There’s a gee-whiz factor that some consumer electronics have — it doesn’t necessarily make the product “better” but it certainly makes it attractive to the consumer. Take the Sony Portable Blu-ray Disc/DVD Player BDP-SX910 — after I had removed it from the packaging and plugged in the charger so that the internal battery could get juiced up — my wife passing it by asked “What is that?” I picked it up and showed it to her by raising the lid, then followed that with pressing the button that opened the disc over on the front where a keyboard would be on a laptop. It’s a portable DVD player with a built in hirez screen, I told her. She thought that was cool.
As do I. Now in this day of tablets and smartphones, screen size alone doesn’t convey portability as much so as resolution. And hi-def content isn’t being streamed or saved onto mobile devices for the most part. Add to that smartphones and tablets don’t have access to HD content as high as that found in a Blu-ray disc — and you could see where a portable Blu-ray player could prove useful.
This becomes even more so if you’re going somewhere and want to bring HD content along — for example, my Mom has a HDTV, as many do now, but there’s still a VCR sitting on the shelf next to it for recording her shows. If I want to watch on her big screen, I have the choice of viewing videocassette quality or only marginally better cable. But with the Sony Portable Blu-ray Disc/DVD Player BDP-SX910 in hand, a movie like Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows will be an easy play — once it comes out in the summer, that is. At least I’ve both Iron Man discs, Thor and a fav she’s always willing to see, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Since you’ll be up close and personal with the player, some might be surprised by the sounds the Blu-ray disc makes at first when it starts up. This is normal — although you’re usually not that close to a BD player to hear it. But since the Sony Portable Blu-ray Disc/DVD Player BDP-SX910 works best on your lap — the 9-inch widescreen LCD display viewed from less than 2 feet away — it can be disconcerting at first.
The remote is similar in size to the newer Blu-ray player models from Sony/ But contrary to conventional wisdom, it’s better to use the touch-sensitive buttons mounted beneath the LCD panel in most cases. That’s because with the player on your lap, the front edge-mounted IR receiver is hard to catch.
Of course that isn’t the case if you’re outputting from the player onto a HDTV or front projector, in which case you can forget about the LCD panel and use the remote more effectively.
The only ports to note are on the right side of the player. It’s here where the power plug goes in for charging/playing from the AC current and where you can insert a standard sized HDMI cable to transfer 1080p HD-quality video and multichannel audio. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone port and a USB socket. More on that in a bit.
At the front right edge is the power switch. It behaves a lot like the first-generation PlayStation Portable does in that you push the tab away from you to power up the player (a second push shuts it off).
Opening the lid, the disc cover is where a keyboard would be on a laptop, accessed by a largish button at the right. The Blu-ray disc is popped onto the spindle and the cover manually closed. Opening the cover automatically stops the motor spinning any disc that’s in position — but the best bet is always to wait for the disc to cease movement first.
The touch-sensitive buttons are, as noted earlier, mounted below the LCD panel and register on the screen when accessed. To the left are the disc controls like Play and Pause, with the volume +/- in the center. To the right is where you’ll find modification controls such as Options and Display and the “Home” button to take you to the initial menu screen. A direction pad is next, with Sound to the right. Just to note, you can output simulated multichannel audio from a 2-channel audio source, and also from music, using the appropriate audio settings.
A word about the audio — the stereo speakers provide reasonably good volume, although there is not much separation between them for a stereo effect. However, activating the pseudo surround sound field enhances this. Should you have a decent pair of headphones, you’ll find this the best option to use — the Sony Portable Blu-ray Disc/DVD Player BDP-SX910 is a personal player first and foremost, after all.
The ”Home screen” contains a subset of what you’d find on most Blu-ray players. Besides being able to change various settings, including those regarding the player’s use with an external display, you can cycle horizontally through Photos, Music and Video — each displaying the expected type of content. Other than a Blu-ray disc, it’s the USB drive that is providing that content — being able to take the JPEG photos, MP3 music and MP4 videos and display them on the screen (or transmit them through the output). The resolution of the video can be up to 1080p — same as what a Blu-ray disc can show. The USB drive can be inserted into the socket even when the player is on — being recognized and displayed as a folder in the various categories. But on a personal note, I don’t recommend puling it out without shutting the player off first as that way leads to possible corruption.
Playing a number of live action and animated Blu-ray films, I can safely say that the “view” of the LCD screen is spot on as far as color clarity and sharpness goes. You can’t really angle yourself much from the front of the screen if you want the best presentation, but that’s not an issue with what is really a one-person display. However the lid containing the display is designed to be angled. It’s a useful addition, but one that should always be used carefully so as to prevent damaging the hinge.
Now if you use the Sony Portable Blu-ray Disc/DVD Player BDP-SX910 player to drive the image onto a HDTV, the video and audio becomes indistinguishable from one of Sony’s “larger” Blu-ray players.
Sony Bravia TV-specific functionality is also included, for example, one that will turn the Sony Portable Blu-ray Disc/DVD Player BDP-SX910 off when the Bravia HDTV is turned off. Of course these functions aren’t used if you don’t have a Bravia, but they’re a nice addition should you have one.
The player also works with DVDs and music CDs — the quality of video and audio are indistinguishable from that of being played on a larger BD player. But again the LCD panel gets a thumbs up here, as it seems to promote a more intense looking image as regards contrast for DVDs , especially when playing black and white films.
Now don’t worry or wonder about how to store any BD-Live content you might find on a disc — there’s no Internet access at all. So that means there’s no online apps as you’d find on other Sony Blu-ray players. Or any online updates to the system either. This one factor makes the Sony Portable Blu-ray Disc/DVD Player BDP-SX910 unsuitable for use as the main Blu-ray player for a home theater — but then it’s designed for being on the move (why do you think Sony includes a car cigarette lighter charger with it?). And let’s not forget that there’s that 9-inch 16:9 aspect ratio high-resolution screen attached — you don’t have that on the other Blu-ray players.
Bottom line: Bottom line: At a retail of $249, the Sony Portable Blu-ray Disc/DVD Player BDP-SX910 provides a 4+ hour battery powered portable that’s lightweight enough at about 4 pounds to carry around and keep on your lap for extended viewing. The clamshell shape and lack of extruding buttons make it simple to use, and the quality results of Blu-ray high definition viewing on the LCD panel compares more than just favorably with mobile tablets and laptop screens.
- Touch-sensitive controls
- Plays USB stored content
- Supports a wide variety of video/audio formats
- No Internet access
- No 3D playing capabilities
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.