Page 2 of 9
Remote Control & GUI
Aside from the limited function of a few basic hard button controls for power, channel, volume, input and menu located on the lower right side of the panel, the remote control is your tool to access Sony’s XrossMediaBar™ (XMB) on-screen, graphical user interface. Sony makes nice remotes, and this one is no exception. It is a bit long, but has a good balance of button layout, especially the central circular set of buttons for the arrow keys, enter or select, Home, Favorites, Return, Options, Input and Guide. The size of the remote, ample spacing and the soft, tactile feel of the buttons make for an effective device.
I found it easy to operate the core arrow, enter, Return and Home buttons to navigate the XMB quickly. For a channel-hopper like me, the convenient placement of the small round “Jump” button (toggles between the two most recent channels) immediately to the right of the channel changer was a thoughtful touch. Smart ergonomics. A large variety of other home theater equipment from numerous manufacturers can be programmed to operate through the Sony remote. Expectedly, it’s especially good at controlling other Sony gear, in particular when those are connected via HDMI so BRAVIA Sync® features can be engaged.
I did find one aspect of the Power On/Off linking feature to be annoying. Pairing the 46Z4100 with a Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray player, the S350 remote could simultaneously power up the BD player and the TV. That’s fine. But if the TV was already on, and you turned on the S350, the 46Z4100 would shift inputs to the Blu-ray player. That’s OK too - if you want to watch to BDP menu screen and subsequent disc spin-up. Personally, I’d rather switch to what input manually - when I want to. Sometimes I’ll be watching regular television, and in anticipation of viewing a Blu-ray or DVD, will turn the player on, open the tray and get the start-up process going - all without needing or wanting to see the BD player GUI. I also know that especially with Blu-ray titles, there can often be a time-consuming loading of Java code before the movie gets to a point where I even have the ability to jump to a menu and get on with the show. Likewise, turning off the TV will power-down the Blu-ray player, which in the case of some BD titles authored in the BD-Java format, can be a problem if you want to do a “Resume” play. There are “OFF” settings that allow overriding Device and TV Auto Power, but it still seemed quirky to me.
Originally developed for the Sony Playstation™ XMB has become the standard GUI for Sony TVs, Blu-ray players and its line of BRAVIA Link Modules. This welcome consistency across product lines helps greatly when navigating the features for different kinds of Sony gear. XMB isn’t without its faults though.
The interface is designed so that a few many button pushes are required when first entering the interface to get to where you typically want to go, the “Settings” menu. Click “HOME” on the remote control displays the main menu, placing you in “External Inputs” on the far right of the GUI. To get to Settings you are forced to traverse the Media Category icons four clicks to the left. A better design would be defaulting to Settings when pressing HOME because that’s the most likely place people want to go. This is especially true since the remote does have so many convenient direct adjustment buttons, such as Guide, Favorites and Input.
Navigating within the Settings sub-menus (in what Sony calls the “Category Object Bar”) containing the numerous parameters for adjusting Picture, Sound, Screen, etc., is fairly intuitive. With so many categories and the number of settings available for each, I’d hope for a software upgrade that could display a summary screen to provide users with a simple, comprehensive, control panel view of all the current settings.
In large part, the on-screen GUI descriptions for features are either vague or completely lacking, requiring you to dig out the Operating Instructions. With a beautiful high definition canvas at its disposal, Sony could do a much better job of more clearly communicating exactly what the array of settings do and how each condition effects the viewing experience. More on this later in the MOTION PROCESSING section.