I've reviewed a lot of Blu-ray players now and don't often get surprised. So when I took the Toshiba BDX6400 out of its shipping box I was a bit taken aback. I knew it was coming, but I expected a standard size black box. Instead I found a tiny little player that's even smaller than a Nintendo Wii. The tiny size made me instantly attracted to the BDX6400. Blu-ray players can only output HD content over HDMI now, so there really is no reason every player is a large box. A smaller unit like the Toshiba BDX6400 still has every connection you likely need, but is easier to store away. So just how much does this little player manage to pack inside?
Samsung made a big show of their updated Smart Hub interface at CES this year. For many people the important distinction between Blu-ray players now is the quality and variety of streaming content available and not the disc playback itself. The last player I tested from them had some very innovative search features at that time, though sometimes the results weren't fully accurate which reduced the usefulness. As that was close to two years ago, Samsung has had plenty of time to remedy the issue. With the heavy push towards streaming, and Samsung putting a lot of emphasis there on this new player, I was very hopeful for a nice online experience as I opened up the BD-F5900.
Last time I looked at a Blu-ray player from Panasonic it was their DMP-BDT210 model. It had almost everything I wanted in a Blu-ray player: perfect image performance, fast loading times, and a good deal of streaming content. I liked it enough that I bought one for the bedroom, where it was used happily until it was gifted to the in-laws, and allows them to watch movies and streaming content in their motorhome. It also got our award for Best Blu-ray Value Player that year, which it richly deserved. Because of the success of that model, I looked forward to seeing if the DMP-BDT230 maintained that excellence, and simply added a few tweaks to the formula as more streaming content became available. The only way to know was to put it through its paces.
It now seems our once indispensible couch assistant, the venerable remote control, has fallen out of favor. Previously impossible to live without, new options for controlling our TV and devices have sprung up to take its place. iOS and Android apps for our smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous, with every manufacturer having one now. Some devices have moved beyond that, with cameras and microphones to let you control it with actions and voice commands. LG also falls into this category, shipping their Magic Remote with their high-end displays and Blu-ray players, including their high-end Blu-ray player for 2013, the BP730. Black and sleek in the hand, it works much like a Nintendo Wii controller, directing a cursor around the screen. Does this provide a break-through in control for streaming content and movie playback, or is it just a feature trying to distinguish itself from a pack of non-descript boxes?
Last year, Sony's Blu-ray players did a great job of hitting these goals. Their initial firmware had an issue decoding Blu-ray discs to RGB that we discovered, but that was quickly remedied and after that the players performed very well. Sony elected to keep the BDP-S790 at the top of their lineup this year, and it remains one of my favorite Blu-ray players, but the other models have been replaced. One new model is the BDP-S5100, which replaces the BDP-S590 model that I looked at in 2012. Has Sony kept with their winning model from last year, or have updates brought us changes?
The number of Universal Blu-ray players on the market continues to be strong, despite the much-discussed "death" of SACD and DVD-Audio formats. While no longer mainstream enough to be found at your local Best Buy or other big box retailer, SACD especially remains a thriving format in the audiophile market. The A-1020 is a Universal Blu-ray player that handles virtually all disc formats you can throw at it. In addition to its Blu-ray and audio playback abilities, is has the ubiquitous Netflix support and integrated Wi-Fi for streaming the content. It sounds like a good package from the specs, but with the universal player market being so competitive it really has a lot of good competitors to deal with.
Every year Pioneer updates their Blu-ray players, and every year I wind up happy yet disappointed with them. Each year performance and features seem to improve only to have a flaw, like edge enhancement or poor colorspace support, derail the Pioneer from being really top notch. This year Pioneer is offering the BDP-62FD, a $400 universal Blu-ray player that carries the Elite badge and features dual HDMI outputs among other features.
For years now, Oppo has dominated the high-end of DVD and Blu-ray players. Virtually every other reviewer and enthusiast I know has at least one in their system, if not more. I've personally been using their players going back to the DVD days, and have had every single one of their Blu-ray players, including their new BDP-103, reviewed here.
The Sony BDP-S790 Blu-ray player does a good job of performing at a high quality level, but at an affordable price. Dual HDMI outputs, Original Resolution mode, and multiple video settings are available to work well in any system.
Sony was the inventor and chief advocate of Blu-ray and has probably put more players into homes than any other company with the PlayStation 3. However when we ran a pair of their players through our HDMI Benchmark, one of which is the subject of this review: the Sony BDP-S590.