Let's say you have $100 and are looking for a way to get movies onto your television. You could go for the Sony BDP-S3200 with its 200 streaming services and Blu-ray playback, or you could go for an upstart like the new.
While the diminutive BDP-3200 certainly offers a wealth of services it's not the focus of this player, and that's to its detriment in the current market. Sure, people have a back-catalogue of disks they like to play, but the future is in streaming and the Sony is stuck with an XMB-based interface that predates even Netflix. Performance on disk-based media is good, with some minor exceptions, but its lack of a display hurts it a little.
Still, at $100 (or AU$139) the Sony is an OK deal, but it isn't that much of an improvement on last year's model. Sadly with all of the competition it now faces it doesn't get more of a commendation from me than a gentle shrug and a wistful sigh.
Blu-ray players have shrunk in size a lot in recent years, and this is in part due to the analog sunset enforced by the movie studios. Without the need for a dozen analog connectors on the back the boxes themselves can now be smaller. At only 10.44 inches wide, its almost half the size of most components and its 1.7-inch height means there's not much room for anything other than a disk drawer. Notably missing is a display, which means you'll need to rely on your television for navigation, which can be annoying if you just want to listen to a CD.
Last year's players featured touch-sensitive capacitive buttons and while these might seem cool they are easy to bump and accidentally activate. The newest player fixes this by reverting back to physical buttons. They are triangular and fit with the gem-like top design of the player. While Sony says the raised design is simply cosmetic and that you can still arrange other components on top of these players it does mean that these top-mounted controls could be blocked.
Get out the birthday candles: the XrossMediaBar (XMB) used on the BDP-S3200 is now an 8-year-old interface, having originally debuted with the PlayStation 3. To put it in context this was the same time that the much-maligned Windows Vista operating system was released. While I still find it easy to navigate around the XMB it feels stale now, and though Sony has moved on with other products like TVs and the its Blu-ray range is stuck with it.
The remote control is small but fully-featured and unlike others we've seen so far still includes a Netflix shortcut. The buttons are a little squishy and a little close together though.
Interestingly, the player features a power brick instead of an onboard power supply, and this is something we've seen on many Sony devices this year -- including TVs!
Sony has four Blu-ray players available this year, and apart from the "flagship" the first three are all very similar. All will play Blu-ray/DVD/CD and streaming services but the differentiators are integrated Wi-Fi (BDP-S3200) and then step up to 3D (BDP-S5200). If you want to pay an extra $60 for the "king" BDP-S6200 you'll get a 4K upscaler (not needed, as all 4K TVs have them) and a dual-core processor (which should speed apps up a little).