I have a confession to make. I don’t own a Blu-ray disc player. In fact, I don’t think I’ve even powered on my DVD player in well over two years. It’s not that I don’t love movies. It’s just that I’ve become far too reliant on good ol’ Netflix and its overabundance of chick flicks and ocean-related documentaries to bother with anything else. Needless to say, I was a little concerned when I was sent two new Sony Blu-ray Disc players to review. Was I the right person for the job? I don’t even own a Blu-ray disc! Turns out I had no reason to worry. It also turns out that I want one of these little guys for myself.

The Products

 

The two Sony Blu-ray Disc players I reviewed were the BDP-S3500 and the BDP-S5500. I’m not going to lie; it took quite a bit of effort on my part to understand the difference between the two by looking at the boxes. The BDP-S3500 box has accents of green. That of the BDP-S5500 has accents of blue. Ok. Awesome. After what felt like an eternity (or 20 seconds­–I’m very impatient) I noticed that the BDP-S5500 box had two extra icons on it–one that noted “3D” and another that noted “TRILUMINOS Color.” So I started with what could only be assumed to be the less feature-rich model, the BDP-S3500.

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My first reaction when unboxing the Sony Blu-ray BDP-S3500 was shock upon seeing how small it was. To be honest, the very first thought that went through my mind was “this could fit in my purse.” Perhaps it’s because my DVD player is straight out of the early 2000’s and I don’t own a Blu-ray player, but for some reason I was expecting a much more substantial piece of equipment. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by its lightweight and compact size. In the box were five items­–the Blu-ray disc player itself, a power cord, a remote control, two AAA batteries, and an instruction guide.

Appearance

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The Blu-ray player itself is 9” wide, 1.5” high and 7.6” deep, so similar to a ream of paper, but at only 0.8kg (about 1.7 pounds), a fraction of the weight. It features a very minimalist design with only two subtle buttons, one to open the Blu-ray/DVD tray and another for power, a USB input and a flip down face that reveals the disc tray. I’m a big fan of keeping things simple, especially when so many components make up an entertainment system, so really liked the design.

As for the remote, I felt it to be a little juvenile in appearance, almost as if it came as part of a toddler’s toy. In addition to the standard Play, Pause, Rewind, Stop, and Next buttons, the remote also featured three large buttons in the middle for “Home,” “Favourite” and “Netflix” each of which acting as a shortcut to the Blu-ray’s home app screen.

Set Up

Sony-Setup4.JPGAs is the case with the majority of auxiliary devices for TVs these days, the BDP-S3500 does not come with an HDMI cable, even though one is essential to its function. So I had to unplug my Apple TV to connect the Blu-ray player, which wasn’t a big deal, but worth mentioning. Once connected via HDMI and plugged into a wall outlet, the device takes you step by step through the exceptionally simple set up. Select language. Select wireless network. Enter password for wireless network. Boom. Done. I was taken aback at how simple it all was! That said, it really doesn’t take much to surprise me!

I was then presented with a home screen that showcased a handful of apps, including NHL, Netflix, Crackle, and YouTube. According to the instruction guide and Sony website, you can access over 300 streaming services, although when I went to add more apps to customize my home page, I was only presented with a list of about 100. Very strange, indeed.

Earlier in the day I heard about a new YouTube video that was said to “make you like Justin Beiber again” so I quickly arrowed over to the app and clicked on it. Unfortunately, I was prompted with a screen that indicated: “this unit needs a software update in order to receive more new and exciting content.” Well drat. There was no disc in the box the BDP-S3500 came in, so I wasn’t sure where I would locate such an update. Thankfully the instruction guide told me what to do, so I followed the simple instructions, waited about five minutes for the software to download and I was in business.

Functionality

Sony-Setup2.JPGAs previously mentioned, my first order of business was to locate this Justin Beiber video on YouTube and see what the hubbub was about. The search functionality for YouTube was virtually identical to any other set-top box or app. I keyed in the first few letters of his name and the video in question popped up. Once I hit play I immediately noticed how clear the picture was, and yes, sadly, I do like Justin Beiber again.

Next, it was time to test a Blu-ray disc. As I mentioned, I don’t own a Blu-ray player, so it goes without saying that I don’t own any Blu-ray discs–thank goodness for neighbours! I popped in my borrowed Blu-ray disc, Inception, and pressed play. Holy clarity batman! Now, it may be because I had laser eye surgery two months ago, but the clarity on the screen was ridiculous! Perhaps all the “pro-Blu-ray” mumbo-jumbo my dad has been espousing for years actually has some basis in truth! Who knew?! I tested a few other borrowed Blu-ray discs to make sure that the clarity on my TV screen wasn’t just a byproduct of my recent surgery. Each one was exceptionally clear.

I also tested the Sony BDP-S3500 with a DVD. The picture quality wasn’t quite as clear as was the case with the Blu-ray discs, but the fact that it can play both is a huge asset in my opinion. One of the reasons I was averse to purchasing a Blu-ray player in the past was because I have a very large library of DVDs–even though I haven’t watched them in forever.

In addition to playing both Blu-ray discs and DVDs, the Sony BDP-S3500 can also play your CDs as well as display videos and photos, or play music from a connected USB storage device. It also comes with PlayStation Now support, which allows you to rent and stream PS games without having to own a PlayStation. However, you do need a controller, so I was quite disappointed when I learned that I would not be able to take advantage of this feature.

Lastly, with the Sony BDP-S3500, you can stream content from your Android compatible smart phone or tablet directly to your TV. As a devout iOS girl, this was a feature I was not able to take advantage of.

What about the BDP-S5500?

So far, this review has spoken entirely about the Sony Blu-ray Disc player model BDP-S3500. What about the other model I mentioned? Well, in a nutshell, it is virtually identical to the BDP-S3500 in every way, including dimensions, appearance, set up, and functionality, except for two key differences.

Difference #1 – The BDP-S5500 is 3D capable. All you need is a 3D-enabled TV and the BDP-S5500 will let you enjoy all your 3D Blu-ray movies in crystal clear realism. It can also upscale 2D videos to simulated 3D, which adds a layer of depth and detail to whatever it is you choose to watch.

Difference #2 – The BDP-S5500 comes equipped with Sony’s proprietary TRILUMINOS display technology, which is said to enhance hard-to-reproduce reds, aqua blues and emerald greens, to make your picture even more realistic than you can imagine. While I didn’t notice much of a difference in picture quality or colour between the BDP-S3500 and the BDP-S5500 with TRILUMINOS, it’s because the technology is optimized for use with accompanying TRILUMINOS TVs.

The verdict

In only one short week, I fell in love with Sony’s new Blu-ray disc players. When you combine a simple installation, a compact design, and the fact that they serve quintuple duty as Blu-ray players, DVD players, CD players, PlayStation consoles, and smart TVs, I’m sold. Plus the “juvenile” remote control I mentioned is actually really easy to use, and the large “Netflix” and “Home” buttons were used repeatedly through my testing. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up!

The Sony Blu-ray BDP-S3500 is available on BestBuy.ca now, and the BDP-S5500 will be coming very soon. Check out the full line of Sony products here.