Sony BDP-S790 Blu-ray 3D Player Page 2

Like other Sony products, the only way to access the streaming services is to register with the Sony Entertainment Network to activate these features. It’s relatively painless via the Internet.

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.

Disc Performance
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.

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nkrgovic's picture

Will it stream 4K if available? I understand it would upscale if the display supports it, but can it stream native 4K ?

palmharbor's picture

The Remote must have been designed and approved in 1982. It still has worthless number pad. the basic controls for play, FF, rev pause are on the lowest place of the face of the remote frequently causing you to pick the wrong buttons and launch the internet function.
I had to buy another remote in order to be able to use it in a dark room. No wonder Sony is hurting badly…no one reviews their product designs. Everything get approved…no matter how poorly designed. Avoid this Bluray player.

David Vaughn's picture
Since there's no native 4K content to stream, that was something I couldn't test (nor do I have a 4K display to see the content). Frankly, 4K screening is WAY in the future (if it ever happens at all).
momarty's picture


How did the sound from the unit's two channel analog output compare to that of your oppo reference when playing cd and sacd? And thanks for the review.

David Vaughn's picture
The Oppo BDP-93 sounds better than the Sony. Furthermore, the BDP-95 sounds MUCH better, but it's also nearly 5x the cost.
wppvos's picture


how is the drive noise in your review unit? I received mine Saturday but it seems quite high pitched in comparison with my previous player(s), especially in the first chapters of a movie. Curious to hear your findings.

David Vaughn's picture
I just checked my notes and didn't see any reference to drive noise in them. I sit about 8 feet away from my rack, so it would have to be really loud for me to hear it from that far away. Can you actually hear it when a movie is playing or just when you first put in the disc?
RSVM5's picture

Thanks for the review. I have a PS3 as my primary movie player. I was wondering how it holds up to the S790 and in general how much would i have to spend to get a better picture than the PS3.
I have a Panny ST30. I recently watched on BD "The Grey" and "Chimpanzee". The former looked grainy at times especially during the night scenes. The latter looked really good - maybe the best I've seen on this setup.

David Vaughn's picture
The PS3 is still an outstanding Blu-ray player. As to the movies you referenced, I've seen them both and what you witnessed is in the encodes and not due to anything wrong with your setup. If you're happy with the PS3 then there's no reason to upgrade, in my opinion.
utopianemo's picture

Excellent review. I would say, however, that the PS3 didn't single-handedly win the format war with the PS3. It certainly helped the format, but as I recall the death blow to HD-DVD was Warner Bros' declaration that they were going Blu-Ray exclusive. If my memory serves me correctly, Toshiba's announcement that they were calling it quits with HD-DVD came very soon after Warner's surprise announcement.

David Vaughn's picture
As someone who was in the thick of the format war, I can tell you the PS3 turned the tide towards Blu-ray. The initial player offerings from Samsung and Pioneer sucked and were WAY overpriced for what they delivered. When the PS3 was finally released, it put millions of players on the market that were Blu-ray capable and the sales of software shot through the roof from that point on and Toshiba was playing catch-up. When the finally lowered the prices of their players I thought they had a fighting chance to survive, but then they ran out of stock and their momentum was killed in late was only a matter of time until they would be gone. So while I agree that the PS3 wasn't the only reason Blu-ray won, I would give it 90% of the credit :)
Jim Simon's picture

As the saying goes, the devil is in the details, and my current Sony BDP-S590 gets a few critical details wrong. I'm wondering if any of them have been corrected with the 790?

For starters, the disk never, ever stops spinning. The only way to get it to stop on the 590 is to eject it and remove it from the drive. As I watch a lot of TV on Blu-ray and DVD, spreading out the episodes over several days, this is impractical. I want the disk to stop spinning when I hit stop. Period. Does the 790 correct this, or does the disk continue to spin in perpetuity?

