- Written by Stephen Hornbrook
- Published on 30 June 2011
Design and Setup
Physically, the S580 is slim and light. Light enough in fact, that you could probably mount it to the wall behind your flat screen with some 3M double-sided tape (this is pure conjecture; please do not try this at home). There are small plastic buttons on the lower “shelf” of the player for the basic operations: power, open/close, play, next, etc. I thought these buttons felt a bit awkward and cheap and was not a big fan of the design.
Sony’s XrossMediaBar is decent, but not my favorite system to work with. I often times found the labeling to be not what I expected. For instance, all the video settings are under “Screen Settings”, not “Video” or “Display”. This threw me off several times when trying to change output resolution or colorspace. Having been used to the very responsive PS3 menu, there was just a tad too much lag navigating with the remote on the S580. I wanted to thumb through options quicker than the player allowed.
With streaming apps like Netflix, having built-in WiFi seems almost required at this point in Blu-ray’s lifespan. Thankfully, Sony has not missed the boat by including it in the S580. The S580 also has all the latest 3D capabilities for anyone who happens to have a 3D HDTV to take advantage of that.
The S580 features all of today’s standard apps including Netflix, Pandora, HuluPlus, Qriocity, Amazon Video on Demand, and tons more.
Netflix was fairly easy to use and the layout was similar to the netflix.com website, with Instant Queue, New Arrivals, Recommended Flix and so forth. I spooled up an episode of Archer and the image quality was excellent, close to broadcast HD quality. Fast forwarding didn’t include any thumbnail previews of the location you are seeking to, just a timer bar. Like other Netflix devices, I could stop and resume at a later time. Under the “Options” menu (which is easily accessible on all menu screens), I could access the search functionality, something that did not exist on earlier versions of the Sony Netflix app. Overall, the Sony S580 is a very good device for accessing Netflix streaming video.
YouTube isn’t all that exciting for me on a Blu-ray player. Personally, I still see YouTube as a source for random embedded clips and not something I often gravitate to in order to find entertaining content. Although, with the recent deals they have made to provide movies and TV content, that may change. The interface works pretty well for a set top Blu-ray player and I think most would be satisfied with it.
Facebook is included, but it is so difficult to use with the remote that there really is no reason for it. As a Pandora fan, it is always nice to have it included on a media device. The interface works just fine and setting up your account takes a minute at most. Sound quality was no different than any other Pandora device I have used.
There are tons of other Internet apps now available on the S580. At first, many seemed very odd and out of place, but after I spent a minute or two checking them out, they were actually quite useful and entertaining. For instance, the Dr. Oz channel, which contains many short clips on health tips was something I would return to on a semi-regular basis. Many of the apps felt like shortcuts to websites, but with streamlined interfaces. Not a bad thing, but not something I would expect most users to use often. I think most likely, most would find a couple apps they enjoy and periodically check in for new updates. Which is why I think Sony really needs a way to select your favorites so they appear at the top of the list, or even the ability to hide the channels you don’t care about. The apps in the XrossBar menu have no logical order! HuluPlus and Netflix are up top because they are the most popular, but once you get below the top 5 or so apps, they all seem randomly placed. What’s wrong with alphabetical order? In case you are curious, here are some of the other currently available apps: Blip.tv, Crackle, Dr. Oz, Fear.net, Tara Stiles Yoga, Wired, epicurious, concierge, style, CinemaNow, VUDU, Flixster, and DailyMotion.
Setting up the S580 was a breeze. It took me longer to find an open power outlet than to plug in the HDMI and Ethernet cables. Upon booting up the Sony, I went ahead and checked for a system update and sure enough, there was one. It took about 3 minutes to update and another minute to reboot.
The settings are pretty standard and nearly identical to other Sony players. There are a couple 3D settings of which I unfortunately had no need for (no 3D TV yet!) and all the other basic display options. The Sony does offer color space options for Auto, YCbCr 4:2:2, YCbCr 4:4:4, and RGB. Since the S580 supports SACD playback, it does contain a few options for SACD playback like whether to default to Multi-channel or 2 channel sound format. Hidden in the pop-up options menu, which is accessible during playback via a button on the remote, are settings for AV Sync and video noise reduction.
Lastly, Sony has decided, I assume in a cost-cutting attempt, to not include any internal storage for interactive BD-Live content. Last year’s model, the S570, had 1GB built into it.