It has two USB ports. The one on the back is for persistent storage, required for some higher level Blu-ray functions. The one of the front, though, can be used for photo display. As can the networking functions of the unit from a computer with suitable server software running. Oddly, even though the unit will play MP3 music from a disc, it doesn’t support this from either USB or the network.
Sony says that the unit decodes all the new high definition digital audio standards, such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, or if your receiver supports these formats, it can deliver them as bitstreams for decoding at the other end. The player supports full 1080p output, including 1080p24 for DVDs.
The player was easy to set up. The slowest part for me was entering the WEP key since my network doesn’t support automatic registration, and even that only took a minute. Otherwise, the unit’s out-of-the-box setup wizard asked sensible questions and got it going correctly.
Speed wise, the unit was about middle of the field for starting up and getting Blu-ray discs playing – neither slowest nor fastest, and was a slight improvement over the previous series. You can speed up the wakeup time from about 25 seconds to about six seconds by choosing a ‘Quick Start’ option. This basically leaves the unit running the whole time, including the cooling fan if needed. In my opinion: silly idea.
Blu-ray picture quality was simply excellent, with smooth colours and clean playback. The BonusView PIP options worked well, as did the BD-Live. Okay, for obvious reasons I have a network cable near my system, but I used wireless anyway, and even though not optimally placed (the network diagnostics of the player suggested the signal strength was 30%), streaming some standard definition BD-Live video via the ‘Transformers’ Blu-ray disc worked fine.
The sound was fine. I generally had the unit deliver the audio as a bitstream to my receiver. When I switched to ‘Mix’ mode, to support BonusView PIP mixed audio, this also worked fine. It appeared to use the standard Dolby Digital and DTS cores buried in the high resolution audio formats.
The headphone output worked well enough, although I found it a bit limited in maximum volume with movies (you adjust the level with a key on the remote control). The surround processing did not produce an especially convincing effect. I preferred the sound with this switched off.
As usual with Sony Blu-ray players, there is no slow motion or frame stepping with Blu-ray, which I find irritating. On the other hand, I loved the remote control’s ability to communicate with the player at extreme angles and ranges.
Except for one thing, not a great deal has changes with this new Blu-ray player from Sony. But that one thing is a great thing: the WiFi connection is a real advance in Blu-ray usability, opening up BD-Live functionality to many more people.