Sony BDP-S790 3D Network Blu-ray Disc Player Review

Blu-ray Is Just The Beginning

Sony BDP-S790 3D and Network Blu-ray Disc Player - Front View with Included Accessories
Sony BDP-S790 3D and Network Blu-ray Disc Player - Front View with Included Accessories. Photo (c) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

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The Sony BDP-S790 is the latest in a continuous flow of Blu-ray Disc players that offer a lot more that just being able to play 2D and 3D Blu-ray Discs, DVDs, and CDs. In addition to those disc formats, the BDP-S790 also plays SACDs. Also, this player is as much an internet streaming device as it is a disc player, with access to a host of internet-based audio and video streaming content, as well as additional features that will surprise you.

For more details, keep reading this review. After reading this review, also be sure to check out my supplementary Photo Profile and Video Performance Tests.

Sony BDP-S790 Product Features

1. The BDP-S790 features Profile 2.0 (BD-Live) functionality with 1080p/60, 1080p/24 and 4K resolution output, and 3D Blu-ray playback capability via HDMI 1.4 audio/video output.

2. The BDP-S790 can play the following disc formats: Blu-ray Disc/BD-ROM/BD-R/BD-RE/DVD-Video/DVD-R/DVD-RW/DVD+R/RW/CD/CD-R/CD-RW, SACD, and AVCHD.

3. The BDP-S790 also provides DVD video upscaling to 720p, 1080i, 1080p, and both DVD and Blu-ray upscaling to 4K (compatible TV or video projector required).

4. Video Outputs: Two HDMI, DVI-HDCP video output compatibility with adapter, Composite Video.

5. Audio Outputs (excluding HDMI): Digital Coaxial, Digital Optical, Analog Stereo.

6. Two USB 2.0 ports for access to additional memory storage and/or digital photo, video, music content via flash drive or iPod, iPhone, or iPad.

7. Built-in Ethernet and WiFi Connectivity.

8. Incorporation of Web Browser function.

9. Some of the Preloaded Internet Content Providers include: Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Vudu, Hulu Plus, CrackleTV, Pandora, and Slacker.

10. Skype audio and video phone calling (video calls require additional compatible webcam).

11. Gracenote metadata function for access to supplementary information associated with TV, music, and movie content.

12. DLNA Certified for access to digital media files stored on PCs, Media Servers, and other compatible network-connected devices.

13. Party Streaming mode allows wireless music streaming when used with Sony Wireless Network Speakers.

14. One Gigabyte of built-in memory for BD-Live functionality and internet App storage.

15. A Wireless Infrared Remote Control and full color high definition onscreen GUI (Graphical User Interface) is provided for setup and function access.

16. Free Downloadable Media Control App for both iOS and Android phones and tablets.

For an additional look at the features, connections, and menu functions of the BDP-S790, check out my supplementary Photo Profile.

 

Additional Components Used In This Review

Blu-ray Disc Player (for comparison): OPPO BDP-93.

DVD Player (for comparison): OPPO DV-980H.

Home Theater Receivers: Onkyo TX-SR705 and Sony STR-DH830 (on review loan)

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 1 (7.1 channels): 2 Klipsch F-2's, 2 Klipsch B-3s, Klipsch C-2 Center , 2 Polk R300s, Klipsch Synergy Sub10.

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 2 (5.1 channels): EMP Tek E5Ci center channel speaker, four E5Bi compact bookshelf speakers for left and right main and surrounds, and an ES10i 100 watt powered subwoofer.

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 3 (5.1 channels): Cerwin Vega CMX 5.1 System (on review loan)

TV: Panasonic TC-L42ET5 3D LED/LCD TV (on review loan)

Video Projector: BenQ W710ST (on review loan).

Projection Screens: SMX Cine-Weave 100² screen and Epson Accolade Duet ELPSC80 Portable Screen.

DVDO EDGE Video Scaler used for baseline video upscaling comparisons.

Audio/Video connections made with Accell, Interconnect cables. 16 Gauge Speaker Wire used. High Speed HDMI Cables provided by Atlona for this review.

 

Software Used

Blu-ray Discs (3D): Adventures of Tintin, Drive Angry, Hugo, Immortals, Puss in Boots, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Underworld: Awakening.

Blu-ray Discs (2D): Art of Flight,Ben Hur,Cowboys and Aliens, Jurassic Park Trilogy, Megamind, Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol.

Standard DVDs: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Outlander, U571, and V For Vendetta.

CDs: Al Stewart - A Beach Full of Shells, Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, Sade - Soldier of Love.

SACD discs used included: Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon, Steely Dan - Gaucho, The Who - Tommy.

 

Video Performance

Whether playing Blu-ray Discs or DVDs, I found that the Sony BDP-S790 did very well in terms of detail, color, contrast, and black levels. Also, video performance with streaming content looked good, but factors such as video compression used by content providers, as well as internet speed, which are independent of the video processing capabilities of the player, did affect the quality of final displayed result. For more on this: Internet Speed Requirements for Video Streaming.

The BDP-S790 also passed almost all of the processing and upscaling tests on the Silicon Optix HQV Benchmark DVD.

The upscaling test results revealed that the BDP-S790 does very well suppressing or eliminating a variety of artifacts including jagged edges, moire patterns, as well as trailing artifacts on fast moving objects. The BDP-S790 also did well reconciling different frame cadences, enhancing detail, and suppressing video noise. The only noticeable issue I saw when running the tests, is that mosquito noise, although suppressed, was still visible. For a more comprehensive look at the video performance of BDP-S790, check out my supplementary photo-illustrated Test Results Report.

 

3D Performance

To evaluate the 3D performance of the BDP-S790, I used the Panasonic TCL-42ET5 3D LED/LCD TV featuring the passive glasses viewing system as my display device. Also, 10.2Gbps High-Speed HDMI cables were used for the connection setup.

