The Sony BDV-E770W is the company's flagship Blu-ray home theater for 2010 and it's outfitted with just about every feature you could think of. It can stream media for a ton of online sources (including Netflix, Amazon VOD, Pandora, and Slacker) and it comes with a USB Wi-Fi dongle so you don't need Ethernet in the living room. A wireless rear-speaker package is also included, which is a welcome plus now that many manufacturers don't include this even on high-end systems. You can connect an iPod directly to the BDV-E770W's USB port, and browse your music using the onscreen display. The built-in Blu-ray player is even 3D compatible.
With all that functionality, it's surprising that the BDV-E770W lacks a major feature available on competing systems like the Samsung HT-C6500, and even much cheaper systems like the LG LHB535: HDMI inputs. That's a shame, because the BDV-E770W combines the rest of its functionality with excellent sound quality, stylish design, and fast disc-loading speeds (for an HTIB). If you can get around the lack of HDMI inputs, the BDV-E770W is an impressive Blu-ray home theater system even at $600. Still, buyers should definitely check out the competing Samsung HT-C6500, which offers slightly better sound, two HDMI inputs, and a lower price tag.
Sony's home theater systems find the sweet spot between the overly glossy look of Samsung's and the ho-hum drab of Panasonic's systems. All of the speakers are small enough so that they don't intrude on your living room, coming in at 3 inches wide by 8.88 inches high by 2.88 inches deep.
The overall aesthetic is a muted, matte-gray finish, with some gloss added to the AV receiver/Blu-ray main unit for a refined feel. The front-panel buttons on the main unit are just tiny nubs that run along the crevice on the bottom; think of them as a happy medium between touch-sensitive controls and physical buttons.
Like nearly all Sony products these days, the BDV-E770W 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 types (music, photos, videos) are laid out horizontally, along with the setup menu. The video icon includes both Blu-ray playback, streaming-media services, and streaming video from a DLNA-connected PC.
The BDV-E770W uses a different interface for Netflix streaming than most devices we test. Although Sony's custom interface allows you to see more titles at once, we found the cover art graphics to be too small to read when browsing.
The major knock against the BDV-E770W is the lack of any HDMI input connectivity. Competing systems such as the Samsung HT-C6500 and LG LHB975 both offer two HDMI inputs, plus optical and analog audio inputs. Even Sony's $300 HT-CT150 sound bar has three HDMI inputs, so it's a bit puzzling why the BDV-E770W doesn't have any. If you can live without HDMI, the BDV-E770W has a decent selection of audio-only connections, including two digital audio inputs and two analog audio inputs. You can connect three external devices overall, which is about one less than most other systems.
The BDV-E770W is well-appointed with features. It includes the TA-SA200WR wireless surround amplifier, enabling you to use the rear speakers without running wires from the front of your home theater to the back; that's a feature that's missing from the competing Samsung HT-C6500.
The included remote is cluttered, as is the case with many all-in-one systems. We liked the inclusion of button rockers for volume control, although they're placed too far down for such important controls. The directional pad is centrally placed, and we appreciated it being surrounded by important Blu-ray buttons like "top menu" and "pop up menu." Playback controls are well-placed, but the buttons are small. If it was up to us, we'd dump the number pad to focus the remote on the more-important functions.