The Sony ES line has always represented the very best of what Sony has to offer.Â The ES stands for Sony’s Elevated Standard and the BDP-S5000ES is Sony’s premier Blu-ray/DVD player, offering a host of features targeted at the audiophile and videophile who is looking for the very best.Â Â The player is fully BD-Live capable, features 14-bit HD video processing, outputs HD 1080/60p and 24p, upscales your DVDs to 1080p over HDMI, and will play your existing CD library.Â The player will also display your JPEG photos and supports the playback of AVCHD video camera format discs.Â So let’s take a detailed look at this player and see how it lives up to the ES label.
- Supported Disc Types: BD-Video, DVD-Video, CD-R/RW, DVD+-R/RW, DVD+-R DL, BD-R/RE, AVCHD
- BD Profile: 2.0
- External Flash Memory Storage: 1 GB
- Connections: 7.1/5.1/2.0 Analog, Coaxial, Toslink, HDMI 1.3, 100Mb Ethernet, RS-232, USB
- Supported Resolutions: NTSC: 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
- Dimensions: 4.92″ H x 17″ W x 14.37″ D
- Weight: 22 Pounds
- MSRP: $1,500 USA
Design and Features
The first thing you notice about the BDP-S5000ES is the overall build quality.Â The player is very heavy at 22 pounds and is extremely solid in its construction.Â Â The front panel is typical of ES products and offers a brushed aluminum face plate.Â The overall design is very clean and simple with buttons for Power, Eject and the basic transport controls for Play, Pause and Stop.Â The front display is very readable and the disc tray itself is coated with a sound dampening coating which gives the tray an upscale feel.Â The tray is very smooth in operation and the upper edge of the disc tray is illuminated during playback which gives the player a distinctive look.
The first thing you notice about the rear panel is the quality of the connectors.Â The RCA and component video jacks are all premium, gold plated connectors.Â Â The connectors are solid, beautifully machined and are sturdy thanks to all those small screws on the back panel.Â I never worried about accidentally damaging any of the RCA connectors on the back of this player due to a cable gripping too tightly.Â As for connections, on the audio side, the player offers a 7.1 analog output, a stereo output, coax and Toslink digital connections and video connections include HDMI, component, s-video and composite connections.Â The player offers an HDMI 1.3 connection which is used to take full advantage of what this player has to offer.Â There is also the all important Ethernet connection for BD-Live support and RS232 and IR Control jacks for integration with remote control systems.
The last slot on the back is the external USB input which is labeled EXT.Â While this slot supports USB, the manual warns that nothing is to be connected to this slot except for flash memory.Â In this case, the slot only supports the Sony Micro Vault format memory cards, so there is limited utility for this USB slot beyond its use with BD-Live.Â Fortunately, Sony includes a 1 GB card with the BDP-S5000ES which is the minimum requirement for a BD-Live player.
Sony has included additional design features to minimize noise.Â The analog audio circuit board is isolated from the video board to avoid interference.Â The player also has a rigid frame and beam chassis, which is intended to reduce vibration, and a special transformer is used to minimize interference from digital noise.Â We’ll see how well the player does later in the benchmark section.Â On the inside, Sony is using a proprietary video processor which boasts 14-bit HD processing and offers Sony proprietary features such as HD Reality Enhancer and Super Bit Mapping.
The BDP-S5000ES is fully compliant with the Profile 2.0 specifications for Blu-ray which means that it supports Bonus View, and BD-Live.Â The LAN jack on the player can support up to a 100Mb connection speed but this will ultimately be limited by your internet connection speed.Â The player supports playback of DVD-video and CD media and also supports BD-R, BD-RE, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-R DL, DVD+R DL, DVD-RW,DVD+RW, CD-RW, CD-R , DTS CDs and AVCHD formatted media.Â The formats that are noticeably absent from the BDP-S5000ES are SACD, DVD Audio, and PAL encoded discs.Â I was surprised that the player didn’t support SACD given Sony’s contribution to the development of the SACD format.
