Sony’s BDP-S5100, which replaces last year’s BDP-S590, is loaded with features, enhancements, and a new design. Over the last four months, I’ve developed a love-hate (mostly love) relationship with the player, mostly due to Sony Tech Support’s responses to a few issues I’ve had. Overall, though, this is a very good player.
Sony redesigned the look of their 2013 line of Blu-ray players, jettisoning the typical metal or plastic box design of its predecessors (and competition). I understand the look Sony was going for, that of a jewel, but most of us want a level surface on top to place an empty Blu-ray case or stack another component. In addition, Sony (along with many other manufacturers) has not only eliminated all analog connections on this year’s models, but connections are now limited to HDMI and coax digital audio only. No more optical audio, and no more stereo analog outputs. Eliminating stereo analog audio, I feel, is a mistake, as that is still required for most multi-zone receivers should the user want to run, for example, Pandora from this player over Zone 2. Ironically, the box indicates that an HDMI cable is “highly recommended,” rather than required.
Much like the BDP-S590, the BDP-S5100 remains one of the fastest loading and booting Blu-ray players currently on the market. Boot (or power-on) time is typically 20 seconds with Quick Start turned off, 5 seconds with Quick Start turned on (the player will draw more electricity in this mode, however). Disc load times are also relatively quick, but tend to fluctuate based on content and how the disc was authored. Applications such as Netflix also load blazingly fast in under 20 seconds.
Like most Blu-ray players, the BDP-S5100 supports not only Blu-ray discs (BD-Rom and BD-R), but also provides playback of DVD and CD media. It will also playback 3D Blu-ray discs (if your TV is also 3D) and process 2D to 3D conversion. For audiophiles, the player also supports SACD playback in either a DSD stream or PCM, over HDMI. It also has built-in decoders for DTS-HD Master Audio, legacy DTS, Dolby TrueHD, legacy Dolby Digital, MP3, multi-channel PCM (up to 7.1), AAC, FLAC, and WMA9. It also supports AVCHD, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, AVC, WMV9, VC1, XVID, JPG, GIF, PNG, and MPO formats. Note: As pointed out by one of our readers, this model only decodes Dolby TrueHD as 2.0 PCM. I contacted Sony regarding this, and they confirmed this, as well.
Sony has loaded (possibly over-loaded) the player with streaming apps, such as Pandora, Slacker, Netflix, Vudu, Amazon Instant Video, NPR, Hulu Plus, MLB.TV, YouTube, etc. My main complaint, though, is that the apps are pre-loaded and cannot be uninstalled (or even hidden from the menus). Nor can they be sorted. This means scrolling through several Video apps that most people are never going to watch to get to Snag Films, Flixster, or eHow.com.
Then there is CinemaNow, an app listed on the box of the Blu-ray player, with an accessible icon under Video, but as of July 17, 2013, is still not available. Sony’s response over the last four months has been that they are investigating the issue, both Sony and CinemaNow are aware and are researching the issue, and hope to have a resolution sometime soon. Now, I understand that the user base for CinemaNow is nowhere near that of Netflix or even Vudu, but launching a player with an app that isn’t working, and then being unable to fix it in a timely manner, really rubs consumers the wrong way. Note: Newer boxes and production runs no longer display the CinemaNow logo, and the icon was removed from the player in a recent firmware update.
The player also provides access to the Sony Entertainment Network, which provides a second avenue to the pre-loaded apps listed under Video and Music, but also a direct route to many of the pay-per-view movies available on Sony’s Video Unlimited store. And if that weren’t enough, there is a Facebook app and an Opera web browser (which also provides access to several more apps, including games such as Mini-Golf and Sudoku).
Blu-rays look and sound as you would expect them to on a player in this price range. 3D also looks incredible, and the player allows the user to adjust the depth. The player also features 2D to 3D conversion, in case your TV does not offer it. You can also make some minor adjustments to the video by adjusting the Picture Quality Mode under Options while a disc is playing between Standard, Brighter Room, or Theater Room. You can also, under the same menu, adjust the levels of BNR (Block Noise Reduction) and MNR (Mosquito Noise Reduction), but I left them turned off.
Hands down, the Sony BDP-S5100 is, perhaps, the best 3D Blu-ray player in its price range, with its improved Wi-Fi, fast boot and load times, and large selection of internet streaming apps. It would be nice, though, if Sony allowed the user to uninstall the apps that a user was never going to use (or at the very least, sort the apps to place the more often used ones at the top).
Edited by Todd Erwin, January 18 2014 - 11:25 AM.