Blu-ray Players

Sony BDP-S590 Blu-ray Player


Sony BDP-S590 Blu-ray Player In Use

Once I had my accounts setup I was ready for some movie watching.  Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol had just come out and seemed like a nice test on Blu-ray.  One of the first things that I discovered is that unlike the S570, the S590 no longer includes built-in memory for BD Live, but requires a USB Memory Stick in the rear of the player.  I typically turn off BD Live to speed up load times on titles, but given that the price of 1 GB of flash memory for this has dropped to almost nothing, the lack of it built in was disappointing.  Watching the movie was not disappointing was the image from the S590 was clear and crisp, with no noticeable issues on cadence or detail.  Load times were also relatively quick, though on occasion the drive noise could be heard even when inside a cabinet.

Moving through a whole library of Disney and Pixar films (The Lion King, Lady and the Tramp, Cars) the S590 continued to perform well on playback with no issues to be seen.  Of course all Blu-ray players should do this well, though we do see some that cannot.  Moving onto streaming content I started out with Netflix, which has its own dedicated button on the remote.  Sony has moved from using a custom Netflix interface to using the standard Netflix one, which is a good change I think.  The S590 also supports 1080p resolution and Dolby Digital+ soundtracks so you get better quality audio and video than before.  One item I missed from last years model was an indicator of the current download speed, but there is an indicator for audio and picture quality.

My usual tests of Arrested Development and The Iron Giant looked good, with a quick start to streaming and a nice looking image.  With The Iron Giant, the horizontal panning was as good as I have seen with any Blu-ray player.  There was no tearing or stuttering, and the image was very nice and clean without blocking or other common artifacts.  For Netflix playback the Sony is much improved over the previous versions and one of the better players on the market. 

After testing Netflix I moved onto Amazon On Demand, which has a large library for me to choose from as a Prime member.  I hadn't had a chance to watch Downton Abbey yet, but it was available in HD from Amazon so it seemed like a great time to start.  While the picture itself looked quite good and streaming was fast, the motion was choppy and a little uneven.  It looked more like bad cadence detection does on a disc, but in this case it seemed to be a lack of enough buffer for streaming, or that the bitrate was too high to keep up with.  However everything else I watched from Amazon was great, with no motion issues or other problems, so it could very easily have been a network issue.  That is the problem with testing streaming content is that it is hard to isolate the issue.

Hulu Plus worked quite well, with quick, snappy navigation and clips that were quick to start.  Compared to the other players I have that I watch Hulu Plus on, performance seemed better than before, though the actual picture on screen looked the same as with those.  Vudu offered up very nice picture quality with its HDX feeds, but audio was not working when using an HDMI cable directly to a flat panel.  Once I played a second clip this problem vanished and didn't come back again.

One new addition this year is the Sony Entertainment Network, which consolidates a lot of these online apps into a single location.  An issue with the prior Sony Blu-ray players has been there are too many apps and no good way to organize them.  Sony Entertainment Network (SEN for short) lets you setup a screen of your favorite apps to allow for quick access to them, which is easier than navigating a menu.  Unfortunately the SEN screen itself is slow to load, and navigating the apps to select them is both slow, and froze on me twice.  I think that SEN is a better way to browse the content available with the BDP-S590, but the interface might be faster with the better processor in the BDP-S790 player, and it might be better as the main interface instead of something you go to after the XMB interface.  I think it is a good first attempt with this, and perhaps with a firmware update or in new models next year it will be perfected.

Overall the Sony was a good player with Blu-ray titles and with most online content, and the Sony Entertainment Network shows a lot of progress but is not quite there yet.  Other than a hiccup with Vudu one time and one specific title in Amazon Instant Video, everything else looked very nice.