Sony BDP-SX1 portable Blu-ray player
Take your discs out for a spin
Review Just as DVD players inevitably shrank to become portable, so have the Blu-ray successors. Whether this actually makes difference to you depends on how many Blu-ray discs you have and how much you might want to watch them away from home.
Worth the disc? Sony's BDP-SX1
The BDP-SX1 is not the first portable Blu-ray player but it is the first by Sony. It looks like a bloated netbook in that it’s not very wide but fairly chunky. The feel is much sturdier than the often cheap and flimsy DVD portables, though with that comes a hefty weight – more than 1.5kg.
Its 10.1in LCD screen has a 180 degree swivel and hinge movement, turning it into a rather fat tablet if you want to use it that way. At 1024 x 600 pixels, the display is less than basic HD resolution, not that you’d really notice much difference at this scale.
Arguably, the benefit of Blu-ray support comes from the HDMI output for full 1080p HD so you can use it as a living room player, or attach it easily to a TV at a friend’s house or a hotel. The downsides are that when spinning discs it’s quite noisy and it won’t play 3D Blu-ray films, if you were hoping to view them on any compatible TVs.
A pretty much full-sized remote control for living room use
Like any BD player it also handles DVDs (with upscaling) and CDs. There’s a USB port for flash memory and portable hard disks; it handles most of the usual digital audio and video formats very effectively, as well as JPEG images.
Some cameras, camcorders and other gadgets can connect directly this way too to show their content on the screen, while the analogue AV outputs also work as inputs for attaching other devices. There is no memory card slot, but USB card readers will work.
The on-screen menu uses the usual Sony ‘XrossMediaBar’ format
Menu navigation is through the now familiar Sony XMB 'tree' system. The player has touch sensitive buttons and a ‘proper’ remote control, rather than a slimmed down credit-card type as usually found with portables.
Other travel orientated features include twin headphone sockets and a car charger. The built-in battery lasts about five hours (more if using USB rather than discs), which is enough for all three Toy Story films back-to-back, but not a complete Lord of the Rings marathon.
The network connection is primarily there because of the BD Live system that pulls in extra features from the internet for certain discs. Despite being portable there’s no Wi-Fi and it lacks the internet video and media streaming features of Sony’s other home entertainment products.
The antireflective LCD screen is sharp and contrasty. There are a few tweaks for picture settings but it could do with more to get it just right, as the screen is rather ‘warm’ looking. Still, it’s a good size for video on the go, even ultra-wide 2.35:1 aspect ratio movies like the Coen brothers’ True Grit.
Blu-ray playback from the HDMI output in 1080p is a decent match for a full-sized machine. The DVD upscaling is fine on the player’s own display but falls slightly short on anything bigger, with some ragged edges showing on a 22in TV, let alone my usual 50in screen.
Portable, yet plays nice when hooked up to larger screens too
The built-in speakers go reasonably loud and maintain an acceptable quality, but you’ll get a better experience from headphones, where the player’s audio strength really shows with both movies and music (even the more ‘lossy’ formats). Likewise, if you hook it up to an AV receiver, Dolby and DTS-HD soundtracks sound superb.
The BDP-SX1 won’t be for everyone, especially if you already have a well spec'd laptop or tablet, which are equally – if not more – portable and ideal for multimedia. However, if enough of your library is on physical discs and includes Blu-ray titles, and you want to be able to take them on your travels, then th Sony BDP-SX1 is a dependable, good quality proposition, but it is pricey. ®
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