Sony BDP-S760 Blu-ray player

The Sony BDP-S760 forms part of Sony's late-2009 announcements, offering all the normal Blu-ray niceties, as well as wide audio decoding and a whole host of connections on its rear end. But with the recent posturing from Sony setting up their newest Blu-ray players with a host of new features, is the S760 still worth a look-in?

The S760 is a step-up from the S360 deck that we reviewed last year and from a design point of view the similarity is instantly obvious. Blu-ray players have thankfully been slimming down in size as they’ve matured. The S760 is 430 x 246 x 70mm, so critically isn't too deep, although you'll have to allow for connections on the rear and in the case of the S760, there may be rather a lot.

The rear panel gives you HDMI, Component, S-Video and Composite video options, while the audio offers you optical and digital coaxial to hook-up to an AV receiver, analogue stereo and 7.1 outputs for your surround sound. Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoders are present, as well as support for surround sound in headphones, with a dedicated volume on the remote to control your 'phones.

You also get a front and rear slot for USB, the rear being an ideal place to connect a USB stick for BD Live, as there is no onboard storage on offer, leaving the front USB available for ad-hoc connections. An Ethernet socket rounds-out the connections, letting you hard wire your Blu-ray player for BD Live access and to take advantage of the limited home networking support.

On this level of deck you also get b/g/n Wi-Fi support, which is easy enough to set-up, even if selecting your password through the remote is a little fiddly. That's acceptable though, as the chances are you'll only have to do it once.

The interface is Sony's XrossMediaBar, similar to that used on the PS3 and the media player areas of Sony Ericsson phones. It makes it easy to move between Video, Music, Photo and Settings. It's a nice and simple interface, but (as we'll see) you don't really need it given the capabilities of this player.

In-movie menus are well handled, with the remote offering quick access to pop-up menus and options. The remote is solid and responsive, with backlit controls on the press of a button - great for those watching in a darkened room.

With full 1080/24p support, you really get to take advantage of Blu-ray's glorious looks, but Sony has added a number of processing technologies that have a noticeable difference. The HD Reality Enhancer and Super Bit Mapping make a number of claims, including noise reduction, which can sometimes appear in backgrounds. For example, in Casino Royale when Bond and Vesper are talking on the train. We found noise to be well controlled, and the picture quality overall was magnificent.

From off, it takes the S760 24 seconds to start up, that's from standby to accessing the player menu screen. You can extend this by 12 seconds if you have already inserted a disc for that disc to be recognised. It will then take typically between 30 seconds and minutes to get any further on your Blu-ray.

DVDs typically load in around 10 seconds, however you still have that lengthy start time for the player to get going. DVDs benefit from upscaling and looked good, but obviously not a patch on their Blu-ray rivals.

Outside of Blu-ray, DVDs, and audio CDs you can also play AVCHD and JPEG discs and view JPEG photos from a USB drive or through your home network. You don’t get any options beyond these, and on this level of player it is surprising to find that you don't get wider support, like DivX or DivX HD, or simple MP3 or MPEG4 playback from USB. The home networking is a bit of a tease, as it only offers photo viewing, so won't replace a decent media bridge.

Verdict

And that's where the S760 suffers in its offering. We love the quality of the picture you get from Blu-ray and the full audio support: buy the S760 because you want a great picture and sound, not for any of its peripheral offerings.

The other stumbling block is that the S760 is staring down the barrel of obsolescence. With Sony's latest rung of Blu-ray players offering up compatibility with Sony's 3D offering (if you are interested in getting a Sony 3D TV when they launch in June, or just future proofing your purchase) as well as wider support for Bravia Internet Video services, such as LoveFilm, BBC iPlayer, 5OD and DivX support, the newer generation look like a more compelling offering.

If it is just Blu-ray playback that interests you, then the BDP-S760 offers great visuals. With the new wave stacked against it, you may well be able to pick up a bargain, but opting for the latest generation will give you much more functionality.