From the outsideA curvy exterior makes the Sony BDP-S185 looks like a distant cousin of the firm's PlayStation 3 console. It's small enough to fit on a piece of A4 paper. So it's off to a good start? Alas no: when we picked it up, the finish quality left us disappointed. To cover the rather flimsy plastic, Sony has added a single layer of shiny aluminium, but that didn't fool us.
The main controls are along the top, and pressing them leads to a loud, awkward click, that reinforces the cheap and nasty impression left by the finish. Even the USB port at the front doesn't improve matters much as it can't handle self-powered devices, even though that's the only place you can store data from BD-live content. As there's no internal memory, you'll need to leave a USB key plugged in whenever you want to use that particular feature. You'll also need to make room for an Ethernet cable, as WiFi isn't included either. That sleek, attractive Blu-ray player that you got out of the box looks rather different when it has a USB key in the front and power and HDMI cables trailing out of the back.
Sony has clearly decided to target modern consumers who favour HDMI over other types of cables. For older devices, you'll need the coaxial cable if your amp doesn't support HDMI.
The BDP-S185 doesn't take up much room in your living room and it won't make much a dint in your electricity bill, using only 6 W--and that's when it's switched on!
The BDP-S185 that we tested in the lab had several problems that might not be present in production models. When we tried to get it online, the device told us it wasn't connected--but still managed to access content from the Internet. It also vibrated occasionally when playing a DVD or Blu-ray disc. Don't hesitate to get in touch with us if you have one and have noticed problems on your own unit.
SoftwareThe DP-S185 offers a range of online content we first saw on Sony TVs like the EX503, HX703, HX803 and HX903 back in 2010, so we were disappointed not to find the more modern interface found on 2011 TVs like the EX523, HX723, HX823 and HX923, even if the selection is still pretty decent. By bringing online content right into its famous XrossMediaBar interface, Sony makes things simpler for its customers, who don't have to look for another service elsewhere; its rivals, confusingly, all give connected services a different name like 'Smart Hub' or 'Net TV'.
It's not just that the content is easy to get to: Sony has also recently improved the content available via its video-on-demand platform and the selection is now wider than ever. It now even includes HD content, which is a first for a built-in VOD service in either a Blu-ray player or a TV. Flick to the Video section of the XrossMediaBar interface and there's a whole host of content. Not everything is in HD, but Sony is definitely on the right track by providing its own custom interface for every app, which makes the user experience smoother and faster.
Content isn't just available online, of course, there's a media player for your local files. Unfortunately, it can only get at content on the (self-powered) USB key, and with no support for the DLNA standard, it can't find files on your home network, even if it is connected via Ethernet.
It can handle most common video formats, although it seems Sony decided not to bother with DivX. Otherwise, the S185 seemed happy enough with HD AVC and VC-1 files in .mkv or .wmv containers, including separate audio tracks, subtitles and chapters
Finally, the whole thing is ready pretty quickly, with the boot taking under five seconds. The first frames of your video appear on screen less than 30 seconds after inserting a disc.
Picture QualityWe recently changed our test procedure for DVD and Blu-ray players, switching to the Sony CX520 as our standard television because of its excellent colour reproduction. The new tests make it pretty easy to spot which colours a device has problems with.
The BDP-S185 reproduces colours accurately
The S185 manages to produce a video signal free of any problems, automatically adjusting the colour space based on the type of disc played, switching from ITU601 for DVDs to ITU709 for Blu-ray discs without any user intervention. Speaking of DVDs, which need to be upscaled to Full HD, it's hard to expect the moon on a stick from a device this small. The results are perfectly acceptable, but can't match a dedicated device.
- Stylish design takes after the PS3
- Energy consumption of only 6 W
- Well-designed user interface
- Online content well integrated into the interface
- Media player supports lots of formats
- Accurate colour reproduction
- Feels a bit cheap
- Non-powered USB port
- No WiFi
The Sony BDP-S185 is an attractive Blu-ray player with a lot going for it, starting with a stylish design that makes it look like a mini PS3. Unfortunately, though, Sony hasn't paid as much attention to detail and it's ultimately a fairly average device that is nevertheless capable of producing a reasonably good picture quality.