Sony NSZ-GT1 Internet TV Blu-ray Player Page 3

Unfortunately, the built-in Netflix application is a first-generation interface that doesn’t let you search or add movies to your queue—so much for cutting edge. Granted, with a built-in Web browser, you can go directly to Netflix’s Website and access your account. However, that’s not efficient, and the compromised Web browser inhibits the experience (see Kim Wilson’s review in our February 2011 issue).

The quality of the Netflix stream is on par with other Netflix-capable devices I’ve used, but the content loads about 10 percent slower than my TiVo Series 3. The Netflix interface is limited to stereo audio, unlike Sony’s own PlayStation 3, which now supports Dolby Digital 5.1. Hopefully this is something that Sony can add later via a firmware update. [As we were going to press, Sony informed us it had just released firmware version 2.1, which substantially updates the Netflix interface and adds 5.1 capability for Netflix and other applications. This update arrived too late for us to retest, and in any case, the NSZ-GT1 was available to consumers for some time with the firmware and capabilities we tested.—Ed.]

I didn’t test Sony’s Qriocity or Amazon VOD services, but I did watch some YouTube videos that I accessed through the YouTube application. With Google’s built-in search function, finding content was easier than it is with other Blu-ray players I’ve used. This is one area where the QWERTY keyboard certainly is a benefit. Even with the 1080p feeds, the quality of YouTube’s content is poor, with ample pixilation and aliasing. Granted, I’m watching on an 88-inch screen; the experience may be better on a smaller display.

As you’ve probably heard, most of the major media providers (ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS) are blocking Google TV’s access to their online content. So if you’re looking to dump your cable or satellite company to save a few bucks, now isn’t the time.

The Sony sailed through our deinterlacing benchmark tests, but its video output clips above-white and below-black information. This makes display calibration more difficult and crushes subtle white detail that appears above white. The Sony upconverts DVDs to 1080p quite well, but it isn’t nearly as sharp as the output from my reference OPPO BDP-83 player. You can set the video output to 24p for Blu-ray playback in the Settings menu, which is the desired output resolution if you own a compatible display.

The NSZ-GT1 doesn’t rival the PlayStation 3 in terms of speed, but it isn’t slow, either. From a cold startup, it takes nearly a minute to reach the home screen. If you enable the Quick Start option, the wait time is about 20 seconds. It takes about 45 seconds to load Java-intensive discs such as Disney’s G-Force. That’s on par with the OPPO BDP-83 but slower than a PS3.

I ran a variety of discs through the player while I had it in my system and discovered various playback issues, specifically with Fox Blu-ray Discs. On three different occasions, the player became unresponsive, and I had to unplug the power supply to force a reboot. The first occurrence happened after I stopped the first bare-bones release of Avatar, and the other two cases involved the loading of Independence Day and disc one of Modern Family. Fox discs are notoriously hard on most Blu-ray players, although each of these discs works in my other players.

The Sony offers a nice feature via its remote control. If you press the Menu button while a Blu-ray or DVD is playing, it will offer options for Info Display, Play Title From Beginning, Repeat Settings, Control (play, stop, etc.), and Settings (AV Sync and Noise Reduction). When you choose Info Display, a video overlay brings up a synopsis of the film from the Gracenote database, plus cover art. If you scroll down to an actor, producer, or director and click on his name, the player can search for TV and Web videos, access people-specific YouTube videos, take you to Wikipedia, or perform a Web search. There’s one caveat, though: If you choose any of these activities, the Sony will take you to its Web browser and the movie will stop. To exit the session, you can use the Back button to return to the movie. With DVDs, you’ll enter the movie where you left off, but unfortunately with every Blu-ray Disc I tried, the disc reloaded to the main menu.

At this point, the Sony NSZ-GT1 with Google TV is a middling Blu-ray player. You can do much better for a lot less. If you’re looking for a player with streaming apps, you can find many of the same services for less than $200. The PS3 may be the best option out there since it too offers a cutting-edge Netflix interface and additional streaming services like VUDU, it’s 3D capable, and it can also surf the Net for $300.

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