There is a blue progress bar that pops up along the bottom with streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, and takes (for me) an interminable amount of time to go away. Yes, I can make it go away quicker by hitting the Display button on the remote, but that quickly becomes tedious. I want the option to turn off the automatic display of that progress bar, so that I only see it if I cal it up manually by hitting the remote's Display button. It should NEVER pop up on its own for any reason whatsoever. Does it still with the 790?

Streaming services like Amazon and Netflix offer a good deal of content in 5.1 surround sound, but my 590 downconverts it all to stereo, I can only get 5.1 from disk. I want full 5.1 surround from streaming services as well, and it should be available via HDMI, Toslink and Coaxial. Does the 790 offer this?

When playing back my music files from USB, there is a slight delay when moving from one song to the next. This interruption takes the listener out of the music on certain albums that normally play continuous, such as live concert CDs or some Pink Floyd albums. Does the 790 offer smooth, uninterrupted playback of music files from USB, with no interruption between songs?

The largest reason I want to upgrade is I need to play back files larger than 4GB. The 590 is limited to FAT32 USB thumb drives. I understand the 790 can finally accept NTFS formatted USB and hard drives. Is this so?

The 590 currently shuts off after 30 minutes, forcing me to 'reconnect' to my home network with a new power up cycle. I'd prefer the device stays on until I shut it off. Has Sony corrected this with the 790?

DecoLingo's picture

A quick note on FAT32 and the 4GB limit. In reality, there is no 4GB limit in FAT32 -- it's entirely possible to format a much larger drive with this filesystem.

The limitation is a false one that Microsoft put into the Windows formatter. If you obtain a third-party formatting program (there are many freeware/shareware offerings), it will easily format to larger than 4GB with FAT32. I work for a company that makes a wide range of USB storage products, and I can assure you this is possible.

Whether or not the 590 (or another player) will play nice with a larger drive is a different story. If I had one, I'd test it for you, but you'll likely have to do this yourself.

M.Hamiid's picture

How the sound of Sony BDP-S790 compare to Arcam 137 when playing movies ?

And thank you very much David.

Ericbaum's picture

Hi i spent a fat $wad years ago on a sony BDP-S1. i only use it for BD (not surprising), my question is do the newer players give much higher video quality? (for both BD and DVD)
I use the analog output for audio as I long ago sold my surround processor simply because the stereo quality of my main amp is so much better than what i had as a center and surround amp (it degrades most movies relative to what i get in stereo, and ASR -the brand of my amp-does not make a mono amp (nor could i afford it if they did!)
I have a VUDU BOX that i turned on for about a half hour recently and then shut it off- streaming is not really for me- but it would be great to have a chrome browser on my projector to actually surf the net -NOT thru an APP. - it appears that having it all in one is still not really available- please help

kent harrison's picture

Nice bluray player with great streaming,but sony made it so cheap,i mean the construction of it,the audio and video is outstanding the price i got for i can't complain.

CLU's picture

Excellent blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers I am planning to start my own blog soon in spite of this Im a tiny lost on the whole thing. Would you recommend starting with a free platform such as WordPress or choose a paid option There are so many options out there that I am totally confused . Any ideas Thanks!CLU

BobCat1950's picture

I am debating whether to purchase this player... I like to watch programs from the network websites (CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS) and also use ESPN3 from AT&T. Will the Sony BDP-S790 allow me to do this instead of hooking up my laptop to my TV via HDMI? Or is the internet web browser on the s790 limited?
Currently i have a Samsung BD-C5500/XAA that hates to play BD... it freezes after a time playing Blu Rays and i would like something better and more reliable.


Marie Pinkley's picture

Great article David. For those who live outside US like me, you can access Netflix, Hulu and similar media stations on your BD Player by using UnoTelly or similar tools.

cheat coc's picture

Not only is UHD on the horizon, which I feel only matters because of HDR, but for a mere $1400 less you can get an OPPO 103D. The OPPO at least duplicates or possibly surpasses this player's performance.
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