Top critical review
145 people found this helpful
Solid player but the bells and whistles are limited! Read the small print.
on 24 February 2012
The standard across Blu Ray players over the last six months has increased considerably, almost to the extent that audio and video from these players have for the most part very little to differentiate them. To this end when I looked at replacing my old Sony PLAYER, I had a number of criteria in addition to the standard features (particularly with the growing availability of high speed broadband) that I was looking for.
1. Wireless connection (without a dongle or other accessory)
2. The ability to stream media for other sources (ideally with DLNA)
3. A wide variety of online services (such as Netflix etc.)
4. A wide variety of supported formats (MPEG2, MPEG4, MKV, AVI, etc.)
The Sony ticked all of these boxed or so I though but after hours of the unit rebooting and having read (and like everyone I hate doing this) every page of the manual in detail and with a lot of playing about I found the following (despite updating to the latest firmware).
1. The wireless is a breeze to setup but unlike every other wireless device in my house, the connection quality and throughput is hit and miss. I have a LinkSys EA4500 in the NEXT room and the connection can struggle the odd time.
2. So the system has DLNA & streaming and can see my network correctly. It sees my three WD Live boxes, my Alienware laptop and more importantly my 4GB WD MyBook Live Duo where I have centralized the storage of all of my audio and video files. This allows me to access them on any device at any time (even when not at home). What Sony did not state in the system spec and what is buried at the very back of the user manual is that the do not allow streaming of 80% of the formats the box "supports". Therefore I cannot play any of the media from my shared storage on this unit and furthermore, when you try, the system hangs and takes about two minutes to reboot. I have spent a lot of time converting all of my home DVD's and Blu Ray's to digital format and this was my key reason for buying this device.
3. Moving beyond point 1 and 2 and looking at the online services, I again hit another roadblock. Most of the standard services out there (and which all come by default with the WD Live) such at Netflix, iPlayer etc. are not present on this unit. In fact outside of some German radio options and other foreign stations, there are no big names at all. Sony do have the Sony Entertainment Network (which is being positioned as the way forward) but when I try to connect to this, it states the service is not available in my region (Ireland). There is no eta when it will be (Note: See updated comments at the end of the review)..
4. As previously stated the unit does boast quite a diverse range of supported formats. Unfortunately as it doesn't stream them that is of little use to me. The only saving grace here is that I can copy the movies I want to view to USB and play them via the USB port on the front of the unit (without restriction). This is an acceptable workaround (as I continue to convert any new DVD's I get to digital form or simply buy a digital copy without disc) but why I can't stream them and have to go from one room to my living room with a USB key is a big backward step.
So to briefly summarize, the quality of the output, both audio and video is excellent. The unit is compact and sleek looking and is very quiet. Setup for the most part is a breeze. Load time are good but not great and the user interface, although a little cluttered is easy to navigate. However, when it comes to those features which may sway many buyers, forget it. I can only hope that Sony will lift the restriction on streaming different media types, introduce additional online services via a future firmware update and improve the quality of the wireless connection but for now IT DOES NOT REALLY DO WHAT IT SUGGESTS IT DOES with regard to extras.
Edit 5th July 2012: I just wanted to update this review to state that the Sony Entertainment Network is now live following one of the last updates. This does provide quite a lot of Partner Services such as BBC iPlayer, MUBI etc. however given the fantastic streaming capabilities of my WD Live box's and the almost 100% restriction on streaming across this unit, my scoring still stands. Given these challenges I have now actually put a WD Live box in this room so in essence, I have paid 150 for a device whereby from time to time I will only use it to play a few BluRay discs (those I have yet to rip).