Sony BDP-S5100 3D Blu-ray Player Review

Sony's stealth BD player delivers a full payload of features

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Recommended
Sony BDP-S5100 3D Blu-ray Player Review
SRP: £139.00

What is the BDP-S5100?

Another year, another round of Blu-ray players offering to sing and dance and perhaps even play the occasional disc. Sony's BDP-S5100 sits at the top of their new line-up, although the Japanese manufacturer is retaining last year's BDP-S790 as their flagship player. The S5100 drops the twin HDMI outputs, direct picture mode and 4K scaling found on the S790 but otherwise it offers a full suite of features including 3D playback and 2D to 3D conversion, built-in WiFi, streaming capabilities, a remote app, Triluminos support and Sony's Entertainment Network. That's not a bad set of specs for around £130 and given that we were generally impressed with Sony's players last year, we have high hopes for the S5100 - let's see if it delivers.

Styling, Build, and Connectivity of the S5100

The Sony design team has been busy again, this time delivering a 'Sense of Quartz' with the look of the S5100. We understand the connotations that the angular styling is supposed to create but we think it looks more like a glossy stealth bomber. Whilst the overall design and two-tone colour scheme certainly catch your eye, we can see the look of the S5100 being quite divisive but, as always, it will come down to personal taste. There is a disc tray on the left hand side, a well designed display in the middle and a USB port hidden behind a cover on the right.

At the top right there are some basic controls for eject, play, stop and on/off. As is becoming increasingly popular, the dimensions are rather diminutive, measuring 360 x 199 x 43mm (WxDxH) and weighing only 1.3kg. The latter number gives rise to our only real complaint, which is that the S5100's all-plastic construction feels a bit flimsy and the glossy finish does tend to show up finger prints. However, the loading tray and disc mechanism are pleasingly quiet, so we're glad to see that the lack of bulk in the construction hasn't translated into noisy operation.

Sony BDP-S5100

The rear connections are the standard selection incorporated by most Blu-ray players these days - there's a single HDMI output, a coaxial digital output (rather than the usual optical), an Ethernet socket and a USB port. Whilst the connections are limited, we're glad to see that the useless composite video connector has finally been dropped - did anyone really buy a Blu-ray player and then use that output?

Sony BDP-S5100

The remote control remains a good example of concise design, with everything you need sensibly laid out and easy to use. The relatively small size of the remote makes it comfortable to hold and you will find all the controls you need, including navigation, playback and other useful features like the Home, Option and SEN button for accessing the Sony's online service (Sony Entertainment Network).

Sony S5100 Setup and Menus

The S5100 still includes Sony’s Cross Media Bar (XMB) user interface but since this has now been dropped from their new TVs, we expect this to be the last generation of Blu-ray plater to do so. To access the XMB you press the Home button on the remote and to navigate you have a series of main menu sections which you move between by going left or right and then within each of these sections you access the sub-menus by going up or down. The horizontal bar is split up into six main categories – Setup, Photo, Music, Video, Network and Sony Entertainment Network - as well as the optional Recommendation section.

Sony BDP-S5100
Sony BDP-S5100

Within the Setup category there is an option for Screen Settings, where you can chose the 3D output - Off or Auto and 3D Screen Size. There's a Cinema Conversion Mode, which is the option to engage film cadence detection for standard definition material and should also be set to Auto. Then there's the Output Video Format where you can select a specific resolution but again the Auto option will also take care of everything for you, as will selecting Auto for the BD/DVD-ROM 1080/24p Output options. The YCbCr/RGB (HDMI) option can be set as YCbCr 4:2:2, YCbCr 4:4:4 or RGB and there's also a Deep Colour option which you can just leave set to Auto.

Sony BDP-S5100
Sony BDP-S5100
The Audio Settings are rather less extensive than those on the video side and include a choice of Auto or PCM output via HDMI and a DSD (Direct-Stream Digital) output mode for those who listen to SACDs and have a DSD capable receiver. The BD Audio Mix Setting outputs the audio obtained by mixing interactive and secondary audio and the DTS Neo:6 outputs a simulated surround effect from stereo sources and has options for both Music and Cinema. There is an Audio DRC (Dynamic Range Control) setting for those that wish to reduce the dynamic range of the audio and there's a Downmix feature that allows you to choose between outputting the surround channels or downmixing the audio to stereo when connected to devices that don't support more than two channels.
Sony BDP-S5100
Sony BDP-S5100

Aside from the previously mentioned Screen Settings and Audio Settings, the other sub-menus within Setup are Network Update, where you can update the software on your player; BD/DVD Viewing Settings, where you choose the language and subtitle options; and the Parental Control Settings, where you set all the parental control features. There are also the Music Settings, where you setup the SACD playback; System Settings, where you set the remaining player related settings and the Network Settings, where you setup the internet connections and any networks.