On the Blu-ray player end of the 3D equation, I found that BDP-S790 loaded up fairly quickly, although it took a little longer than for a typical 2D Blu-ray disc. On the other hand, I found that the BDP-S790 provided trouble free playback with 3D Blu-ray discs, with no hesitation, frame skipping, or other issues that could be attributed to the player.

Using the 3D Blu-ray discs I listed on page one of this review, the results were fine on the player end of the equation. There was very minimal crosstalk (ghosting) or motion blurring using the BDP-S790 with the TCL-42ET5 and Panasonic provided passive 3D viewing glasses.

Another note I wanted to make is that I got the same 3D performance results whether going directly from the player to the TV, or routing the high-speed HDMI cables from the BDP-S790, through the Sony STR-HD830 3D-enabled home theater receiver, to the TV.

Proceed to Page 2 - Audio Performance - Internet Streaming - Final Take

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Audio Performance

The BDP-S790 delivered good audio performance on Blu-ray discs, DVDs, CDs, and SACDs. Both stereo and surround sound-encoded source material (whether fed via HDMI, digital optical/coaxial, and stereo analog) were accurately transferred to the connected receiver. I noticed no audio artifacts that could be attributed to the BDP-S790.

In terms of audio connectivity, BDP-S790 provides HDMI, both Digital Optical/Coaxial, and two channel analog stereo outputs, but does not provide a 5.1/7.1 channel analog output connection option.

The lack of 5.1/7.1 channel analog audio outputs limits access to Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio, and multi-channel PCM and SACD audio signals on home theater receivers that do not have audio-capable HDMI inputs.

Another provided audio connection option is the inclusion of two HDMI outputs, which can be configured so that one HDMI output can be connected directly to a 3D-enabled TV, and the second HDMI output can be connected to a non-3D enabled home theater receiver for access to Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, or multi-channel PCM audio signals output from this player that can only be output via HDMI.

Media Player Functions

Also included on the BDP-S790 is the ability to play audio, video, and image files stored on flash drives, or iPod, and the ability to access audio, video, and still image files stored on home network-connected devices, such as a PC or media server.

I found the availability of the two USB ports for accessing content on either a flash drive or iPod, was convenient and navigating through the file menus was straight forward.

Internet Streaming

Using the oncscreen menu system, users can access streaming content from a number of providers. Some of movie and TV content providers include: Amazon Instant Video, CinemaNow, Crackle TV, HuluPlus, Netflix, and Sony Video Unlimited. Online 3D content includes movie trailers, travel, and music videos.

In addition, some of accessible music services include: Pandora, Slacker, and Sony Music Unlimited.

The Sony menu system divides the available streaming content into the separate music and video services. Setting up accounts for some services may require a PC. Additionally, a web browser is also provided, but it is difficult to enter search text using the provided remote control.

To get the best quality video playback result from internet streamed content, you need to have a high-speed internet connection. If you have a slow connection, such as 1.5mbps, video playback may stop periodically so that it can buffer. On the other hand, some content providers, such as Netflix, do provide a way to adjust the video streaming to your broadband speed, but image quality is reduced at slower broadband speeds.

Also, regardless of broadband speed, there can be variation in the video quality of streamed content, ranging from low-res compressed video that is hard to watch on a large screen to high-def video feeds that look more like DVD quality or slightly better. Even streaming content advertised as 1080p, will not look quite as detailed as 1080p content played directly from a Blu-ray Disc. The built-in video processing on the BDP-S790 does a good job of improving streaming video quality, but there is still only so much the player can do if the source is poor.

Another internet-connected service that is available is Skype. Skype allows you to make audio or video phone calls using the BDP-S790, but you need to purchase a compatible accessory webcam to use this feature. I did not test this feature on the BDP-S790, since I did not have the correct webcam, however, I have tested other Skype-enabled components and found that is a fun and practical addition as it allows you to using your TV to talk and see friends and family.

What I Liked About the Sony BDP-S790

1. Excellent Blu-ray, DVD, and CD playback.

2. Excellent video upscaling for DVD, good upscaling for Streaming content.

3. Dual HDMI outputs with A/V Separation function.

4. Inclusion of SACD playback.

5. 2 USB ports for accessing video, still image, and music files on USB flash drives and iPods.

6. A good selection of Internet streaming content.

7. Easy Setup.

8. Fast disc loading.

9. 4K upscaling (not tested in this review).

What I didn't like about the BDP-S790

1. No component video output option.

2. No 5.1/7.1 channel analog audio outputs for use with pre-HDMI home theater receivers.

3. Onscreen menu a little cumbersome.

4. Although SACD compatibility is included, DVD-Audio compatibility is not included.

5. Remote Control not backlit.

6. Web browsing difficult using remote control - need keyboard.

Final Take

The BDP-S790 provides users with three major capabilities: Play disc-based content (Blu-ray, DVD, CD, SACD), play content from attached media devices (USB flash drives, iPod), and stream content from both the internet and home network via its network media player features. On all three counts the BDP-S790 does very well.

Also, the inclusion of the two HDMI outputs eliminates the need to upgrade your home theater receiver if is not 3D-compatible.

On the other hand, the inclusion of 4K video upscaling may be overkill at this point, as there are a very limited number of the 4K TVs or video projectors available at the current time, but having this feature available for the future isn't necessarily a bad idea, especially in light of the fact that a growing number of home theater receivers also are also including this capability.

Whether you need 4K, 3D, or not, the Sony BDP-S790 definitely worth consideration in light of everything else it has to offer.It a great performing Blu-ray Disc player and versatile network media player.

For additional perspective on the Sony BDP-S790, also check out my Photo Profile and Video Performance Text Results.

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Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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