Sony BDP-S790 review

The Sony BDP-S790 4K Blu-ray player brings quad HD to the table

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Outstanding image quality

  • +

    Multimedia file support

  • +

    Plenty of Smart TV choice

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Noisy disc transport

  • -

    Xrossmediabar UI looks dated

  • -

    No FLAC audio file support

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The Sony BDP-S790 4K Blu-ray player is leading the brand's BD charge in 2012, packing Smart and 3D capability as well as having quad HD

The Sony BDP-S790 may stand just 42mm tall, but its spec is towering. This Smart spinner offers unfettered access to the Sony Entertainment Network, packs the brand's most advanced picture processing to date and introduces 4k resolution upscaling to Blu-ray. It's pitched directly against the Panasonic DMP-BDT320 and Samsung BD-ES6000.

Sony BDP-S790: Features

The BDP-S790 4K Blu-ray player is a deck at one with the interweb. Net TV options are many and varied, including iPlayer, YouTube, Demand 5, Dailymotion and Sony's own movie rental service. Multimedia file support is similarly comprehensive (better than the brand's TVs in fact), playing nice with all key file types both from USB and across a network (with the notable exception of FLAC).

Streaming content looks great too, thanks to edge-smoothing IP Content Noise Reduction Pro tech.

Sony BDP-S790: Connectivity

Two HDMI outputs offer maximum system flexibility. The secondary output can be used either for audio-only duties (useful if you have an older AV receiver which doesn't support 3D) or in mirror mode, to feed a second display.

The deck also rocks digital and coaxial optical outputs, stereo phonos, Ethernet and two USBs, the latter for media playback, Skyping or persistent BD Live memory. Wi-Fi is resident.

Sony BDP-S790: Usability

The BDP-S790 may be well-equipped, but it's not fast. Java-heavy spyfest Goldfinger required 53s to display a menu, while a simpler concert disc took a casual 39s. The familiar XrossMediaBar interface remains easy to use, but it's clearly not ideal when it comes to navigating an ocean of internet TV sources.

Sony BDP-S790: Performance

Thanks to a bewildering cocktail of picture processing techniques, the picture performance of the BDP-S790 is positively imperial. Contrast compensation, pixel by pixel analysis, chroma upsampling - the upshot is nothing short of 16-bit art.

The true value of the player's 4K upscaler remains unclear though. While the deck may be able to densify Full HD to eight million pixels, the only device able to appraise this is the £16k Sony VPL-VW1000ES projector. Can this deck upscale better than the silicon built into a 4K display? Your guess is as good as ours.

Sonically the BDP-S790 is sound, with improvements to the deck's power supply and audio componentry, plus ongoing support for Super Audio CD. Ultimately though, this player's bargain-priced build quality denies it audiophile grading.

Sony BDP-S790: Verdict

If you took the engine of a Lamborghini and shoved it into a Lada, you'd end up with a Sony BDP-S790 (not literally, you understand). Reflecting its price, build quality is average with operating noise and vibration endemic. By contrast, the dual core picture processing engine beneath the bonnet is cutting-edge, allowing for an exemplary picture performance from both Blu-ray and upscaled DVD.

The deck's 3D performance is also fine, bolstered by new a universal 3D conversion algorithm able to dimensionalise any source; great news if you're surgically attached to your 3D specs. Throw in a host of streaming internet TV services, including iPlayer and YouTube, plus a futureproofing 4K upscaler, and you have a player that can be considered an unequivocal steal.

Sony BDP-S790 availabilty: Available now

Sony BDP-S790 price: £239

Steve May

For over 25 years, Steve has been casting his keen eyes and ears over the best that the world of TV and audio has to offer. He was the creator of Home Cinema Choice magazine, and contributes to huge range of technology, home and music titles along with T3, including TechRadar, Louder, Ideal Home, the i newspaper, and more.