Features on the Sony BDP-S5100

As with previous years, the smart features on Sony's Blu-ray players tend to concentrate on Video on Demand (VoD) services, which makes sense given the main purpose of a Blu-player and their limited processing power. In addition to Sony’s Video Unlimited service, the S5100 has numerous VoD services pre-loaded from just about every major provider - Netflix, LOVEFiLM, BBC iPlayer, YouTube and Demand 5. Other items of interest include Sky News, Eurosport and Dailymotion, along with Sony’s streaming 3D Experience service which has a decent variety of sports, video games and nature clips.

Sony BDP-S5100
Sony BDP-S5100

The Sony Entertainment Network (SEN) includes both Sony’s Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited services. These services can be accessed via the Music, Video or SEN menus on the XMB and are subscription based, giving you access to a multitude of Sony Entertainment created content. If you press the SEN button on the remote, you have a choice of Apps, Video or Music, with the latter two providing access to the Video and Music Unlimited services. If you select Apps, you can access all the applications which along with VoD services includes vTuner, Facebook and a multitude of games.

Sony BDP-S5100
Sony BDP-S5100

The S5100 can be connected to your network by either Ethernet or built-in WiFI and provides media streaming capabilities with DLNA compliance. In terms of disc support it can play BDs, DVDs, CDs and SACDs and you can also access content via a connected USB drive. Thanks to the inclusion of Gracenote music and video recognition technology, the S5100 can access their database and identify the content that your listening to or watching. In terms of file support the coverage is excellent and it's good to see that lossless audio has been added. In terms of video the S5100 can handle MPEG1/2/4/AVC, Xvid, VC1, WMV9, AVCHD and Motion JPEG. For photos there's JPEG, PNG, GIF and MPO, whilst for music it covers MP3, AAC/HE-AAC, WMA9, LPCM and FLAC.

Sony BDP-S5100
Sony BDP-S5100

Sony's remote app has had an upgrade and this year is called TV SideView but remains one of the best, offering control not only of Sony's Blu-ray players but also their TVs and Home Theatre systems. TV Side View is freely available for both iOS and Android operating systems and can be used on smartphones and tablets. There is an attractive user interface that offers full control of the player through a simplified or full interface. Other features include providing details on the content you are watching, finding media content spread across various services or devices, messaging about the content you are watching, a full QWERTY touch-screen keyboard and a touch pad cursor.

Is the BDP-S5100 a good 3D Blu-ray Player?

The digital nature of both Blu-ray and HDMI means that any Blu-ray player should look identical to any other Blu-ray player, provided the manufacturer isn't interfering with the signal. Unfortunately Sony has some 'previous' in this particular department and so it proved again with the S5100, although thankfully the player defaults to the best setting. If you press the Options button on the remote you will find a number of Picture Quality Modes - Standard, Bright Room and Theatre Room. Unfortunately the obvious choice, Theatre Room, has a somewhat 'baggy' gamma curve and so the best option is actually Standard, which appears to leave the signal largely unmolested. In an improvement on last year, the noise reduction controls in the Standard Picture Quality Mode default to zero, which means the picture appears sharp, well defined and artefact free.

Sony BDP-S5100

We watched the whole of the final season of Spartacus and the S5100 did a fantastic job of delivering every skin pore, speck of dirt and jet of blood. The same was true with the 3D Blu-ray of Texas Chainsaw, which whilst not a great film, is a surprisingly well shot 3D feature. The S5100 did a great job of delivering detailed, layered and artefact free 3D images to both a Sony W9 and an LG LA860. The presence of Sony's W9 gave us an opportunity to investigate Sony's Triluminos Colour feature, which the manufacturer claims delivers a wider colour palette. Frankly we're dubious as to the merits of Triluminos, especially when it comes to Blu-ray players. We can understand that a Sony TV with Triluminos Colour might have a wider colour gamut but as always we would want the TV to reproduce Rec.709 because that is the standard used for Blu-ray. However given that fact we fail to see how a Blu-ray player can output anything other than Rec.709, nor would we want it to. Certainly in the case of the S5100, we regard Triluminos Colour as nothing more than marketing mumbo jumbo.

