What no WiFi?
What is the Sony BDP-S4500?The BDP-S4500 sits in the middle of Sony’s (slightly confusing) Blu-ray player line-up for 2015 and is priced at £89, as of June 2015. We say slightly confusing because Sony is currently marketing four players which all look the same and have similar price-points. There’s the entry-level BDP-S1500, which is a basic player with no 3D support; there’s also the BDP-S3500 which is again a 2D only player but has built-in WiFi and screen mirroring; then we have the S4500 reviewed here which adds in 3D support but has no WiFi and finally there’s the BDP-S5500 which boasts wider disc support than the rest plus the addition of ‘super WiFi’.
For a company intent on streamlining both themselves and their product ranges, this seems somewhat contradictory and it’s only going to confuse potential customers. Still, we can only review what’s put in front of us so we best get down to brass tacks.
Design & ConnectionsThis isn’t an expensive Blu-ray player but the build quality probably feels cheaper than it ought to. The casing is the very epitome of the (made up) word plasticy and the box is extremely lightweight. That becomes a bit of an issue when you have a disc inserted as both playback and disc navigation activities can be a little noisy. The front panel is very simplistic and there’s no display, just a tray loading disc mechanism which pops out from behind a flap, power and eject buttons and a USB port for playing back media from attached storage.
Around the rear is a sparse – but adequate for most - set of connections. There’s the DC In for the external power supply, a HDMI output and the LAN port. Sony has chosen to go with a coaxial digital audio output, rather than the more common S/PDIF (Toslink) type, which is rather odd given that it’s Sony who put the ‘S’ in S/PDIF and coaxial inputs are fairly rare in your typical soundbar. There are adaptors available that don’t cost a great deal of money but, still...
Control and InterfaceThe supplied remote control is again rather lightweight and budget feel but the design is good and buttons are spaced (and placed) well. There’s a dedicated button to launch Netflix, which will be good news for many, and another allowing you to favourite apps to make them more easily accessible later. Elsewhere, it’s a more routine set of commands but save for the rather small and fiddly Stop and Pause buttons, they are easily located by touch.
The User Interface is quite basic too – there’s a theme emerging here - and some of the app icons look unnecessarily low-res, despite being rather small. It is simple enough to follow, however, as every function is given its own separate tile and navigation flows smoothly enough. The settings menu is positioned to the top-right hand corner and most of the defaults will be fine for the average setup. If you’re planning on using it as 3D player, however, we’d advise going in to the Screen Settings to enter your TVs screen size for best results.
Sony Smart TV FeaturesThe emphasis with the BDP-S4500 is on video content, and quite rightly so. Most of what we would consider to be the key services are present, either in pre-loaded form or by download, and they include iPlayer, YouTube, Netflix (of course) and Amazon Instant Video. There is also a rudimentary web browser which is a nightmare to navigate with the remote and the Opera TV store to bolster the available content. To be honest, Opera doesn’t have much worth shouting about, in our opinion, but you may find something of interest if you look hard.
The BDP-S4500 can also hook up with Sony’s excellent SideView app, although its application is a bit limited for a Blu-ray player. SideView’s biggest asset is it programme guide companion but that’s not needed here so you’re limited to using it as a network remote control. There is a pointer mode that helps with browser navigation but little else to get excited over other than being able to directly launch apps. We were a bit surprised that there was no network media player on-board the S4500, instead you’re limited to accessing files via USB storage but at least file type support is very strong and it will play most of what you throw at it.
The biggest omission, as far as we are concerned with this player, is the lack of WiFi capability which is very baffling in this day and age. At under £90, and with the good range of video streaming services available, you could almost consider this as a streaming media player with the disc player as a bonus but there will be plenty of people unable to attach it directly to their router. Very strange Sony, very strange!
Sony BDP-S4500 Picture QualityAs with just about all Blu-ray players, the BDP-S45000 delivers exemplary high definition output in both 2D and 3D. There is no unnecessary processing, colour issues or unwanted noise reduction provided its left at the default settings. Movies shot at 24p (which make up the vast majority) are handled flawlessly but even those rare 1080i60 discs provide beautiful images, thanks to excellent video deinterlacing capabilities
Standard Definition playbackIt’s here that the opportunity for a players’ processing engine gets a bit more chance to shine and the BDP-S4500 is not found wanting. Scaling algorithms are clearly well established now and this is evidenced by the Sony’s ability to bring SD resolution content up to a very acceptable standard on even quite a large HDTV. There is no detail suppression or nasty ringing artefacts and when the source is good – particularly with high quality animated titles – the output of the S4500 is excellent.
Exemplary disc playback
Streaming QualityIt’s a sign of the times that we now have to address internet video streaming quality on a physical media player but then Sony highlights these services over the disc playing facility on the homepage of the S4500. We extensively utilised the Netflix, Amazon Instant and BBC iPlayer apps with each loading and getting to Full HD resolutions nice and quickly, although for clarity we do have a 152Mb internet connection (not showing off, just saying!).
Disc loading speedThis definitely isn’t one of the fastest loading players we’ve tested, with Blu-rays taking anything between 25 and 35 seconds before getting to the playback menus, while a DVD would load in around 20 seconds. The BD-S4500 is very fast to boot up, however, with a start-up time around seven seconds so it balances its fairly slow disc load speeds somewhat.
- Excellent Blu-ray & DVD playback
- Quick start-up
- Plenty of streaming services
- Average build quality
- No WiFi
- A little noisy
Sony BDP-S4500 Blu-ray Player Review
Should I buy the Sony BDP-S4500?Well, it’s a very good disc player which delivers both 2D and 3D Blu-rays in exemplary fashion while also treating your old DVDs with reverence through excellent scaling and video processing. The price is also attractive and the small footprint of the box will be beneficial to some. On the downside, the build quality is so-so, which can cause noise issues during playback, and the impressive suite of video streaming services are held back by the lack of built-in wireless internet capability; disc load speeds are also average. The Sony BDP-S4500 is good but not great but does things well enough to justify a recommendation.
What alternatives are there?It’s still early in to the financial year so we’ve not seen many of the 2015 Blu-ray players yet but you can still do a bit of end of line shopping to pick up a 2014 bargain. For instance, the Panasonic DMP-BDT260EB is currently (June 2015) doing the rounds for £75 and it does pretty much all the Sony does but does have WiFi. Or how about Sony’s own BDP-S5500 which, as well as having WiFi, loads discs faster than the S4500 whilst maintaining the same excellent video standards. In fact, you have plenty of choices in the sub £100 bracket – just pick one of the major brands, with the specifications you need and you should be good.
Ease Of Use8
Value For Money7
Our Review Ethos
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