Blu-ray players have decreased in price to where getting a second one (or replacing one just a year or two old) is no longer a luxury. Sony led the way to affordable Blu-ray players early in the cycle with their PlayStation 3 — the combo of a Blu-ray player and game console being less costly than that of the competition’s Blu-ray players all by their lonesome.
So in encountering the Sony BDP-S590 Blu-ray player — as a replacement for their solid performing S580 — I need to look for the differences as well as the similarities that can make this the new Blu-ray player to get.
So we start with the obvious before going to the less-obvious: the construction of the BDP-S590 continues Sony’s “build” quality — one that is all out of proportion to the low price of the player (set at $149 retail but available on the “street” at just a dozen dollars or so above $100). The shape emulates the BDP-S590 in being low and long and the “feel” is not that of electronics wrapped in a thin and easily breakable shell. One expects that vibrations from the spinning disc mechanism will be less egregious as a result of there being no fan, thank a good heat-sink for that I imagine, and as a result the only sound heard from the player is the brief ‘thunk” of the disc mechanism when the unit is first turned on (there’s also a very dim-lit LCD panel on front).
But different to the eye is the now Euro-shape curves. Accompanying this very “coffee table-ish” look are top mounted Play/Pause/Stop buttons at the upper right corner (and as in the previous model, you can perform a “Child Lock” to keep little fingers from mucking around with the disc tray eject). At the bottom right corner, the USB socket is now covered by a plug that hides it when not being used. A thumb drive or other type of USB storage device can be inserted and then accessed through the menu in a normal fashion to play video, see photos and listen to music through the display the player is connected to.
The back of the player provides what is “standard” today, being a single HDMI output for the Full HD 1080p video (2D or 3D), along with multichannel audio. No Component output, but a Composite is there, as is stereo audio outputs for audio and a coaxial digital audio output.
A second USB socket can be found seated next to the Ethernet port, but the built-in WiFi uses the “N” standard and so is stable enough to to function without incident at most times (those demanding 100% signal stability should always go with a cabled connection).
Now at first glance the remote looks pedestrian — certainly the controls on its surface are those you’d expect. But looking closer finds one of the additions that the BDP-S590 sprouts: the “SEN” button. Standing for “Sony Entertainment Network,” this button brings up a sub-menu on the screen for accessing a new portal — the content of which being self explanatory: FAVORITES, APPS, VIDEO, MUSIC. This is part of the new interface, which still takes a cue from the PS3, but now offers quicker access to those areas that users want — and which can be accessed through the BDP-S590 in the same manner as if it was a computer or a PS3, for that matter. FAVORITES holds those online components you wish to access the fastest, while the APPS, VIDEO and MUSIC menus, once accessed, provide access to individual areas of interest. For example, the APPS menu brings up the web content options — these include the expected such as Netflix and Pandora as well as Amazon Video on Demand, other music selections such as Slacker and Sony-specific music and video options. All work as you’d expect and providing you’ve a reasonably fast Internet connection, no glitches or frame-stuttering of the video should be encountered.
The first time “SEN” was pressed, it took nearly 2 minutes for the menu to appear — subsequent appearances took much less. It’s important to keep in mind that the player relies on the speed of the Internet connection in order to do its thing and so shouldn’t be blamed for any waits that seem longer than they should.
Content can also be streamed to the player (and then to the display) from a DNLA compatible PC (most are). The setup procedure for this is not daunting but does require a bit of patience so don’t be in a hurry when you decide to set it up. You can also do this from Android devices as well.
We should also note that there’s a NETFLIX button on the remote for directly accessing the website for streaming — a nice touch and a convenience, providing you’ve a subscription with the service.
Now as is expected to happen when first setting up a new model, an onscreen prompt points out that an update is needed. This is downloaded over the Internet and not requiring any more effort than agreeing to let the player access the server and do its thing. When it’s finished, the player shuts off — so I turn it back on and run through a quick SETUP to ensure that the display knows to send 1080p Full HD and multichannel audio through the connected HDMI cable. That’s it — I set up the wireless Internet earlier — except for arranging the screen size in the Settings Menu to the physical size of the display so that 3D viewing will be accurate. 3D can be set to automatic and so doing this means you just pop in the type of disc you want and then watch without any further effort on your part.
Through the Network setting on the Home menu, a well behaved web browser can be accessed — using the Sony free control app (iOS/Android) gives you a quicker way to access keyboard letters and such. An addition to the online components is the new “Socialize,” a Sony-specific social viewing app whose purpose is to let viewers share their media experiences with others on Twitter and Facebook through the player. For those who like integration more than not, it’s a nice addition.
But lets not forget that you play discs on this player — so out comes my library of 2D and 3D Blu-ray titles (and a couple of hours of fun that should have been left to the weekend). James Bond in Quantum of Solace looks great in 2D as does the original Thunderball with Sean Connery (film “grain” being a lot more visible on this oldie). And the few DVDs that I still like to watch looked fine too –upscaled efficiently to match my TV. Also, I can’t say that any of the 3D titles I threw at the player tripped it up — in fact it’s kind of sad that 3D is so well mannered now that it’s to yawn at, rather than just be astounded at the technology enabling it to function. And yeah I’m waiting on John Carter and Wrath of the Titans to make it to 3D disc, despite the low ratings the films seem to be suffering.
Bottom line: There was a time when packing in this much technology in one product would seem insane — a svelte little box playing high-definition discs, accessing the Internet wirelessly, streaming video and music and even adding 3D to the mix. Pull that 1st, 2nd or even 3rd gen player out of the bedroom and replace it with the Sony BDP-S590 Blu-ray player. Whether you’ve a 3D TV or not, you’ll find plenty of uses for what this Sony can do.
- Full high-definition video and multichannel sound
- 3D compatible
- No Component output
- No included HDMI cable
- Slim manual
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.