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To test the merits of Sony’s BDP-S560 under the scrutiny of standard definition, first we popped in Warner Bros’ presentation of cult-hit Trick ‘r Treat. Framed at 2.35:1 and sporting a Dolby 5.1 track with the anamorphic transfer, the viewing experience was pleasing but not without a few points of interest. The contrast levels leaned quite a bit lighter than expected, though black-level solidity was kept fairly solid. Details and problematic standard-definition elements like aliasing and edge enhancement didn’t look too shabby, a slight degree better than the Playstation 3’s upscaling capacities. The Dolby Digital track was splendid, retaining surround elements that fluttered to the rear channels and across the soundstage – especially the little pitter-patter of fear-inducing feet in the final segment with Brian Cox.
Throwing a more problematic disc in the machine, it was time to do a bit of spot comparisons between Shot Factory’s Blu-ray and Lionsgate’s interlaced standard-definition disc of Audition. This, actually, was a fairly pleasing affair, as it showcased a fair amount of tangible detail and strong lines within the problematic source. Colors remained robust and fluid, and the jerky problems with the disc’s interlaced nature weren’t terribly problematic – though, naturally, still there, and still carrying a pretty healthy level of digital grain.
Finally, the Sony’s capacity to handle non-16x9 DVDs was tested with Republic Pictures release of the classic ‘50s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. All points considering, it handled the content exceptionally well and with plenty of visible sharpness. Details in the black and white image remained admirably sharp, while the black levels and grain were certainly tolerable. Better than tolerable, actually; when zoomed in with the television’s internal zoom – necessary due to the lack of a zoom function in the Blu-ray player – it rendered a surprising cinematic experience for a difficult older discs.
Sony’s BDP-S560 does not support DVDs outside of Region One, nor does it allow PAL-enabled Region 0 DVDs.
As a media hub, the BDP-S560 certainly takes a back seat to versatility and merely concentrates on being a decent Blu-ray player. It holds the capacity to play a standard range of CD/DVD-RW rewriteable discs, as well as CDs. Standard CD capacity was tested in this review with Mum’s Please Smile My Nose Bleed, while high-definition audio was handled with 2L Nordic’s Blu-ray test disc. The complexity present in the Icelandic band’s nuanced and intriguing sound construction pours through with somewhat satisfying high-range and mid-range levels, considering the primary usage of the unit. It’s not, however, a dynamic CD player, as the only functions readily available are to play from the start of the CD and Stop the disc from the Options menu. Utilizing the high-definition portion was a more pleasing affair, as the echoic Gregorian Chants in Crux Fidelis and the sublime Sonata for 2 Pianos from Mozart filled the area beautifully in both DTS HD Master Audio and LPCM functions.
MP3’s can only be accessed by CD-ROM media, which makes the front USB jack only useful for updating firmware and browsing through pictures. Though the S560 has the ability to stream files from another computer/wireless storage unit, it only works with retrieving photographs – unlike the PS3’s ability to extract both from Windows Media Player-enabled devices. Viewing photographs isn’t a terribly exciting affair with the S560, rendering the images with mediocre quality without the ability to zoom in or out. It can, however, access image files quickly through the XMB with a USB drive plugged into the front. Not the back, however, which is specifically dedicated as an “expansion” for BD-Live material.
Pros: Strong A/V Quality, Wireless, Smooth Navigation, Quiet, Quick Load Times
After spending some time with Sony’s S560 Blu-ray player, it became obvious that it’s a strong-quality unit. Its audio and video attributes stand toe-to-toe with many other players in its price range, even if its quality is on-par or possibly just a tiny bit shy of Playstation 3’s class. The image quality here is fairly impressive, though it appears slightly softer and a little more unstable during difficult-sourced materials with a lot of natural grain. Sony’s unit functions extremely well under both Direct (bitstream) and Mix (internal decoding) functions for high-definition sound, while upscaling DVDs to suitable yet merely satisfying degrees and handling legacy Dolby Digital/DTS tracks with matched breadth. Its quality can be best described as tremendously sharp and satisfying, but not first-rate.
On an operational level, it’s a very low-key, quiet unit – somewhere it certainly bests the PS3, affectionately joked as being a “jet engine” at times -- as well as being a rather speedy one. Boot-up time from being powered off to the XMB interface can be rather quick, making the dive into your nightly cinematic experience a much more tolerably paced one. Now, the load times when booting up a Java-heavy disc are lengthier than expected considering its fast-moving nature, but they’re still about on-par with the rest of the units available in its class. Speaking of the XMB, a streamlined version of Sony’s signature navigational system is carried over to the S560 with many of the functional elements that make its gaming units easy to operate. It also has strong wireless functionality, which certainly helps in many departments – running Ethernet cables, updating firmware, and streaming photos.
Cons: Not as Versatile as Comparably-Priced PS3, No Internal BD-Live Storage, No Analog Jacks
However, the comparison between Sony’s BDP-S560 and their Playstation 3 brings up probably the biggest factor: bang for the buck. With the S560 sitting at an even price with its gaming/Blu-ray counterpart, it lacks a handful of features that makes the choice a bit more difficult. For one, it lacks the availability to stream MP3s over a wireless connection, while also lacking the availability to play MP3s via the jump drive storage port to the front of the unit. It also lacks internal BD-Live memory, adding the fact that a separate flash drive must be used to activate BD-Live / BonusView functionality – unlike the internal double-digit GB storage available in the PS3. Plus, and this is both a large factor and one that might not necessarily matter as much to some, the PS3 also has the fact that it’s a full-fledged gaming device fueling added justification for its price tag. The S560 is much quieter, however, and more suited for rack design with its rectangular-shaped aesthetic. Unrelated to the comparison, it’s also worth noting that the S560 doesn’t include analog jacks either, so only those with HDMI capability will be able to enjoy high-definition audio with this player.
Sony’s array of Blu-ray players certainly holds a large slice of the pie in the high-definition market, and their BDP-S560 offers a bright option in its price market as a 1080/24p, Profile 2.0 player. Featuring satisfying image quality, excellent bitstreaming and decoding properties for DTS HD Master Audio/Dolby TrueHD tracks, agreeable standard-definition upscaling, and a built-in wireless device for BD-Live / online communication, it’s a quick and sturdily-functioning unit. That description, however, can also be attached to one of Sony’s other units – the ever-present Playstation 3, now with bitstream capacity and a 120GB storage capacity in its slim model. By comparison, the BDP-S560 isn’t as feature-rich – lacking a versatile MP3 interface, internal storage, or analog audio jacks – but its strengths and a lower-key, quick operating level are justification enough for those resistant to utilizing a gaming machine in their home-theater environment.
|Model ||Sony BDP-S560 Blu-ray Player |