Sugg. Retail: $299.99USD
Manufacturer/distributor: Sony Corporation of America www.sony.com
This player was very impressive right out of the box, especially with Blu-ray music discs, with a truly photographic picture that is yards ahead of my Samsung 10″ DVD portable, which died on me a couple of years ago. The first generation Blu-ray portables proved to be very expensive, as were the early DVD ones (I paid $1500 for my first Panasonic), so I waited a bit on this one, finding the BDP-SX1000 on eBay at prices from $288.88USD (what I paid) to well over $500. It is interesting to note that Sony Canada has not discovered this product, or doesn’t care to offer it to us rube Canucks in the northern boonies. It would seem a natural, so to speak, for all of us with cottages truly in the northern boonies. Pity!
And this is not the first product to be reviewed in this ether that Sony has not brought into Canada that was wildly popular with US consumers. Just over a year ago, I encountered the buzz on the Sony XDR-F1HD tuner, which has a killer FM section with stereo quieting equal to its mono sensitivity. I speculated then that the reason was that it received HD Radio signals, a technology not yet in use in Canada. In a conversation with an engineer at an area US Classical music station, I found out that they had bought several XDR-F1HDs for their various studio and transmitter monitoring locations, possibly based on my review. But, only in America, you say? Now I’m starting to think it was just bad marketing judgement by Sony of Canada. And it seems that the mistake is being repeated. But, back to the present, where you can buy almost any product from anywhere. especially online. And you might just want to go for this one.
Though impressive for its intended use, the Sony BDR-SX1000 Blu-ray player has some limitations for general use, which I’ll outline presently. But let’s deal with its strengths first, starting with the 10.1″ TFT LCD screen, which boasts a resolution of 1020 x 600 pixels. With Blu-ray concerts like those from Eagle Rock Entertainment, the picture was superb, with lots of detail, excellent contrast, and very good colour and greyscale gradations. It has a both photographic and cinematic excellence that I’ve never before seen in a portable screen, except for the on-site professional monitors I’ve observed when visiting HD video production locales, those smaller screens for the use of directors, continuity personnel, and cinematographers in assessing picture quality.
But I’m already forgetting to itemize its features, so, to paraphrase Peter Schickele in the satirical PDQ Bach On The Air CD/LP: “why bother with all this useless praise, when we can provide some useless description” (the actual quote is, “but why bother with all this useless chit-chat when we can play some useless music instead…”.
Full HD 1080p video output provides high-resolution HD images so you can take full advantage of your HDTV and the detail of Blu-ray Disc™ video.
Touch keys on bezel for easy operation:
Easy-to-access touch keys are conveniently located on the bezel surrounding the player’s screen.
Car adaptor included
Included car adaptor helps make sure your Blu-ray Disc™ player is always ready to go no matter how long the road trip.
5-hour rechargeable battery:
With up to 5 hours of battery life, the Sony® BDP-SX1000 portable Blu-ray Disc™ player lets you watch two full-length movies before having to recharge.
Allows for easy, convenient viewing of videos, photos and music listening from a USB device.
2 headphone jacks:
Share your entertainment with friends and family
A/V input and output:
Plug the BDP-SX1000 into your TV using the A/V output, and included A/V cable.”
I set the SX1000 up feeding its analog line outs into my main audio system, and was quite amazed. With some of the concert Blu-rays already mentioned, I heard quite spectacular sound quality, for example, from Eagle Vision’s Return To Forever Return (EVBRD 33334-9), especially when I used the Audio button on the remote to scroll through the options: “English LPCM 2.0ch 48kHz/24bit 2.3Mbps; English Dolby Digital 5.1ch 48kHz 640Kbps”; or “English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1ch 48kHz 4.8-5.2Mbps.”
They all sounded different through headphones or speakers, some of this due to the substantial differences in actual signal flow, which ranged from a paltry 640Kps (kilobytes per second) with Dolby Digital 5.1 (rather thin by comparison to the others) to the substantial near-5.2Kbps of the DTS Master Audio sound. Through my matrix surround decoder feeding my speakers, I preferred the LPCM (Linear Pulse Code Modulation) 2 channel at 2.3 MBPS, the even more bit-laden DTS Master seeming more fussy and unclear. With my excellent Phiaton PS 300 noise canceling headphones, the rankings of sound quality remained the same.
