Sony BDP-S790 Blu-ray 3D Player Page 2
While I didn’t sample all of the streaming services, I did use Amazon VOD, Hulu Plus, and Vudu. As an Amazon Prime member ($79 per year), I get the benefit of free two-day shipping and the ability to stream more than 100,000 movies and TV shows as part of my membership. Amazon offers a vast number of titles, including Star Trek: The Next Generation (SD), Dr. Who (HD), and many feature films (both HD and SD).
Hulu Plus is a subscription service ($7.99 per month) that offers a bevy of current TV shows, including popular hits like Modern Family, Glee, and Saturday Night Live. If you’ve been tempted to cut the cord, this is a great service that lets you stay up to date on the latest television hits without getting raked over the coals by your cable or satellite provider. Vudu offers the best streaming quality of all the providers with its HDX movies, which offer 1080p video and up to 7.1 channels of Dolby Digital Plus audio. While none of the streaming services offers the quality that Blu-ray provides, they look surprisingly good as long as your Internet connection is fast enough (4.5 Mbps and up).
The BDP-S790 is also DLNA compliant, so it can stream video, audio, and pictures from your home PC. With a similar feature being offered in virtually all AVRs these days, this may be redundant, but it’s nice that it’s included. I was able to access all of my photos and videos, though the vast majority of my music files are stored in the WMA-lossless format, which the Sony doesn’t support. However, the unit streamed MP3 files without any issues.
As you can see in the Video Test Bench section, the BDP-S790 sailed through all of our tests and ranks up there with the very best solutions for DVD upscaling. Furthermore, the start-up time and disc-loading performance are extremely fast, and I never found myself growing impatient while the latest Blu-ray releases loaded.
The BDP-S790 offers a number of custom picture modes that you can access once a disc is playing; they include Picture Quality mode, Texture Remaster, Super Resolution, Smoothing, Contrast Remaster, and Clear Black. While each of these custom settings will enhance (change) the picture in some measure, the result will be incorrect. For best results, leave the output on Picture Quality: Standard and all of the other settings in their default positions.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day is one of the greatest sequels ever made, but the movie studios that own its release rights (Lionsgate/Artison/Live) have re-issued so many special editions on home video, I’ve lost count. Fortunately, the disc’s Skynet Edition is probably the best one, and I bought it on Amazon at the amazing low price of five bucks. The film’s audio and video are pretty spectacular, especially the impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 soundtrack. Utilizing the internal decoding, the BDP-S790 showcased the fabulous sound design with discrete effects flying around the room. Dynamics were rock solid with pounding bass and intelligible dialogue. I also tried the 2D-to-3D conversion and was quite surprised by the results. While it doesn’t rival Avatar, the converted image provides a passable 3D image that adds some dimension to the picture. But I’m not a big enough fan of 3D to watch all my movies this way. Picture wise, the default output rivaled my reference Oppo player, which is quite an accomplishment since the BDP-S790’s MSRP is half the cost.
The ability to upscale DVDs is becoming less and less important with every passing day. If you’ve resisted the temptation to upgrade your DVD collection when a title finally hits Blu-ray, you won’t be disappointed with the BDP-S790’s upscaling performance. Great DVD transfers, such as Shakespeare in Love, look pretty damn impressive when run through the player, but don’t expect miracles: Not even the best upconverting player rivals the pristine 1080p encode found on a Blu-ray Disc. Foregrounds were relatively sharp on the upscaled DVD, but the backgrounds became fuzzy and less resolved. All things being equal, the DVD output is good enough that it will satisfy most users. But I suggest you do what I do with my favorite old DVD titles—wait for the Blu-ray to go on sale for less than $8 on Amazon and upgrade on the cheap!
Wrapping It Up
The Sony BDP-S790 is an excellent Blu-ray player and deserves serious consideration if you’re looking to jump into Blu-ray for the first time or you’ve caught a case of upgrade-itis. It offers flawless playback of Blu-ray Discs, outstanding DVD upconversion, and more streaming services than you can shake a stick at. The best Blu-ray players I’ve used are the Oppo BDP-93 and BDP-95, and while the Sony BDP-S790’s build quality is inferior to the Oppos’, its performance equals theirs in nearly every way. At only $250, it receives my highest recommendation.