Sony BDP-S3200 review: Sony's Blu-ray player shows its age

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).

Compared to the previous BDP-S53100, Sony has added only minor improvements in the form of the new Quick Start feature, better Wi-Fi and Miracast. Quick Start offers an instantaneous start-up, but also correspondingly means it draws more power.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Becoming more important than the types of physical media a Blu-ray player play is the number of services it supports, and the Sony boasts over 200. Standouts include Netflix, Amazon Instant (it works, despite the negative reviews on Amazon) and Hulu on the video side and Pandora on the audio side. Sadly these services are presented in long vertical lists with no way to create shortcuts: something that competitors offer. The Roku 3, Fire TV and Apple TV all handle their offered services in a much more user-friendly way, and even Blu-ray players like the Samsung BD-H6500 offer a configurable home page. While you can choose to go to the BDP-S3200's Sony Entertainment Network interface and add "favorites" the additional startup time means it isn't any more convenient.

Other features include Miracast screen mirroring, DLNA streaming with support for FLAC, WAV, and Sony's revitalized DSD format, and navigation by the TV SideView app.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Connections are limited to digital only, and only one apiece. You get: one Ethernet connection, one USB input, a coaxial digital output, and a single HDMI port. The player also includes onboard "Super" Wi-Fi, which it brings down from last year's S5100. However, based on my tests with the S5100 it didn't perform any better than the "ordinary" wi-fi in the competitive Panasonic DMP-BDT230.

Performance

The Sony BDP-S3200 will play most media in a satisfying fashion, and this is what you should expect out of any modern Blu-ray player. Blu-ray replay is as good as expected though the Sony did a have a slight issue with 3:2 content. In our synthetic HQV test the player exhibited some judder in the race car meaning it ultimately collects a fail in that test. In real terms this could mean you see a little more judder in film camera pans than a player which handles this better.

DVD replay was fairly good with the player passing most tests successfully. The only one it failed was the chroma multi-burst pattern by painting one of the sections as black instead of tightly packed red and blue lines. Will you see this issue in most program material though? Probably not.

Though the player lacks a fancy dual-core processor it is still fast in some aspects, particularly in startup. Pressing the Power button while in "quick start" mode turns the player on immediately.

Netflix startup was a little tardy though with a time of 19.6 seconds putting it near the back of the pack. In terms of picture quality though it was fairly good, and about equal to what you should expect. While the player uses the newest Netflix interface I still encountered some I quirks. For example, I managed to prevent Netflix from accessing the network by quitting at the "choose user screen". I could only fix this by disabling the Quick Start and rebooting the machine.

Conclusion

Should you buy this Sony instead of a media streamer? Well, if you have a bunch of disks you want to play then it makes sense to get something that does both. But even something as seemingly cookie cutter as a Blu-ray player can offer features that make it more compelling. Given that Samsung's interface is more configurable and user friendly, and models like the (more expensive) BD-H6900 offer multi-room audio it seems that a Blu-ray player with almost tacked-on streaming services no longer cuts it.

The BDP-S3200's performance is mostly good, and if you don't miss 3D playback this could be the Sony to go for. However an aging interface and a corresponding lack of usability versus streaming set-top competitors means this is probably not going to be the go-to player of 2014.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Internet Streaming Services Hulu Plus
  • Additional Features auto power off
  • Media Type CD-RW
  • Type Blu-ray disc player
  • Sound Output Mode stereo
  • Upscaling via HDMI up to 1080p