Review Round Up: $250 3D Blu-ray Players Page 2


Sony BDP-S770

Key Features
• Movie, music, and photo playback via USB
• Built-in 1-GB memory for BDLive functions
• DLNA certified
• Gracenote media database retrieval
• DTS Neo:6 encoding option for 2-channel audio
• SACD-compatible (with DSD bitstream output option)
• 3 picture presets; four adjustable noise-reduction modes plus IP noise reduction for Internet video
• +Free BD Remote app available for iPhone/iPad/iPod touch
• Connections: HDMI, component , and composite video; coaxial and optical digital audio; stereo analog audio; LAN; (2) USB ports
• Dimensions + Weight 17 x 1 3/8 x 8 in; 4. lb

Sony's BDP-S770 has the distinction of being the company's first player to handle Blu-ray 3D playback right out of the box. (Two earlier models, the BDP-S470 and BDP-S570, required a firmware update.) Other features that distinguish the S770 include built-in Wi-Fi, DLNA certification, Gracenote media database retrieval (for onscreen display of movie and CD cover art and disc data), and SACD playback. It's also packed with media-streaming options, including Pandora alternative Slacker and supposed Cable TV alternative Hulu Plus (not yet online at the time of my test).

With a facade that echoes the streamlined "Monolithic" design of Sony's newest Bravia HDTVs, the S770 isn't such a bad a thing to look at. There's no flip-down panel to hide the disc tray on its front panel, which only contains the most basic control buttons (stop and play) plus a USB port. Although the buttons on Sony's remote are on the small side, its partially backlit keypad will help you find the one you're looking for. And you could always use Sony's BD remote app, which lets you control basic player options from your Apple iDevice.

Pressing the remote's Display button presents a detailed screen showing exactly what's going on with a particular disc, including video and soundtrack information plus data rate for both, and a total/elapsed time timeline. Hitting the Options button and then selecting Video Settings lets you access three picture presets and four separate noise-reduction adjustments. When watching streamed video, you can select an additional noise-reduction mode specifically aimed at low-rez Internet video. (Not that you can do a whole lot to improve the clarity of the 1970s TV shows and 1980s music videos clogging up YouTube. Perhaps those memories are better left fuzzy.)

The Sony's operation proved to be uniformly quick and responsive. It took a mere 3 seconds for the player to power up, display its menu on my TV, and accept discs. Basically, once you hit this player's On button it's ready to go. With a disc loaded, it took about 12 seconds for actual video to show up onscreen with most Blu-rays - about the same as with the other two players. One cool feature of Sony Blu-ray players is the Replay/Advance modes, both of which can be triggered via dedicated remote control buttons. Pressing Replay lets you skip back in 10-second increments, while Advance can be used to jump ahead in 15-second increments. Both of these seem like more natural ways to seek out particular scenes than traditional forward/ reverse scan modes (which the S770 also has).

Performance on Blu-ray tests was very good for the most part. The only pattern that the S770 tripped on was the S&M disc's chroma multiburst test, which indicates limited color-detail resolution as compared with the other two players. Despite this, the Blu-ray movies I watched on the player all looked crisp, detailed, and punchy, and 3D titles like Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs came across as good as expected.

The Sony's DVD playback was also very good: It sprinted through my full test-disc suite with not one misstep. As I mentioned before, test discs don't always tell the full story, and I noticed that the Sony's DVD playback looked somewhat less crisp than the Panasonic's in direct comparisons. In the plus column, several of its noise-reduction adjustments proved effective in reducing background noise when I watched DVDs, and they managed to do so without reducing picture detail.

Sony's newest 3D Blu-ray player offers built-in Wi-Fi, plenty of media-streaming options, and solid video performance. And it will also play the high-rez, multichannel layer of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon SACD that you bought out of curiosity when that format was making a go of it. While its DVD-playback quality lags slightly when pitted against Panasonic's estimable DMP-BDT100, the BDP-S770 is still a fine player that's easy to recommend.