Sony HES-V1000 Blu-ray Server Page 2

I found myself making a lot of trips to the owner’s manual during the first few days to figure out how to perform common tasks. However, once I got a general feel for the HES-V1000’s navigational style, I found it easy and intuitive to explore and access content. The owner’s manual is one of the better examples of the form; it covers a lot of ground in a well-written, intuitively laid-out manner.

The HES-V1000 provides basic photo/video editing functions. Through the iLink port, you can import DV or HDV up to a 1080i resolution, and basic editing tasks—creating chapters, dividing titles, and deleting footage—are quite easy to do. On the photo side, the HES-V1000 includes some fun ways to show off your newly uploaded pics: x-Pict Story HD creates a themed slide show with music, while x-ScrapBook automatically renders a digital scrapbook, and you can burn the results to a disc. Both features analyze picture content to crop photos into various scenes; while the analysis isn’t always spot on, it’s pretty good.

Those are nice perks, but the Blu-ray changer is the big selling point, and it, too, is a mixed bag. The HES-V1000 offers both HDMI and component video outputs. Through HDMI, you can output 1080p/60 but not 1080p/24—which isn’t a huge issue because the player’s internal processing is excellent, with both standard- and high-def sources. The unit correctly deinterlaces 1080i and picks up the 3:2 sequence in the Silicon Optix HD HQV Benchmark Blu-ray Disc. The staircase in the opening seconds of chapter 8 of the Mission: Impossible III Blu-ray Disc was clean and free of jaggies, with only a hint of shimmer. My standard-def torture tests from Gladiator and The Bourne Identity had minor artifacts, and the detail level was very good. Even video-based scenes exhibited fewer jaggies than usual. Component video output is limited to 480p for DVD movies and 720p/1080i for Blu-ray. When I set it for 720p, the player failed the Silicon Optix tests on both the standard- and high-def discs, but real-world demo scenes were generally clean. Still, I’d stick with HDMI.

This is a Profile 1.0 player, which means it’s already somewhat outdated. It did a good job displaying the interactive menus and games on the Pirates of the Caribbean Blu-ray Discs. However, it lacks the secondary audio and video decoders required in a Profile 1.1 player, which let you enjoy advanced new features such as PiP commentaries. It doesn’t have onboard decoders for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, nor does it pass the bitstream version of these formats over HDMI so that your A/V receiver can decode them. The unit will pass an uncompressed PCM soundtrack over HDMI, and it has both optical and coaxial connections for basic Dolby Digital and DTS, but no multichannel analog audio outputs. These features are now available in sub-$1,000 Blu-ray players, yet they’re absent from this $3,500 product. According to Sony, no firmware updates are scheduled to address the high-resolution audio issue or to enable BD-Live Web functions through the Ethernet port.

My other main concern with the HES-V1000 is that it’s somewhat slow. The 8x CD rip speed was faster than my PowerBook, but photo importing was much slower than the media center PCs I’ve used. Maybe the import process just feels slow because you can’t do anything else while importing. With Blu-ray Discs, it can take over a minute to load a new disc and retrieve metadata. With movies, you then have to wait for it to cue up the menu. The speed is on par with recent Profile 1.0 players I’ve seen but slower than Panasonic’s Profile 1.1 DMP-BD30 player. Ironically, it was often faster to directly load and play a disc than to cue it up from within the changer.

Call me particular, but I expect a $3,500 source component to be perfect. The HES-V1000 does a lot of things well, but it lacks crucial features for the serious home theater fan. The $400 PlayStation 3 is a more HT-friendly device that offers many of this product’s core features. Sony’s own VGX-TP20E media center PC provides a single-disc Blu-ray player, TV/DVR functionality, Internet browsing, USB 2.0, and Wi-Fi for $1,599. I appreciate the “media center without a PC” approach, and I think others will, too—but Sony may have priced this product out of its target audience’s reach.

200-disc Blu-ray changer
500-GB hard drive to store video, music, and photos
No way to output Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD

Sony Electronics
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