Sony BDP-S790 Blu-ray player

Sony singlehandedly won the format war with its timely release of the PlayStation 3. Up until the PS3 hit the market in November 2006, HD DVD was beginning to gain the upper hand with player and disc sales. But the market virtually altered overnight and signaled the start of the ending for the red-laser format. Fast forward nearly six years, and also the PS3 continues to be the most-owned Blu ray player on the market, although the standalone units have closed the performance gap and in some cases, surpassed the game system that is powerful.

Its 2012 offering isn't as vast, although a couple of years back, Sony offered eight different models of standalone units available. The company has a mobile model (BDP-SX910), one that contains Google TV (NSZ-GT1), and four games console versions - two with 3D and two without.

Elegant Design

The BDP-S790 is not built like a tank, but it's very classy and looks amazing in the equipment rack. All of the controls on the chassis are soft-touch once the player is plugged in buttons that light up. All these are located on the very best front of the unit and include On/Standby on the left hand side; Open/Close, Play, and Stop are to the right. The front panel contains a USB jack that is hidden, a little LCD screen, and also the disc tray.

The rear panel includes a non-detachable power cord, dual HDMI 1.4 outputs, coaxial and TosLink digital audio outputs, composite video and stereo audio, Control S jack, USB input signal, and Ethernet interface. In case you do not have Ethernet linked to your gear stand, there is built-in 802.11 w/g/n Wifi so you can utilize the network capacities built into the player.

With the inclusion of dual HDMI outputs, individuals with legacy audio products that do not support 3D passthrough can love 3D and high-resolution sound. Simply join one HDMI port to the other along with your AVR straight to your 3D screen. If you do not own an HDMI-capable AVR, the unit can't output multichannel analog audio or component video, so it may be time to upgrade your rig to get the complete enjoyment Blu ray has to offer.

As with virtually all Blu-ray players available on the market, the Sony can internally decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks and send them via HDMI as PCM. You can even send out the raw bitstream, which loses the PiP secondary audio as well as the clicks and beeps in Blu-ray Disc menus. If you are into BD-Live content, the player does not contain the 1 gigabyte of memory that is needed, but you can add your own using one of the two USB ports.

Setup and User Interface

The BDP-S790 uses the XMB (XrossMediaBar) user interface within the PS3 and other Sony products. The House display comprises six icons-- Sony Entertainment Network, and Set Up, Photo, Music, Video, Network and subheadings under each with various alternatives. The way it's organized can make it a pain to browse, while the XMB interface is quite intuitive. For example, the player provides a plethora of streaming alternatives, but scrolling to the bottom of the list requires lots of clicks and time. Providentially, the most-used services seem toward the very best, and this may not be an issue for many users.

When you initially start up the player, an instant set up greets you and selects the menu language, video connection process (HDMI), and whether you want to empower the quick boot up choice that attracts marginally more power when the player is not on but gets you to the Home display considerably faster (I chose to enable this feature--call me impatient).

Included in these are setting the aspect ratio for 4:3 DVDs (either repaired or elongated), forcing 24p output on Blu-ray Discs (default is Auto), and configuring the audio output for bitstream or PCM (confusingly tagged as BD Audio Mixture Settings). There's also a Network Update option which will ping the Website to get a firmware upgrade of Sony. It took me less than 5 minutes to get the player upgraded with the most recent firmware.

The remote is what you'd expect for $250 and is not backlit. Luckily, the layout is pretty simple to get used to, along with the most-used buttons are congregated across the middle of the remote. One fantastic feature for Netflix users is a Netflix-special button (red, naturally) that can establish the service without having to venture through the XMB. Sony also offers a free distant program which has a full QWERTY keyboard.

Media Streaming

The BDP-S790 has the biggest variety of streaming services 50 in total I Have seen in a Blu-ray player. Along with Netflix, you'll locate Amazon VOD (including free streaming for Prime members), Hulu Plus, Vudu, Flixster, CinemaNow, NHL Network, YouTube, and also a number of other suppliers--some more useful than many others. On the audio side you will find Pandora and Slacker, and there's Facebook and Skype, for you social media junkies.

