Blu-ray Players

Sony BDP-S5000ES Blu-ray Player - Benchmark

ARTICLE INDEX

In Use

For Blu-ray playback, I tested the BDP-S5000ES with a few new releases: Obsessed, The Soloist and Coraline.  The BDP-S5000ES did a fantastic job with all three movies.  The picture quality was excellent, colors looked accurate and the detail in the images was everything I expect from Blu-ray.  The audio was engaging in all the films while the cello and orchestra music in the Soloist was just inspiring.   Overall I felt that the player was responsive with load times being almost identical to my PS3.

I encountered several problems with the extras on The Soloist that made me question the de-interlacing capabilities of the BDP-S5000ES.  The movie is about the life of a homeless man who is also an accomplished musician.  In the extras, there are several clips that have significant artifacts when the player renders the strings in the instruments.  While I didn’t notice this in the movie itself, it was really apparent in the extras section which is standard definition mpeg-2 material.  We will take a closer look at the deinterlacing capabilities of this player in the benchmark section.

For DVD playback, I tested with Gladiator and Monsters, Inc.  The BDP-S5000ES did a great job upscaling both movies and I was relieved that I did not see any obvious artifacts in the playback.  Overall, the BDP-S5000ES was pretty responsive during playback.  The player was certainly not the fastest player I have seen in terms of menu transitions or layer change, but overall was acceptable.  For CD playback, I played a variety of music from Diana Krall, Alison Kraus and Madeleine Peyroux.   The vocals were clear and detailed and mid-range was excellent.  With every disc I tried, I felt that the BDP-S5000ES did a great job allowing me to enjoy the music.  I was very pleased with the player as a CD transport and felt equally comfortable using the HDMI or the analog stereo outputs for playback with my preference being the HDMI connection.

Sony BDP-S5000ES Blu-ray Player

 

The BDP-S5000ES remote is backlit and easy to use.  The buttons are well placed and if I had any complaint it would be that the down-arrow button is too close to the Home button.  After hitting Home a couple of times by mistake, you do learn to quickly stop making that mistake.  The player’s remote does offer a unique and enjoyable feature in terms of an Options menu.

Sony BDP-S5000ES Blu-ray Player

 

Pressing the Options button brings up an on-screen overlay which allows the user to easily access the disc menus, restart the selection, or search for a title or chapter.  This Options menu also allows you to access the Audio and Video Settings menus during disc playback.

Sony BDP-S5000ES Blu-ray Player

 

The Audio Settings menu lets you adjust lip sync and apply a filter to the audio.  I found that the standard settings worked best in my testing. The Video Settings menu allows you to really tweak the picture based on your preferences.  While I feel that these controls are useful for some discs, they generally result in over exaggerating the details in an image.  I would typically recommend that you leave these setting at their default, but you can safely experiment since you can quickly restore the defaults at the click of a button.

Sony BDP-S5000ES Blu-ray Player

 

There were some aspects of the BDP-S5000ES that I did find frustrating.  The player offers no ability for slow motion playback in either direction.  The player offers a replay and advance option, but these do not allow you to advance through a portion of the movie frame by frame.  Pressing the Display button on the remote brings up a typical “Display” overlay which indicates the current title, disc type, codec, bitrate, etc.  What it doesn’t provide is the current chapter that is playing.  This is something that I have taken for granted for so long that it drove me crazy not having that piece of information during playback.  The player is able to tell you what chapter you are advancing to if you hit the forward or back buttons on the remote, so I would expect that information to be on the “Display.”

Sony BDP-S5000ES Blu-ray Player

 

The player offers no aspect ratio control beyond the initial display ratio specified during setup. This was especially annoying on DVD material when a 4:3 extra was stretched across my 16:9 TV.   The ability to automatically adjust for the aspect ratio of such material is a standard feature of players that cost significantly less than the BDP-S5000ES. During CD playback, you are forced to look at a static screen image of some out-of-focus lights.  It would be much better if you could change the background, customize it, or just turn it off. If you navigate through the CD menu, you are presented with a list of the track numbers for the CD currently in the player.  It would be nice if the player would display the track names which would greatly improve usability.

Sony BDP-S5000ES Blu-ray Player

BD-Live Performance

In addition to the high resolution video and audio that Blu-ray offers, there are two additional features of the BDP-S5000ES that we need to discuss.  The first feature is Bonus View which allows you to enjoy a picture-in-picture overlay on top of the actual movie you are watching.  The Bonus View technology is part of the Blu-ray Profile 1.1 specification.  Bonus View is a great way to get some perspective on the making of the movie itself, and the Bonus View technology helps you really keep the comments in perspective.  I played with the Bonus View features of the Coraline disc and was surprised to find that I had absolutely no audio for the content.  The reason for the lack of audio has to do with the handling of secondary audio in the player.

The term secondary audio refers to an alternate audio track which is available on most Blu-ray discs.  This extra audio content may contain menu sound effects which play when items in the menu are chosen.  The extra audio content may also contain useful information such as the audio for the Bonus View feature, as is the case in the Coraline disc.  In order to hear this secondary audio, the player must mix the audio with the primary audio track for the movie.  In the case of the BDP-S5000ES, the player does not mix the secondary audio with the primary high resolution audio track unless you explicitly select Mix in the BD Audio Setting menu.  So what does all this mean to the average user?

First of all, if you want to use Bonus View, you must remember to turn on the secondary audio mix. If you forget to do this, you have to stop the movie, go back to the setup menu, find the audio menu, find the BD Audio Setting option, change the option, and then navigate back to the main menu and restart the movie.  This is a lot of steps to take advantage of the Bonus View technology.  You may be asking why not just leave the player in Mix mode all the time.  The reason for this is that you then lose another major benefit of the player – the high resolution audio.  The BDP-S5000ES does not have the internal processing capabilities to actually mix the secondary audio with the high resolution audio track and leave it in high resolution.  To be precise, if you mix the secondary audio with a 96kHz or 192kHz TrueHD or DTS-HD audio track, the resulting audio is down converted to 48kHz.

If you want to ensure that you are getting the most from your audio experience on the BDP-S5000ES, you have to make sure that the secondary audio is not being mixed when you watch the main feature on your Blu-ray disc media.   Sony’s PS3 is one of the few Blu-ray players on the market that is capable of mixing the secondary audio and retaining the high resolution audio in the process.  I would have liked this same functionality on an ES player.

Sony BDP-S5000ES Blu-ray Player

 

The other feature of the BDP-S5000ES is BD-Live.  This technology relies on the network connection in the player to retrieve additional content related to the movie and to provide additional movie trailers and promotional material offered by the studios.  The BDP-S5000ES had no trouble accessing the BD-Live content during my testing. I included a small benchmark to give you a better sense of how the BDP-S5000ES compared against the PS3.  Sony’s PlayStation 3 is still one of the fastest Blu-ray players on the market.  While newer players are catching up to its speed, the ability to quickly and accurately process BD-Live material is still a step ahead on the PS3.  My findings with the BDP-S5000ES indicate that load times were almost identical to the PS3, while the PS3 still won on overall download speed.  This is not that surprising given the processing horsepower that comes in the PS3.  I was surprised to see that the BDP-S5000ES was significantly slower than the PS3 when returning back from BD-Live to the movie menu.  The BDP-S5000ES was between 2.5 to 4 times slower than the PS3.