Do I love it? Hell, yeah. Have I got any Blu-Ray discs? Nope.
OK, you may be wondering how I can review a Blu Ray player yet not have any Blu Ray discs? Well here's the thing - there are loads of reviews out in the Google that will tell you how the Blu Ray playback, speed, quality and compatibility is but if you want to know more about this machine's DLNA media streaming abilities, most reviewers do not mention it or if they do all they do is connect it to a Windows 7 laptop and stream a demo video or 2.
So why did I choose to buy a Blu Ray player if I had no intention of watching Blu Rays? Simple; the DLNA abilities of the Sony are almost without compare at the price.
Here was my 'want' list of features - BBC iPlayer, YouTube, dvd player (yes, I have some of them) ability to play media from USB and most importantly media streaming capability preferably DLNA. If you aren't sure what DLNA is then Google it - in simple terms it's a standard (bit like VHS, Betamax etc) that sets out how various bits of equipment with media abilities interact with each other in your home.
In the case of the Sony it is what allows me to stream music, video and pictures from my laptop, iphone and NAS (network attached storage, basically a huge hard drive with its own operating system connected to my router that stores 1.5TB of media and lets you access it from any DLNA capable device such as the Sony, Windows Media Player, PS3s etc - review of my QNAP NAS to follow)
My first impression upon delivery was that someone had sold me an empty box scam - it's that small and light. Hard to accept that it will do all that it promises when it weighs so little but it sure packs a lot of bang for the buck.
The Sony uses the familiar (to PS3 users) crossbar menu system that once you get the hang of makes navigation simple and intuitive (my 6 year old find her films no problem) First off, the Sony has built in wireless. You may wonder if this will be needed/good enough to stream movies etc. It is. It employs the later, and faster, wireless N. This sets the Sony apart from the much of the competition. After all, what's the point of having most of your gear wireless then having to hard wire your DVD/media player because it only has wireless b/g or worse, just a LAN socket (I know about the mains LAN devices but found them bulky to use in an extension socket and very hot in operation. I also found the longer on the slower they got) Setting up the wireless to connect to my router was as simple as any other wireless capable device; ie. search for your network then add your wep or wpsk key to join it. All saves ok so no need to worry again. The first thing I had to do was perform a firmware update - automatic once started, very quick and this activated the iPlayer and a few other bits which go through Sony's servers.
Once the network was connected I set off in search of my media. My QNAP NAS has the ability to run a media server program called Twonkymedia (My kids still laugh at my new mate Twonky) This will basically catalogue the media into movie, music and photo allowing the Sony to find it. Twonky is available for your PC/Laptop or you can just use Windows Media Player (latest version) Because my router is also wireless N streaming takes place without judder or stopping. The twonky even enables you to mount ISO images of DVDs and stream them for perfect DVD quality. One think to bear in mind if it matters to you, the Sony will not play streamed MKV files. MKV is a container format that is generally used to contain a HD format movie such as a Blu Ray rip and I am sure for this reason Sony, who produce lots of said HD media, have decided to disable its playback. It does play MKV from a USB stick though? Although it only supports FAT32 formatted USB sticks which by the FAT32 limitation can only be a maximum of 4GB so no plugging in a huge external hard drive full of films here. It supports formats like AVI and MPG and all XVID movies work perfect. It evens streams dolby digital soundtracks. I occasionally get lip sync issues but this may be the encoding of the file.
Music in the form of MP3 streams perfectly too but the damn thing stubbornly refuses to support cover art which even the Samsungs can do. It has an optical out and supports all the usual dolby digital formats.
Pictures are great for boring the family with full size 46 inch photos of your last holiday.
It also plays DVDs and CDs perfectly and uses Gracenote database to display disc details inc cover art. I'm told for BluRay it can do tricks like trailers/extras etc. Oh, and it also plays back up discs of your own DVDs/Cds that you have now legally (in the UK) burnt for your own use.
The remote works simply and lucky for me controls the volume on my Sony TV out of the box.
Any problems? Well it stopped working after a firmware upgrade. I mean dead! But a quick 2 days in the local Sony repair centre had it back to normal and unlike something like your Sky+ box as it has no media stored on it you can't lose anything.
And, there always an and, you can get a free app for your iPhone to use as a fully featured network remote control.
Nowadays I stream films from my NAS to the Sony in the living room, the FetchTV boxes that support SkyGo and iPlayer (review to follow) in the kid's bedrooms and even the iPad2.
The Sony is a wonderful bit of kit and can be as techy as you need or simple enough that my kids can use it plus I've heard it even plays Blu Rays!!!
Sony BDP-S570 Blu-Ray Disc Player
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12 August 2011
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