Dynamic range was equally spectacular with all settings of the Audio button, and different recordings did tend to provide different sonic choices of the Audio setting, depending on one’s preference for spatiality over stereo imaging solidity. Of course, audio purists will ask, “which one is right?” Well, if it sounds great, why worry? You can get the truth when you go back to your austere hair-shirt system, if it will actually play Blu-ray discs, which is unlikely. Certainly the sound in 2 channel LPCM is as close as it gets to the truth until (and if) we ever get dedicated Blu-ray audio discs.
I ran the SX1000 through our Blu-ray Benchmark tests, and its truth here was very apparent, with perfect colour bars or geometric crosshatch pattern on the screen, and very few motion artifacts beyond a slight jerkiness in pans and zooms. There was no evidence of this in any of the many other Blu-ray discs I watched, so I guess it’s a pretty severe test. I repeated all these tests through the HDMI output into our Anthem LCOS projector, seeing the same freedom from artifacts, perfect colour and geometry.
But there was one peculiarity that surprised me when using the player’s HDMI output, which also carries digital audio to a properly equipped A/V receiver. For no reason I can imagine, when the HDMI is outputting digital A/V signal, all analog audio is cut off from the line output and both the headphone jacks. This is a silly annoyance that will cause many users without digital HDMI audio to have to accept inferior picture quality (straight yellow-cable video; no S-Video out is provided, either) into the home theatre display in order to get any sound at all from the SX1000. An additional deterrent to using it as your home player is that there is no way to turn off the LCD screen, as is offered on previous DVD portables I’ve owned. Ideally, the HDMI digital A/V out should cut off the screen video to save LCD, and possibly, battery life, but no such luck. Speaking of which, I put the player through several battery renewal cycles, clearly confirming its 5-hour capability.
Another key feature missing for viewing DVDs on the Sony’s own full screen is a Zoom feature (there is a Zoom available, buried in the Options menu, I discovered later, but it does not produce a picture that fills the screen), though this may be of interest only to those who record their own DVDs off air, as I do. Even if I recorded in widescreen, they played letter-boxed, in fact, boxed in on all sides. I guess that’s my problem, and I can zoom these discs on my home DVD or Blu-ray player, but at the cottage with the SX1000, I’ll have to watch a 7″ image rather than the full 10″ picture. And believe me, size matters in the image on a portable player.
The up side is that anamorphic commercial DVDs look almost as good on the full 10″ screen as Blu-rays, the difference in resolution not nearly as obvious as it is on our 92″ home screen with the Anthem LCOS projector. It should be noted that any films that are wider than 16×9, say 2.5-to-1 will have black bars at top and bottom, and that probably applies to Blu-rays, too, though my small collection mostly includes musical 16×9 discs.
Though the BDR-SX1000 plays most disc formats, it is arbitrarily choosy with my off-air recorded ones. For example, I recorded all of the PBS Hubble’s Canvas series when it was aired a few years back, all on the same RCA DVD recorder, the discs made compatible afterward. However, not all of them are read by the Sony, a few being identified as Data DVDs. I doubt I’ll ever figure out that little mystery. More on this below.
The SX1000 plays CDs exceedingly well, its built-in DACs of true audiophile quality, and it also handles the CD layer of hybrid SACDs. Just for fun, I tried a non-hybrid SACD, and it was a no go. But the great sound from CDs underscores the sonic differences heard from the various Dolby and DTS sonic flavours (though they’re not available with CD play), also attesting to the high resolution reproduction capability from the analog outputs. Until I have a chance to try it with an HDMI-audio-ready A/V preamp or receiver, the quality of digital audio signal and sound from this player will remain unknown to me.
As noted, another unplayable disc type identified by the player is the Data DVD. But a series of discs I possess each contain several hours of the fabulous BBC automotive program, Top Gear. I was very curious to see (literally) if these would play on this Sony. Not only did they play, but it was glorious widescreen, that filled the 10″ display! The picture quality was just fine, full anamorphic DVD quality. They were also identified by the player as .avi files; in other cases the SX1000 would not read a Data DVD, but here we were in luck!. Boy, these (and I’ve got dozens of Gears on disc, thanks to a friend of Aaron’s) will keep me docile on cold or rainy Summer days at the cottage for sure. Actually, the shows will keep me laughing, from all the outrageous stunts they perform with exotic cars.
But back to the business at hand (as I kept telling myself during the review process), and the inevitable conclusion: the Sony BDP-SX1000 Blu-ray/DVD/CD/plus player is a remarkable piece of consumer design, with just a few forgivable flaws, and a promised wealth of long-term entertainment, wherever and whenever you may go. That’s a helluva lot of fun for $300 and the cost of software!
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