Sony’s BDP-S560 not only delivers terrific high-definition images, but also excels at upconverting DVDs, too. And it does so in a Wi-Fi enabled model. But this Blu-ray player lacks the streaming media extras that competing players offer.
The BDP-S560 was most impressive in our black-and-white Good Night and Good Luck test. Even water glasses sitting on a banquet table popped with clarity and brilliance. It did almost as well in color movies, with a nice feel of dimensionality in the Mission: Impossible III test. Only in the animated Cars did it disappoint, where a sense of flatness earned it a rating of only Good.
The player earned ratings of Very Goods down the line in our two DVD tests. In the Return of the King test, the colors looked less saturated than those from the reference Sony PlayStation 3 player, but more pleasing and realistic.
You get more than BD-Live when you plug the BDP-S560 into your home network. If you have a computer that runs DLNA server software on your network, this player will recognize it and display the photos from that computer. It can also display photos from a USB drive, but it can’t play music or video over a network or USB.
This is the first Blu-ray Disc player we’ve looked at that comes equipped with two USB ports, one in the back for BD-Live storage, and one in the front for photos. That’s a very smart design move on Sony’s part.
You don’t have to stretch an ethernet cable from your router to your home theater to use the BDP-S560’s networking capabilities. This Blu-ray player includes Wi-Fi, but setting up Wi-Fi on the BDP-S560 is no picnic. The setup screen often leaves you wondering what option to pick and what to do next. And the always-difficult task of entering a password via remote control is even harder because the BDP-S560’s text-entry screen is so ugly and unfriendly. Fortunately, the player comes with a small booklet for setting up Wi-Fi.
The BDP-S560’s box is well made, with a spring-loaded flap that covers the entire front and closes when the tray closes. The Power and Eject buttons are well situated in the upper-left and -right corners of the front panel. The only other buttons, Play and Stop, are clearly marked but feel chintzy.
The BDP-S560 started playing the Independence Day Blu-ray disc in 59 seconds, a bit faster than average.
When you first turn on the BDP-S560, a helpful wizard walks you through setup, sometimes with the aid of useful onscreen illustrations. The wizard will ask you whether you want to turn Quick Start on; it’s off by default, to save power. With the Power Off option switched on (again, the default), the BDP-S560 shuts off after 30 minutes of inactivity.
The main menu is a typical Sony crossbar. The onscreen descriptions of your options are usually helpful, if you know some basic terminology. For instance, TV Type is described as “Set the screen aspect ratio of your TV.” If you press the remote’s Display button while watching the movie, the BDP-S560 will give you some technical details and either the time elapsed or the time remaining (you can toggle between these), but not the chapter number.
Despite its small, hand-friendly size, the remote control leaves a lot to be desired. The arrow buttons are well placed, but the play buttons (Play, Pause, Skip, and so forth) are hard to reach. The huge Home button, which brings up the player’s rarely needed setup menu, occupies the middle of the remote, while the buttons for more-frequently-used disc menus are tiny. Oddly, there’s no Eject button at all.
Macworld’s buying advice
The Sony BDP-S560 is a good player all around, but a larger number of streaming media tricks would have made it much harder to resist.
[Lincoln Spector is a contributing editor for PC World.]
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