The BDP-S5000ES will display JPEG image files on properly formatted CD-R or CD-RW media.Â Â Sony has included some special functionality with respect to photo display on the BDP-S5000ES.Â The player supports PhotoTV HD, which allows you to display photos on select Sony TVs using a 1080i or 1080p HDMI connection.Â The player supports various image processing enhancements for photos via the video processor’s HD Reality Enhancer feature set.Â Edge enhancement, smoothing, and film grain adjustments can all be made during photo display.
The player supports basic slide show functionality and allows you to enjoy your photos at the maximum resolution of your display.
The BDP-S5000ES also supports a special â€œControl for HDMIâ€ feature which allows for tight integration between components such as the BDP-S5000ES and a compatible Sony BRAVIA display.
The control functionality allows the TV and the player to be operated in a more seamless fashion.Â For example, pressing Play on the player remote will automatically turn on the TV, select the appropriate input, and start playback.Â This is definitely a family friendly feature if you happen to own equipment that supports this functionality and that plays well together.Â We will definitely be seeing more of this type of integration in the future.
As for output capabilities, the BDP-S5000ES supports the output resolutions of 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p.Â The 480i option is handy if you have an external video processor that you want to use for DVD playback.Â The BDP-S5000ES supports the playback of Blu-ray media at 1080p/24Hz if you have a compatible TV and an HDMI connection.Â The player will also upscale DVD media to 1080p resolution.Â The BDP-S5000ES offers support for 30-bit and 36-bit Deep Color via its HDMI connection which may come in handy down the road as there is currently no Deep Color material available.Â The player supports Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD High Resolution Audio, and DTS-HS Master Audio.Â If you are using a receiver which supports HDMI 1.1, the BDP-S5000ES will output multi-channel LPCM.Â If you are using HDMI 1.3, the BDP-S5000ES can send the high resolution bitstream to your receiver based on the menu settings in the player.
The BDP-S5000ES also supports a wide range of video adjustments which include the normal controls for contrast, brightness, chroma and hue as well as gamma control.Â These controls are very handy if your display or processor doesn’t allow for adjustment based on the individual input being used.Â The color space of the HDMI output can be set to properly match your display.Â The BDP-S5000ES supports a number of advanced video enhancements that are part of Sony’s HD Reality Enhancer feature set.Â While I generally preferred to leave these settings at their default, features like edge enhancement and smoothing will definitely appeal to those users who enjoy experimenting and want the most control of their video experience.
The BDP-S5000ES also offers another unusual feature for those using long component video connections.Â The player has a menu option which allows the user to boost the gain of the component video connection in 0.4 dB increments in order to compensate for long cable runs.Â Â While most users should use the HDMI connection with this player, this feature may come in very handy for certain users.
Setup of the BDP-S5000ES was very straightforward.Â You only need to connect an HDMI cable, LAN cable, and power to make full use of the BDP-S5000ES.Â Once the player has been turned on an Easy Setup screen appears that walks you through the basics of selecting language, connection type (HDMI or Component), TV resolution and TV aspect ratio.Â The Easy Setup screen also asks if you are interested in allowing network connectivity.Â You would normally answer â€œAllowâ€ to this question if you plan on using BD-Live connectivity.Â The Easy Setup menu also prompts for use of the player’s â€œQuick Start Modeâ€ option.Â This option allows for a quicker startup of the BDP-S5000ES but comes at the expense of power and the continuous operation of the player’s fan.Â I chose to skip this option as the normal startup time for the player is about 30 seconds.Â Â This can seem like a long time if you are trying to put a disc in the player, but it hardly seemed long enough to consume extra power just for faster startup time.
The player can auto configure its network settings but this assumes that the BDP-S5000ES has a connection to your home’s network router.Â Since the player doesn’t support wireless connectively, you have to provide a direct LAN connection or purchase a wireless adapter for use with the BDP-S5000ES.Â The player does allow you to enter your own network parameters should you need to do so, but most users will just make use of the automatic configuration once a connection is established.
