When looking for a Blu-ray player, many of us will observer that the new 2011 models are just as much about online streaming services as they are about stunning High-Definition discs. If fact, when comparing blu-ray image quality among the mid-range players, there is not much distinction between them. They all produce great quality pictures. However, when comparing online streaming services, every manufacturer has a different set of media services and a different user interface to access them.
Sony has equipped all their 2011 models with Bravia Internet Video. It is basically the same on all its players. (Note: Sony’s Bravia Internet Video is different on their HDTVs) And compared to its competitors; you will see a stark contrast in the online streaming services. First you will notice that Sony’s Bravia Internet Video does not have any app store, nor is there a separate interface to access the online services and all the interface services have been customized for Sony. This makes Sony online streaming services unique, but what about its actual content and use? Because when you look at it, that is really what you want to know. Does it have content that you will watch and how easy is it to access?
Online Media Services – Internet Content:
Sony Bravia internet Video is loaded with content. Out of all the major manufacturers, Sony offers more streaming media options than anyone. Some of the more popular services include Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, Vudu, YouTube, Crackle, Qriosity, Pandora, Slacker and Facebook. Being the only models that have both Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant, it is a great alternative or supplement to your cable subscription. Especially Amazon Instant, which is the best online source for TV content. If there is one downsize to having so many online streaming services, is that there are too many choices. A lot of these services you will never use, but you will still have to navigate your way around them.
Of course it does not have every online service available. Many social services like Picasa, Flickr, Skype (Model BDP-S780 does have this) and Twitter are not included. As well as the popular MLB.TV, which can be found on LG and Samsung players. However, Sony does include an Internet browser. Which many may find useful. Be be aware that its use is very limited as it does not seem to handle any video playback and some large sites may not load. sony 55x75k
Sony’s user interface for its online streaming services is not ideal. It is lagging behind other players that are more innovative and user-friendly. Sony does not let each service have its own interface. Instead it tries to create a common, unified look to all the individual online services. The resulting outcome of this unified look is not good. Services like Amazon and Netflix have tiny cover art that is difficult to see and read.
Sony’s navigational tool, the XMB interface (icons are spread horizontally – navigation involves moving the icons, instead moving a cursor), works great on the PS3. But, unfortunately, does not have the same effect on Sony’s Blu-ray players. As stated before, Sony has many services to choose from. So the interface is made up of just a long single row of small icons. Navigating your way through them can get exhausting, as much of the content you will probably never use. And the players do not have the lighting speed of a PS3, slowing down the navigation even more.
The good news about the user interface is that it can be fixed or improved by firmware. Sony has already released firmware updates to create a better user experience. For example, its Netflix interface compared to its competitors, looks outdated, hard to see and lacking search options. But with new firmware it has added extra genres and sorting options like New Arrivals.
Sony’s Bravia Internet Video is packed with many streaming media services. Far more than any of its competitors. However, its user interface does not compare well to those of LG or Panasonic. But, if you think you will take advantage of all the services that Sony’s Bravia Internet Video makes available to you, than it is probably worth putting up with the user interface.