The BDP-S790 is Sony’s new flagship Blu-ray player, the latest weapon in the Japanese giant’s fight to regain the home entertainment high ground. Its powerful 4K-capable video upscaling is a unique feature at this price: even if you’re unlikely to use it just yet, it still invests the little Sony with a reassuringly future-proof demeanour. But is there more to this great value player than its headline-grabbing specs?
There's nothing radical about the BDP-S790’s styling but it’s still a good-looking and slick little player. Both touchpanel controls and disc-loading times are impressively responsive, its remote handset is prosaic but effective (unlike the jazzier touchpanel designs supplied with top-spec Panasonic players) and Sony’s XrossMediaBar on-screen menu system is nice and familiar.
twice the 3D fun
As with many premium Blu-ray players, the BDP-S790 includes twin 3D-capable HDMI outputs, which can be linked either to twin displays (say, a projector and a TV) or to a combination of an older, non-3D-capable AV amplifier and your 3D display. The pay-off for this apparent extravagance is a dearth of older, analogue connectors. You won’t find multichannel analogue outputs on a BDP-S790: if you want to upgrade a much older AV amp, Panasonic’s DMP-BDT500 is a better bet.
2012-series Sony kit has added Netflix support to the mix, bolstering the company’s long-established love for, er, LoveFilm. This joins Sony’s own Entertainment Network content (both movies and music) plus iPlayer and Demand 5 apps and a bunch of other platforms such as EuroSport and YouTube. Integrated Wi-Fi simplifies getting online, Skype is supported via an optional camera, and DLNA support means streaming from your computer or NAS is straightforward.
Anyone with an Android or iOS smartphone or tab can chuck out the BDP-S790’s remote and use Sony’s free MediaRemote app instead. It works brilliantly, pulling in Gracenote-enabled metadata on the content you’re playing, complete with sleeve art, cast and crew info plus links to additional online material designed to enhance what you’re watching. You can choose between a touch-type ‘simple’ cursor control or a more in-depth ‘full’ remote with a button-based interface, too – we'd go for the simple remote.
picture and sound quality
Is the Sony’s 4K-capable upscaling any good? That's hard to say at this stage: there are so few compatible displays around. But as a regular Blu-ray player, the BDP-S790 is simply wonderful. Its colour balance, edge definition, motion handling and overall insight bettering that of any class rival with both 2D and 3D video. Its sound quality is well up to snuff too, being a shade leaner than the muscular approach favoured by Panasonic players, but no less impressive, especially with music.
Sony’s put the lot into the BDP-790, and it shows. Its picture performance is simply outstanding, as good as that of any player available, and it’s an enjoyable listen too. It’s also great to use, either with its simple, effective remote handset (take note, Panasonic) or via its excellent control app. Add in the promise of its future-proof upscaling and you’ve got a simply brilliant buy – No.1 in our Top Ten list of best Blu-ray players it is then.