Once the initial setup is done, the first thing you notice about the player is the distinctive Sony XrossMediaBarâ„¢ (XMB) graphical user interface.
This is the same interface used on the Sony PlayStation 3 and it offers a simple interface for selecting setup, music, photos, and video.Â The first thing I did was check the firmware version of the player.Â This was really easy to do from the Network Update menu which can be found above the Setup icon.
The player went out over the network and checked the latest firmware version offered by Sony and offered me the option to upgrade from version 7.2.015 to 7.4.019.Â I chose to proceed and after a few minutes the player had downloaded the new firmware and updated itself.Â When it was finished, the player turned itself off.Â When you turn the player back on, the update is complete and you are ready to enjoy.
I want to mention that updating a Blu-ray player to the latest firmware is generally a recommended process no matter what brand player you have.Â Since a Blu-ray player is frequently running Java based applications when you watch a Blu-ray disc, there are sometimes software problems that can occur depending on the individual media and studio provider.Â Â The Blu-ray player manufacturers will often provide corrections and enhancements to the players to deal with software issues, but the only way for a consumer to get these enhancements is to update the player’s firmware.Â The BDP-S5000ES makes that process convenient and simple for the user.
The next step in setup was to review the audio setup menu.
The audio setup menu lets you specify which audio output to use (HDMI, multi-channel, etc.) and allows you to setup the speaker configuration if you are using the multi-channel input.Â This menu also allows you to specify down mix preferences for Dolby Digital and DTS, as well as adjust output level and dynamic range compensation.Â Â Generally the default options for these options are the correct ones to use.
The final thing to check was the video setup menu.
The video setup menu lets you control the aspect ratio and output resolution of the player.Â It also allows you to specify the output color space and the handling of DVD playback as well as 1080p/24Hz output for Blu-ray video.
For Blu-ray playback, I tested the BDP-S5000ES with a few new releases: Obsessed, The Soloist and Coraline.Â The BDP-S5000ES did a fantastic job with all three movies.Â The picture quality was excellent, colors looked accurate and the detail in the images was everything I expect from Blu-ray.Â The audio was engaging in all the films while the cello and orchestra music in the Soloist was just inspiring.Â Â Overall I felt that the player was responsive with load times being almost identical to my PS3.
I encountered several problems with the extras on The Soloist that made me question the de-interlacing capabilities of the BDP-S5000ES.Â The movie is about the life of a homeless man who is also an accomplished musician.Â In the extras, there are several clips that have significant artifacts when the player renders the strings in the instruments.Â While I didn’t notice this in the movie itself, it was really apparent in the extras section which is standard definition mpeg-2 material.Â We will take a closer look at the deinterlacing capabilities of this player in the benchmark section.
For DVD playback, I tested with Gladiator and Monsters, Inc.Â The BDP-S5000ES did a great job upscaling both movies and I was relieved that I did not see any obvious artifacts in the playback.Â Overall, the BDP-S5000ES was pretty responsive during playback.Â The player was certainly not the fastest player I have seen in terms of menu transitions or layer change, but overall was acceptable.Â For CD playback, I played a variety of music from Diana Krall, Alison Kraus and Madeleine Peyroux.Â Â The vocals were clear and detailed and mid-range was excellent.Â With every disc I tried, I felt that the BDP-S5000ES did a great job allowing me to enjoy the music.Â I was very pleased with the player as a CD transport and felt equally comfortable using the HDMI or the analog stereo outputs for playback with my preference being the HDMI connection.
The BDP-S5000ES remote is backlit and easy to use.Â The buttons are well placed and if I had any complaint it would be that the down-arrow button is too close to the Home button.Â After hitting Home a couple of times by mistake, you do learn to quickly stop making that mistake.Â The player’s remote does offer a unique and enjoyable feature in terms of an Options menu.
Pressing the Options button brings up an on-screen overlay which allows the user to easily access the disc menus, restart the selection, or search for a title or chapter.Â This Options menu also allows you to access the Audio and Video Settings menus during disc playback.