1080i Playback on the S5100

Whilst 1080i playback is of less importance than 1080p, it is an area where Blu-ray players can add value and the S5100 performed superbly, passing every test we threw at it. The S5100 had no problems with cadence detection and deinterlacing was excellent with no jaggies or other artefacts. The Sony also had no problems with the video resolution loss test, correctly processing the moving portion of the image and leaving the background free of artefacts. The S5100 was thus able to handle discs with content encoded at 1080i without any problems, which is very useful for anyone who watches a lot of concert films or BBC programmes on Blu-ray.

BDP-S5100 480i/576i video quality

The S5100 was particularly good when it came to deinterlacing and scaling standard definition content, which is good news for those with a large DVD collection. In our tests it correctly scaled standard definition images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing and in the deinterlacing tests was equally as assured, with no jaggies or other unwanted artefacts apparent. In the cadence tests the player also performed flawlessly, correctly detecting all the most common cadence types without any problems. The player also had no problems with the test displaying film material with scrolling video text, the text was always clearly readable without any shredding.

Sony BDP-S5100

Sony BDP-S5100 Blu-Ray Player Video Review

Disc Load Times

The S5100 took 24 seconds to get to the home page with the Quick Start feature off and a very nippy 4 seconds with it on. The player uses more energy when in standby with the Quick Start feature on, so it really is a case of how big a deal those additional 20 seconds are. The time it took to actually load a Blu-ray disc and reach the copyright notice ranged from 20 - 30 seconds depending on the studio and for DVDs it was around 10 seconds, which is a big improvement on last year.

Energy Consumption

  • Standby (Quick Start off): 0W
  • Standby (Quick Start on): 5W
  • Idle: 6W
  • Playing a disc: 8W

Verdict

8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

The Good

  • Excellent 1080p and 3D Playback
  • Superb scaling of DVDs
  • Very impressive deinterlacing
  • Extensive VoD Services
  • Remote app is very good
  • Good media streaming
  • Quiet in operation
  • Fast load times
  • Low energy consumption

The Bad

  • Build quality feels a touch flimsy
  • 'Quartz' styling might not be to all tastes

Sony BDP-S5100 3D Blu-ray Player Review

The Sony BDP-S5510 incorporates Sony's new 'Sense of Quartz' styling and bears a striking resemblance to a glossly stealth bomber. Whilst the two-tone colour scheme and angular styling might not be for all, it certainly catches the eye, although the plastic construction does feel a bit flimsy once you get up close. Thankfully, despite this the disc tray and mechanism are pleasingly quiet in operation and the display is well designed without drawing attention to itself. The disc load times are a big improvement on last year and the power consumption is extremely low. The rear connections are fairly minimal, with only a single HDMI output, a coaxial digital output an Ethernet port and a USB socket, although there is a second USB port at the front. The diminutive remote control remains well designed with easily accessible buttons and a comfortable feel.

Unlike this year's Sony TVs, the S5100 remains saddled with the Cross Media Bar (XMB) menu system which continues to as acquired a taste as ever. If you're used to it, there won't be any real issues but we suspect it will be gone completely next year and we won't mourn its passing. Setup is fairly straightforward, the built-in WiFi makes connecting to your home network simplicity itself and the video settings can be accessed during playback via the Options button on the remote. As with last year's models, we’d advise leaving the Picture Viewing Mode as it is to ensure the most accurate representation of the video signal, although we're glad to see that the noise reduction features now default to off. The S5100 is essentially a digital transport and as such it delivers the goods, with a flawless Blu-ray, CD and SACD performance. The scaling and deinterlacing was especially impressive, so anyone with a large DVD collection will be able to get the best from their standard definition discs.

As is usually the case, a new generation of Blu-ray players incorporate the previous TV generation's Smart platform but since Sony try and deliver as much VoD content as possible, that's no bad thing. The Sony Entertainment Network (SEN) page breaks down into Apps, Videos and Music and includes all the main services such as BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Netflix and LOVEFiLM and many more besides. Sony’s new remote app for Android and iOS remains superb, providing access to your home network, SEN and any disc you are playing, as well as offering full control of the player through a simplified or full interface. Media streaming also proved to be very capable, with extensive file support and a well-designed interface.

The Sony BDP-S5100 is an excellent all-round player that not only looks like a stealth bomber but also delivers an impressive payload of features.

Recommended

Scores

Picture Quality

.
9

Sound Quality

.
.
.
7

Features

.
.
8

Ease Of Use

.
.
8

Build Quality

.
.
.
.
.
5

Value For Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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