Sony BDP-S185 Blu-ray player
A little gem
The BDP-S185 is the latest entry-level player in Sony's standalone Blu-ray range. It’s also the smallest and lightest model, at a mere 290mm wide and 1.15kg. With these reduced dimensions, comes a similarly diminished specification: the player isn’t DLNA compliant and can’t stream content across a network.
Entry-level entertainer: Sony's BDP-S185 Blu-ray player
It’s not 3D capable either – I can hear your wails of anguish – and lacks Super Audio CD compatibility too. But given it sells for £90 or less, such omissions are forgivable. The good news is that it still offers full access to the Sony Entertainment Network IPTV portal.
Sony’s little space saver comes in a choice of two finishes, silver and black. And with a distinctive brushed-aluminium top plate, it certainly doesn’t look cheap. Much of the player’s size reduction is due to the fact that the power supply has been outed to an external brick, but there’s also some admirable construction at work here.
Bare essentials on the back
Connections include a single HDMI, phono AV and coaxial digital outputs, as well as Ethernet. There’s no integrated Wi-Fi. A front facing USB port is provided for local media playback. The zapper is an economy grade version of Sony’s usual remote. Multimedia playback support from USB is excellent. MTS, MKV, AVI, WMV and MP4 video files all unspool, while audio support covers MP3, AAC, WMA and LPCM.
Significantly, for some users at least, this player does not support Cinavia copy control. Cinavia’s arrival on the PS3 kicked up quite a stink, and it’s become common on other Sony hardware. However, a video file dowsed in the offending DRM played quite happily on the BDP-S185. In every other respect, the player behaves much like its highly regarded stablemates, sharing the same distinctive XrossmediaBar UI and intuitive usability.
The Sony Entertainment Network itself is an extremely well-stocked IPTV larder. Key attractions include catch-up from BBC iPlayer and Demand 5, clip content from YouTube and Dailymotion, and an extensive VoD service courtesy of Sony’s Movies Unlimited service. The latter offers a wide variety of titles in both SD and HD.
Catch up TV on the iPlayer
The service itself is rather clever in that it’ll assess the speed of your network and deliver the appropriate version of a requested movie. While this means that one user’s HD viewing experience may well differ from another – as Sony’s servers hold multiple versions of any given movie to best suit connection speeds – the chances of it buffering during a cliff hanger are extremely low.
Disc loading speeds are unremarkable. My standard Java-heavy test disc, Goldfinger, takes relaxed 61 seconds to deliver the Bond logo. Plenty of, admittedly more expensive, models are much quicker. Image quality though is predictably good, with high levels of detail and negligible noise.
Streaming music options
While the deck features all the usual BD decoding modes, it’s probably best to bitstream soundtracks to a waiting AV receiver and let that do the decoding, rather than do it within the player. As a CD player it’s merely functional.
Economical with both Watts and wonga
Sony maintains that this slice of Blu is also distinctly green. The BDP-S185 uses 47 per cent less power than a full size BD player, consuming just 10W in full flight. It also makes the point that, because the player is so small, packaging and freight costs are significantly reduced. The upshot is a saving of 40 per cent in carbon emissions. Doncha just love a hyped feelgood factor?
In every sense, the Sony BDP-S185 is a tiny treasure. As an affordable Blu-ray spinner and IPTV gateway, it’s fine value. Sure it skimps on some of the niceties available on larger Blu-ray decks, but its cute cosmetics and green credentials seem adequate compensation. ®
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