The Audio Settings menu lets you adjust lip sync and apply a filter to the audio.Â I found that the standard settings worked best in my testing. The Video Settings menu allows you to really tweak the picture based on your preferences.Â While I feel that these controls are useful for some discs, they generally result in over exaggerating the details in an image.Â I would typically recommend that you leave these setting at their default, but you can safely experiment since you can quickly restore the defaults at the click of a button.
There were some aspects of the BDP-S5000ES that I did find frustrating.Â The player offers no ability for slow motion playback in either direction.Â The player offers a replay and advance option, but these do not allow you to advance through a portion of the movie frame by frame.Â Pressing the Display button on the remote brings up a typical â€œDisplayâ€ overlay which indicates the current title, disc type, codec, bitrate, etc.Â What it doesn’t provide is the current chapter that is playing.Â This is something that I have taken for granted for so long that it drove me crazy not having that piece of information during playback.Â The player is able to tell you what chapter you are advancing to if you hit the forward or back buttons on the remote, so I would expect that information to be on the â€œDisplay.â€
The player offers no aspect ratio control beyond the initial display ratio specified during setup. This was especially annoying on DVD material when a 4:3 extra was stretched across my 16:9 TV.Â Â The ability to automatically adjust for the aspect ratio of such material is a standard feature of players that cost significantly less than the BDP-S5000ES. During CD playback, you are forced to look at a static screen image of some out-of-focus lights.Â It would be much better if you could change the background, customize it, or just turn it off. If you navigate through the CD menu, you are presented with a list of the track numbers for the CD currently in the player.Â It would be nice if the player would display the track names which would greatly improve usability.
In addition to the high resolution video and audio that Blu-ray offers, there are two additional features of the BDP-S5000ES that we need to discuss.Â The first feature is Bonus View which allows you to enjoy a picture-in-picture overlay on top of the actual movie you are watching.Â The Bonus View technology is part of the Blu-ray Profile 1.1 specification.Â Bonus View is a great way to get some perspective on the making of the movie itself, and the Bonus View technology helps you really keep the comments in perspective.Â I played with the Bonus View features of the Coraline disc and was surprised to find that I had absolutely no audio for the content.Â The reason for the lack of audio has to do with the handling of secondary audio in the player.
The term secondary audio refers to an alternate audio track which is available on most Blu-ray discs.Â This extra audio content may contain menu sound effects which play when items in the menu are chosen.Â The extra audio content may also contain useful information such as the audio for the Bonus View feature, as is the case in the Coraline disc.Â In order to hear this secondary audio, the player must mix the audio with the primary audio track for the movie.Â In the case of the BDP-S5000ES, the player does not mix the secondary audio with the primary high resolution audio track unless you explicitly select Mix in the BD Audio Setting menu.Â So what does all this mean to the average user?
First of all, if you want to use Bonus View, you must remember to turn on the secondary audio mix. If you forget to do this, you have to stop the movie, go back to the setup menu, find the audio menu, find the BD Audio Setting option, change the option, and then navigate back to the main menu and restart the movie.Â This is a lot of steps to take advantage of the Bonus View technology.Â You may be asking why not just leave the player in Mix mode all the time.Â The reason for this is that you then lose another major benefit of the player â€“ the high resolution audio.Â The BDP-S5000ES does not have the internal processing capabilities to actually mix the secondary audio with the high resolution audio track and leave it in high resolution.Â To be precise, if you mix the secondary audio with a 96kHz or 192kHz TrueHD or DTS-HD audio track, the resulting audio is down converted to 48kHz.
If you want to ensure that you are getting the most from your audio experience on the BDP-S5000ES, you have to make sure that the secondary audio is not being mixed when you watch the main feature on your Blu-ray disc media.Â Â Sony’s PS3 is one of the few Blu-ray players on the market that is capable of mixing the secondary audio and retaining the high resolution audio in the process.Â I would have liked this same functionality on an ES player.
