The forgettably named BDP-S185 is Sony's latest and cheapest Blu-ray Disc and DVD Player. It comes neatly packaged in a cute little (32.7 x 7.3 x 27.4 cm) box that contains the following six items, but no HDMI or Ethernet cables:
- AC Power Cord (hard-wired into the back)
- Remote Control (41 buttons, but short at 14.9 cm)
- Sony AA Batteries (two of them, in silver)
- Operating Instructions (26 pages)
- Software License Information (27 pages, who reads this?)
- European Guarantee Information Document
The BDP-S185 itself is surprisingly small compared to most other Blu-ray players, measuring just 29 x 4.2 x 18.8 cm. It's also extremely light at just 1.1 kg; although it still weighs more than four Apple TVs. It has a glossy black plastic finish on the front and the sides, and a black brushed aluminium finish on the top. Sony claim this gives it an "appearance that looks good in any room" and, with the exception of the toilet, I'd have to agree.
Obviously the BDP-S185 can't record anything, but what it can do is play a huge range of disc formats. In terms of Blu-ray discs it can play BD-ROM, BD-R and BD-RE. In terms of DVDs it can play DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R and DVD+RW. And in terms of CDs it can play Audio CDs, CD-ROM, CD-R and CD-RW. What it can't play are Blu-ray 3D discs, DVD-RAM, HD DVD, DVD Audio, Photo CDs, Super VCDs and DualDiscs.
On the front of the BDP-S185 is one USB port (Type A), which allows you to playback files stored on a USB flash drive, such as the Freecom Databar
I reviewed last year. Obviously you'll need to own a computer (Mac or PC) to get the files on there in the first place, but once you do, you'll be amazed at the wide variety of files that the BDP-S185 can play. It can handle MPEG-4 files (MKV, MP4, M4V, M2TS and MTS), Xvid files (AVI), AVCHD files, as well as MP3, AAC and WMA. In addition to working with USB flash drives, the USB port also accepts external HDDs (but will not power them). So if you have something like a WD My Passport Essential
with thousands of files on it, simply plug it into the BDP-S185's USB port and watch your videos on TV.
On the top of the BDP-S185 is a large removable sticker that asks you to "Imagine the Internet on your TV". This is a tantalising proposition, with one small problem; the BDP-S185 doesn't have built-in Wi-Fi. Normally manufacturers (including Sony) do this to make you buy an overpriced Wi-Fi adapter, but the only way of connecting the BDP-S185 to the internet is via an Ethernet cable into the LAN (100) port on the back. Of course, once you've got that sorted, you can update the software using Network Update (the latest version is M09.R.0028) and begin enjoying Bravia Internet Video.
So what is Bravia Internet Video? It's basically Sony's attempt at bringing the "best of the web" to your TV. What it consists of is a collection of channels that provide simplified versions of popular Internet sites and services. While some of them require a paid subscription, the majority are free to access. The only two that you'll probably use are BBC iPlayer and YouTube, but here's the full list of all 20 channels available:
- Video Unlimited
- BBC iPlayer (7 day catch up of BBC TV & Radio)
- Demand 5 (Your Wish Is Our Demand)
- Sky News (First For Breaking News)
- MUBI (your online cinema)
- SONY ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION (A World Of Entertainment)
- Eurosport (Latest Internet Videos)
- Billabong (Action, Sports, Lifestyle)
- blip.tv (The best shows of the web)
- Dailymotion (Our best videos on your TV)
- uStudio (Great content 24/7)
- GolfLink.com (Track. Learn. Improve)
- LIVESTRONG.COM for a healthy life (Expert health and fitness videos)
- LOVEFiLM Movie Trailers
- SingingFool (Music Videos That Matter)
- Podcasts (RSS feeds from around the web)
- Deutsche Welle (Germany's global broadcaster)
Overall I think the Sony BDP-S185 is a great product. It's small, it's simple, it's packed full of features and it's very competitively priced. The XrossMediaBar user interface looks modern, which is to be expected as it originated from the PlayStation 3. I really only have two complaints. The lack of built-in Wi-Fi is a major pain and completely unacceptable on a 2011 product. Also, the remote control looks like something out of the 1980s and has a ridiculous number of buttons.