Hardware and DesignLike the BDP-S780, Sony's BDP-S790 is a sleek, carefully designed product.
The black lacquered front panel and the thin layer of brushed metal on the upper face look great together. The overall design is stylish and understated, and the finish is exceptionally good. It couldn't be better!
There are plenty of connections on hand too. In fact, all that's really missing is a 7.1 analogue connection, otherwise you'll find two HDMI outs, two USB ports (one at the front, one at the back), a component output with an analogue stereo out, as well as coaxial and optical audio outs for users with older amps.
This Blu-ray player runs on Sony's XrossMediaBar interface, with menus, settings and access to content via the Sony Entertainment Network. Services include Dailymotion, YouTube and video on demand.
A web browser is also included, allowing multi-tab browsing that's nice and smooth. That said, it's still not quite as pleasant as surfing on a computer.
Skype comes loaded directly into the BDP-S790, which is handy for users with older TVs that don't have Smart TV functions. However, no webcam is supplied, so you'll have to shell out about £80 for Sony's Camera and Microphone for Skype.
Although the BDP-S790 isn't the fastest device on the block, it's still reasonably speedy. It takes 25 seconds to start up fully and a further 27 seconds to display the first images from our test Blu-ray disc.
Image QualityBlu-ray image quality is basically the same from one player to another, and the Sony BDP-790 is no exception to the rule. The image looks in no way denatured, and this was soon backed up by our test equipment.
There is, however, one feature that we've been hoping to see improve: SD upscaling i.e. the function that upscales standard definition content like DVDs so you can watch it on a Full HD TV. Although this function is now pretty much acceptable quality, the result in still a bit too blurred and some aliasing effects remain visible in the S790. For the time being, Sony's PS3 is the only device that does a really good job of SD upscaling, as you can see in the photos below:
So what about that flash new 4K upscaling feature? Well, seeing as the progress made in perfecting SD-to-HD upscaling remains quite limited in the S790, it's difficult to imagine HD-to-4K upscaling being much better with the same components. Plus, just like today's Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) TVs come with integrated functions for upscaling SD content, upcoming 4K (Ultra High Definition - 3840 x 2160 pixels) models will come with functions to upscale content into 4K resolution. These integrated modes will work just as well—if not better—than the mode in this Blu-ray player. So, ultimately, the 4K upscaling mode in the S790 seems to be mostly marketing fluff, allowing Sony to plaster its boxes with eye-catching "4K" logos. There's no way you should buy this Blu-ray player for this function alone.
Power UseIn use, the BDP-S790 uses 8 W, which is well within average for Blu-ray players. On standby it's even better, as our watt-meter registered zero.
- Sleek design
- Two USB ports
- Wi-Fi connectivity built-in
- XrossMediaBar menu is fast and effective
- Remote control app for Android and iOS
- Accurately rendered image
- 2D-to-3D conversion function isn't up to much
- 4K upscaling function is mostly about marketing
The Sony BDP-S790 picks up where the BDP-S780 left off. With a sleek design, an impeccable finish, plenty of functions and great picture quality, nothing is left to chance. All in all, this is an excellent Blu-ray player. The only minor setback for some users will be the fact that there's no 7.1 analogue connection.