Design and Accessories
The main unit itself looks like a PS3 on steroids with its sleek black curves and brushed metal effect along the top. Whilst the construction is largely plastic, the entire unit has the well-engineered and solid feel that we have come to expect from a Sony product. It combines contemporary looks with a classical elegance that will grace any living room with its attractive styling. On the front facia, at the far left, is an on/off button and in the middle is a power indicator which can be turned off (thank God) by setting the illumination control to auto. On the right hand side there is a very cool looking display, along with a series of touch sensitive controls for play, stop, previous/next, eject, volume +/- and function. Also on the right hand side is the disc slot and on the front right is a USB port behind a removable cover. The whole unit measures 460 x 74 x 226mm and weighs a solid 3.5kg.
The identical front and rear speakers (SS-TSB111) measure 98 x 255 x 91mm and weigh 0.6kg. Whilst the speakers are rather plastic in construction, they are attractive with their brushed metal styling and are quite slim thanks to the use of magnetic fluid in their design. The four main speakers use a tweeter driver configuration and a magnetic fluid originally developed by NASA. A traditional speaker will consist of a coil, a damper and a magnet but these new Magnetic Fluid Speakers use a magnetic fluid to replace the damper. This approach results in a thinner and lighter construction and it eliminates the sound pressures generated by the damper and thus offers much reduced distortion. The speakers have detachable bases that allow you to choose between standing them on bookshelves or wall mounting.
The centre speaker (SS-CTB111) follows the same basic design as the other speakers but uses a horizontal configuration to allow you to position it beneath your TV screen. It has two tweeters either side of a driver and also uses a magnetic fluid design with predominantly plastic construction, measures 331 x 59 x 57mm and weighs 0.5kg. The passive subwoofer has a downward firing driver and is ported, it measures 191 x 326 x 376mm and weighs 5.6kg. As you would expect the actual construction of the subwoofer is fairly cheap but as with the whole system, it looks more expensive than it is. All the speakers have spring clip terminals for connecting the provided cables and the digital amplifier is rated at 125W per a channel for the front and rears, 250W for the centre and 250W for the passive subwoofer.
At the rear, on the left hand side, there are the standard set of connections found on an all-in-one system these days, with two HDMI inputs and a HDMI output with ARC (Audio Return Channel). There is also a second USB port, an Ethernet port, a composite video output, a FM coaxial antenna socket, a digital optical output and an analogue stereo output. Perhaps more unusually at this price point, there is a connector for the stereo microphone that is used in conjunction with the auto-calibration software. On the right hand side are the speaker connectors which, as is usually the case with an all-in-one system, use dedicated colour coded sockets.
The provided remote control is another wonderful example of Sony's mastery when it comes to economy of design. Despite being small and comfortable to hold, you will find all the buttons you need, logically laid out and easy to use. There are all the controls you would expect for a Blu-ray player as well as those for smart features and media playback. There are also controls for the amplifier, with function, volume and sound modes, along with a volume control for your Sony TV, if you have one. The remote is made of black plastic and whilst it isn't flashy, it gets the job done with the minimum of fuss.
Setup and Menus
We would expect any capable Blu-ray player to be able to deliver a flawless performance when it comes to 3D and 1080p content and the BDV-N590 doesn't disappoint. In fact the BDV-N590 appears to share many of the characteristics of Sony's award-winning BDP-S790, so as long as you choose the Direct Picture Quality mode, you will enjoy a superb level of performance from the BDV-N590, with pristine 1080p and 3D images being delivered to your display. We used a number of our favourite Blu-rays to test the BDV-N590 and its performance was flawless, delivering reference 1080p images and equally impressive 3D, with no crosstalk or other nasty artefacts. Loading times could have been faster and the BDV-N590 was surprisingly slow with DVDs but it was reasonable quiet when playing a disc. There was a bit of noise during disc navigation and rear fan was audible when there was no sound but neither of these factors were an issue when watching BDs and DVDs.
One area where Blu-ray players can really add value is video processing and the BDV-N590 performed superbly with 1080i, passing almost every cadence test. We also checked the quality of the video deinterlacing and that was also top notch on the Sony. The BDV-N590 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 Sony was thus able to handle discs with content encoded at 1080i without any problems and this is very useful for anyone who watches a lot of concert films or BBC programmes on Blu-ray.
The BDV-N590 also displayed an excellent level of performance when it came to processing standard definition signals, giving your DVD collection a new lease of life. It correctly scaled DVDs without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing and the video deinterlacing test results were also excellent; the BDV-N590 reproduced the rotating line without producing any jaggies, even at the most extreme angles. In the motion adaptive deinterlacing test the performance remained superb with all three moving lines being reproduced correctly, even on the bottom line. In the cadence tests the player also performed flawlessly, correctly detecting the most common 2:2 cadence 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.