The other feature of the BDP-S5000ES is BD-Live.Â This technology relies on the network connection in the player to retrieve additional content related to the movie and to provide additional movie trailers and promotional material offered by the studios.Â The BDP-S5000ES had no trouble accessing the BD-Live content during my testing.Â I included a small benchmark to give you a better sense of how the BDP-S5000ES compared against the PS3.Â Sony’s PlayStation 3 is still one of the fastest Blu-ray players on the market.Â While newer players are catching up to its speed, the ability to quickly and accurately process BD-Live material is still a step ahead on the PS3.Â My findings with the BDP-S5000ES indicate that load times were almost identical to the PS3, while the PS3 still won on overall download speed.Â This is not that surprising given the processing horsepower that comes in the PS3.Â I was surprised to see that the BDP-S5000ES was significantly slower than the PS3 when returning back from BD-Live to the movie menu.Â The BDP-S5000ES was between 2.5 to 4 times slower than the PS3.
On the Bench
Video Performance (Benchmark)
Overall, Sony’s S5000ES had only average performance in Secrets suite of DVD and Blu-ray benchmarking tests.
Measurements with the Tektronix Oscilloscope were taken from the component analog video outputs measured at 1080i resolution.Â Under our core performance tests the S5000ES passed all of our chroma upsampling error tests with flying colors and showed that it can deliver the image without cropping any pixels.Â The player also showed no problems with Y/C delay tested from both the HDMI and analog outputs.Â The S5000ES has a white level that was measured at a hot 105IRE which gives it a failing score on the white level test.Â Â Some manipulation of the brightness setting in the menu may provide better results with this player.Â The frequency response measured from the analog outputs , as shown in the graph, is relatively flat which translates to an excellent picture quality.
In our HD section of the Blu-ray benchmark the Sony S5000ES also had only average results.Â On the positive side, the S5000ES didn’t show any issues with pixel cropping and displayed a colorfully accurate image with no apparent signs of banding.Â The S5000ES also showed itself to be motion adaptive, employing good diagonal filtering which enhances the quality of moving images that contains diagonal lines.Â On the negative side the S5000ES only got a borderline score on our noise reduction tests for not having advanced noise reduction technologies and more importantly the S5000ES is incapable of properly handling any 1080i/p conversion as it failed both of our 2:2 and 3:2 cadence tests.Â These kinds of results are not to be expected at this price point as some of the other manufactures such as Pioneer and OPPO have already raised the bar in terms of quality expectations and in some cases at much lower price points.
Standard DVD Performance
The S5000ES performed fairly well in our standard DVD tests and passed most of the tests with flying colors.Â The player did fail our 3-2 Cadence mixed flags test which shows that the player is going to have difficulty staying in film mode with material that is alternating between film and video style flags.Â It might be likely that the analog video section of this player also has a separate signal path from the digital side as the player was also observed to fail a basic 3-2 cadence alt flags test while outputting from the component analog video connections.
On video based material the S5000ES performed well.Â The player passed our motion adaptive tests and also showed good resolution in our high detail Super Speedway and Gladiator scene tests.Â Â The S5000ES can switch between film and video modes fairly well and also has a decent recovery time when switching between the modes.
Sony’s S5000ES was a shining star in the usability section of our tests.Â Â The menu system which uses the familiar layout seen on the PS3 is intuitive and the player responds fairly well to its commands.Â Layer changes were measured at just over a half a second which is an excellent result and gives the player a passing score for the test.
Overall, the Sony BDP-S5000ES is a solid Blu-ray player. The picture and audio quality are excellent.Â The player is responsive and supports BD-Live with a smooth experience.Â It’s an excellent CD player and generally does do a fine job upscaling your DVD collection with only a few hiccups here and there.Â From my perspective, the real challenge for this player is living up to the ES label.Â While the BDP-S5000ES is one of the best constructed players I have tested, it doesn’t have the feature set and overall usability typical of the ES line.Â Sony’s own PlayStation 3 technology is significantly ahead of this player in many ways, at a fraction of the price.Â The S5000 will certainly appeal to ES fans who want the best in terms of components and build, but it doesn’t raise the bar on what is available today for significantly less money.