When 3D was rolled out at CES 2010, it seemed clear that 3D playback on Blu-ray players would be limited to flagship models in the $400 range. That is, until Sony announced in February that all players from the BDP-S470 up would get a 3D upgrade in the summer; 3D was commoditized before it even got started.
The Sony BDP-S570 isn't the cheapest 3D Blu-ray player from Sony (that would be the $200 BDP-S470), but it's the only model in its price range to offer 3D compatibility. It has all the major features we expect on midrange Blu-ray players, including built-in Wi-Fi and a full suite of streaming media services (including Netflix, Amazon VOD, YouTube, and Slacker), plus some interesting extras like SACD playback and Gracenote support. It's also the fastest player we've ever tested, handily beating out the Oppo BDP-83 on nearly all our operational speed tests.
We had only two major gripes with the BDP-S570; too many of its features (DLNA, Pandora, Picasa, 3D) are "coming soon" via firmware upgrade, and its Netflix streaming video quality is subpar.
If Sony makes good on its firmware updates and addresses the Netflix quality issues, we think the BDP-S570 may end up being the best option in its price class, but Sony needs to wrap a few loose ends before we give it our full recommendation.
The BDP-S570 manages to look sleek without resorting to the flip-down panels that are becoming more common on Blu-ray players. The front panel is all glossy black, with an indent running along the bottom where the front panel controls and USB port are located.
The controls are a unique hybrid between touch-sensitive buttons and standard physical buttons; there's no large button like on most players, but there are small nubs that give you physical feedback. They strike a good balance between style and usability.
The BDP-S570's AV output selection is standard. Sony has told us that the HDMI output meets HDMI 1.4 specification and can fully handle the 3D Blu-ray spec, but that it doesn't support some of the other features of HDMI 1.4, such as the audio return channel or Ethernet over HDMI.
Like nearly all Sony products these days, the BDP-S570 uses a version of the XMB interface. We're fans of the design, although there's a slight learning curve up front to get the logic of the layout. Different media type (music, photos, videos) are laid out horizontally, along with the setup menu. The most important thing is that navigation feels zippy (although not as quick as a PS3), so you can quickly get around the menu.
Blu-ray playback is lumped in with all streaming media services under the Video icon. Our biggest gripe with the video section is that Sony didn't use a lot of discretion when picking services; there's a lot of nonessential streaming video services that would be better grouped into a folder like "more services."
The BDP-S570's Netflix interface is different than it is on most Blu-ray players. In some ways, it's nice as you're able to see more titles than the standard interface with large box shots of movies. On the other hand, the box shot was too small to tell what it was until we highlighted it.
Though we're largely willing to overlook the minor image quality defects on Blu-ray and DVD, we had a harder time excusing the BDP-S570's poor Netflix image quality. We generally find that devices that support Netflix streaming offer very similar performance, but the last few Sony products we've reviewed, including the BDP-N460 and KDL-46EX700, have had subpar Netflix streaming. On the BDP-S570, we saw lots of stuttering while watching an episode of "Lost," and the image was also significantly softer. This is one of the major drawbacks to the player currently, although it's possible Sony will fix the problem with a firmware upgrade.
The included remote is nearly identical to the one included with last year's Sony Blu-ray players, with one major exception: Sony's brought back the eject button. The rest of the layout is well-thought-out, too, with the directional pad falling easily under our thumb and play controls given their own area toward the bottom.
The BDP-S570 can also be controlled using Sony's "BD remote" iPhone app. The idea is great, as there are quite a few times when we'd rather enter text using the iPhone's touch-keyboard instead of the standard remote via an onscreen keyboard. Unfortunately, the BD remote app's execution isn't quite right. The iPhone's screen doesn't replicate what's on your HDTV, so you're forced to look down at your iPhone to press a button, then look back at your HDTV to see the response. We're excited to see the next-generation implementation of this idea--especially if Sony can get the onscreen menus to show up on the phone--but in its current incarnation, we don't consider it a particularly worthwhile feature.