In terms of audio performance, the BDV-N590 punched well above its weight, especially in the volume stakes. Perhaps it was due to the magnetic fluid damping or the built-in amplification but the system was capable of going very loud without distorting, as a result it could easily fill a living room, even a very large one. Even when running the BDV-N590 at reasonably high volumes the audio always stayed restrained and never became harsh or brittle. The use of identical speakers for the front and rear clearly paid dividends, delivering a nicely cohesive sound field with precise positioning of sounds and smooth panning of effects. As a result the performance with reference soundtracks, like the one found on Prometheus, were just stunning with an immersive and absorbing surround experience. Dialogue was also clear and anchored to the centre speaker and thanks to the BDV-N590, it never got lost in what is a complex mix.
The Prometheus soundtrack also has serious levels of bass and again the BDV-N590 held its ground, although in terms of low end presence, this is where these budget systems show their limitations. Whilst the amplification could deliver impressive levels of volume without distortion, the passive sub is never going to compete with a dedicated active unit. However, the sub was still able to deliver plenty of low frequency effects and the bass felt properly integrated with the rest of the system. The BDV-N590 was also able to deliver plenty of clarity and detail in the mid-range and high frequency moments could be picked out, even in the most active of soundtracks, without sounding abrasive. We tried the various effects modes but whilst they sometimes expanded the soundstage, we always felt it was at the expense of the clarity and precise imaging and as such we left them off.
The BDV-N590 was also a very competent system when it came to music, delivering a very assured performance. In stereo we found the localisation of instruments and voices to be very precise and the clarity was excellent, with plenty of detail on orchestral recordings. The impressive mid-range, along with the well-integrated bass meant that rock music was also effectively reproduced. However, clean higher frequencies meant that the BDV-N590 could also handle acoustic music with a delicate touch, delivering pianos and female vocals without any harshness. If dance music is your thing, whilst the bass could sometimes sound a little boomy, overall this was a wonderful all round performance. The same was equally true with multi-channel music and once again the tonal cohesion offered by the identical speakers resulted in a highly enjoyable surround experience.
- Very good audio performance
- Built-in 3D Blu-ray player
- Excellent video performance
- Smart features
- Built-in WiFi
- Attractive design
- Smartphone remote
- No headphone socket
- No Bluetooth capability
Sony BDV-N590 3D Blu-ray player & 5.1 Home CInema System Review
The BDV-N590 is a real looker, combining the design aesthetic of the PS3 with a more traditional piano black and brushed metal effect. Whilst there is a degree of plastic in the construction, the main unit feels solid and well-engineered. The system comes with four identical speakers for the front and rear, a matching centre speaker and a passive subwoofer. The construction is again heavy on the plastic but the attractive design and finish matches the main unit resulting in an overall system that is both contemporary and elegant. The remote control is simple but effective, the rear connections are sufficient and the menu system, whilst remaining an acquired taste, is at least responsive.
The features on the BDV-N590 are impressive with a built-in 3D Blu-ray player providing BD, DVD, CD and SACD playback, as well as a built-in FM tuner and WiFi. You can connect to your home network, allowing you to stream media content and we found the file support to be reasonably comprehensive, except for lossless audio. Sony's smart platform is excellent and offers a wide choice of catch-up and premium video services and music services as well. Sony's remote control app is one of the best available - smart, slick and very effective - allowing you to ‘catch and throw’ the built in web browser between your tablet or smartphone and the TV. There is also a detachable iPod/iPhone dock and our only real complaints are the lack of a headphone socket and Bluetooth compatibility.
In terms of its video performance, the BDV-N590 is very impressive with excellent video processing that resulted in standard definition material looking fantastic. It is equally assured with 1080i content and as long as you select the Direct picture quality mode, the 1080p and 3D playback is flawless. The built-in player is reasonably quiet in operation, although there is some noise when navigating discs and the load up times could be quicker but overall the BDV-N590 offers a video performance that is as good as any player we've reviewed.
The setup of the BDV-N590 was very straightforward thanks to the colour coded speaker cables and the inclusion of auto-calibration. The use of magnetic fluid damping in the speakers resulted in a design that was thin but capable of quite high volumes without any distortion. The overall sound quality was excellent, with an immersive and cohesive surround experience and an effective sense of musicality with stereo content. Only the passive subwoofer betrayed the all-in-one nature of the system but overall this was an impressive audio performance.
The Sony BDV-N590 is a fantastic all-in-one system, offering a gorgeous design, cutting edge technology, an impressive feature set, flawless video and excellent sound. If all that wasn't enough, the BDV-N590 is also available for a very attractive price, making it an easy winner of a Highly Recommended badge.
Ease of Use
Value for Money
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