The Sony’s power-up cycle proved to be an ultraspeedy 2 seconds — no time wasted waiting to insert discs with this baby. Disc loading ranged from 6 seconds for DVDs to 10 seconds for most Blu-ray titles, although BD-Live discs took longer. The player’s 10x-speed search mode displayed passably smooth picture quality when scanning discs. And I found the remote’s Advance and Replay buttons — which fastforward and reverse the action in 15- and 10-second increments, respectively — to be quite handy.
The player’s performance with Blu-ray movies was impeccable, with high-quality transfers coming across as uniformly crisp and clean. Watching Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq-war drama The Hurt Locker, I was amazed at how detailed the desert backgrounds looked: The texture of the dusty landscape in many scenes was fleshed out down to individual sand particles. When I ran some Blu-ray test discs to evaluate the player’s handling of video-based 1080i-format material, its video processor didn’t vault over the test-pattern hurdles as nimbly as a Pioneer BDP-09 player that I compared it with — but that player costs 2 grand, whereas the Sony is $250. And then again, the vast majority of Bluray content is in the 1080p format, making its handling of 1080i material somewhat, well, immaterial.
Performance with regular DVDs was also top-shelf when viewing upconverted discs via both its HDMI and component-video outputs. The random- and blocknoise reduction adjustments, which can be accessed in the Video Settings submenu by pressing the Options button on the remote, also worked well to remove background noise in pictures without eliminating any fine detail. (A third setting for reducing mosquito noise had little, if any, effect.) Unless you go looking — and looking really hard — for performance shortcomings, you’re unlikely to uncover any serious ones when viewing DVDs with the BDP-S570. After reading S+V contributor John Sciacca’s comments concerning Gracenote in his review of the Sony BDP-CX7000ES Blu-ray Disc Changer I was eager to check out this feature on the BDP-S570. Getting to view disc cover art and track titles onscreen when listening to CDs definitely made the experience more fun. (Like John, I also found myself unable to access cover art and data for Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, though in my case I was listening to the SACD version.) But what was even better was getting to see the same Gracenote data on my iPod touch’s screen when running BD Remote with the BDP-S570. The app even supplied links to related videos that I could check out on YouTube!
Netflix streaming performance was about on par with other players I’ve tested. That’s to say that both high- and standard-def video looked soft compared with Blu-ray Disc and DVD playback, and a fair amount of noise was visible with all selections. Its Slacker Radio interface was mostly similar to the one I’m used to seeing on my iPod touch, with a large number of preset channels offering up everything from Indie Rock to Classic Jazz. As a confirmed Slacker fan, however, I found the inability to create custom stations in Sony’s implementation of the service to be a crippling limitation. Slacker’s excellent customization features are what make it worth exploring; take away that ability and it’s not much different than the music-on-demand channels offered up by cable TV.
Sony has been pushing video-streaming in TVs for several years now via its Bravia Internet Video platform. But the marginal viewing options offered by Bravia Internet Video have been a disappointment, so it’s good to see Sony step up and deliver quality streaming options like Netflix, Slacker, and Amazon Video on Demand. In addition to its wellrounded media-streaming suite, Sony’s BDP-S570 offers solid video performance with both Blu-ray Discs and DVDs. Oh, yeah, and it’s 3D-ready. My only gripe — a minor one, given all that this Sony does right — is the lack of customization options for Slacker Radio listening. Still, at $250, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a budget Blu-ray Disc player offering more bang for the buck.
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