Like other Sony products, the only method to gain access to the streaming services would be to file with the Sony Entertainment Network to activate these features. It's relatively painless through the Internet.

While I didn't try all of the flowing services, I did use Amazon VOD, Hulu Plus, and Vudu. As an Amazon Prime member ($79 per year), I get the benefit of free two-day transportation as well as the capability to stream more than 100,000 pictures and TV shows as part of my membership.

Hulu Plus is a subscription service ($7.99 per month) that offers a bevy of current TV shows, including popular hits like Modern Family, Glee, and Saturday Night Live. Vudu gives the very best streaming quality of all providers with its HDX movies, which offer 1080p video and up to 7.1 channels of Dolby Digital Plus audio. While none of the streaming services offers the quality that Blu ray provides, they look astonishingly good as long as your Internet connection is fast enough (4.5 Mbps and up).

The BDP-S790 is also DLNA compliant, so it can stream video, audio, and pictures from your home PC. Using an identical characteristic being offered in virtually all AVRs these days, this might be redundant, but it is fine that it is comprised. I was able to access all of my pictures and videos, though the vast majority of my music files are stored in the WMA-lossless format, which the Sony does not support. But, the unit streamed MP3 files without any problems.

Disc Performance

As you can see in the Video Test Bench section, the BDP-S790 sailed through our tests and ranks up there with the very best solutions for DVD upscaling. Additionally, the start-up cd and time -loading performance are not really slow, and I never found myself growing impatient while the most recent Blu ray releases loaded.

The BDP-S790 provides several custom picture modes once a disc is playing, you can access; they comprise Feel Remaster Picture Quality mode, Super Resolution, Smoothing, Contrast Remaster, and Clear Black. While each of those custom settings will improve (change) the graphic in some measure, the consequence will likely be wrong. For best results, leave all the other settings within their default locations: Normal and the output signal on Graphic Quality.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day is among the greatest sequels ever made, but the movie studios that own its release rights (Lionsgate/Artison/Live) have re issued so many special editions on home video, I Have lost count. Fortunately, the cd's Skynet Edition is probably the best one, and that I purchased it at the astonishing low price of five bucks. The film's sound and video are fairly breathtaking, especially the impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 soundtrack. Utilizing the internal decoding, the BDP-S790 showcased the wonderful sound design with distinct effects flying across the room. Dynamics were rock solid with thumping bass and intelligible dialogue. I also attempted the 2D-to-3D conversion and was surprised by the results. While it doesn't equal Avatar, a passable 3D image that adds some dimension to the graphic is provided by the converted image. But I'm not a big enough fan of 3D to watch all my pictures this way. Graphic shrewd, the default outcome rivaled my reference Oppo player, which can be quite an achievement since the BDP-S790's MSRP is half the cost.

The power to upscale DVDs is becoming less and less significant with every passing day. If you have resisted the desire to upgrade your DVD set when a title finally hits Bluray, 's upscaling functionality will not be disappointed with the BDP-S790. Fantastic DVD transfers, such as Shakespeare in Love, seem pretty damn impressive when run but don't expect miracles: Not even the finest upconverting player competitions the pristine 1080p encode found on a Blu-ray Disc. Foregrounds were comparatively sharp but the backgrounds became less resolved and bleary. The DVD output is great enough that it's going to satisfy most users. However, I suggest you do what I do with my favourite old DVD names wait for the Blu-ray update on the cheap and to go on Amazon on sale for less than $8!

Wrapping It Up

The Sony BDP-S790 is an excellent Blu ray player and deserves serious thought if you're seeking to jump into Blu ray for the first time or you have caught a case of upgrade-itis. It provides perfect playback of Blu-ray Discs, spectacular DVD upconversion, and more flowing services than you can shake a stick at. The very best Blu-ray players I Have used are the Oppo BDP-93 and BDP-95, and while the Sony BDP-S790's build quality is poor to the Oppos', theirs is equaled by its operation in virtually every way.

Sony BDP-S790 Blu-ray player photo