X
CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

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

The Sony BDP-S3200 will play your Blu-rays just fine but it's not quite as up-to-date as competitors especially when it comes to streaming media.

Ty_Pendlebury.jpg
Ty Pendlebury
Ty_Pendlebury.jpg

Ty Pendlebury

Editor

Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.

See full bio
5 min read

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 Amazon Fire TV .

sony-bdp-s3200-blu-ray-player-product-photos01.jpg
6.8

Sony BDP-S3200

The Good

The Sony BDP-S3200 offers a high number of streaming services and will play most forms of physical disk; DLNA streaming, Miracast and onboard "super" Wi-Fi add to the unit's flexibility; the cost of entry is fairly low.

The Bad

The XMB interface is looking tired in the face of streamlined offerings from competitors; accessing your content and navigating long lists of streaming services is very slow; there are some slight image quality hiccups in Blu-ray playback; the player lacks pizzazz compared to streaming rivals.

The Bottom Line

The Sony BDP-S3200 will play your Blu-rays just fine but it doesn't do enough to embrace streaming media like its competitors.

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.

Design

sony-bdp-s3200-blu-ray-player-product-photos02.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

sony-bdp-s3200-blu-ray-player-product-photos03.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

sony-bdp-s3200-blu-ray-player-product-photos09.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

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 newest gaming console its Blu-ray range is stuck with it.

sony-bdp-s3200-blu-ray-player-product-photos06.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

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!

Features

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.

sony-bdp-s3200-blu-ray-player-product-photos07.jpg
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.

sony-bdp-s3200-blu-ray-player-product-photos05.jpg
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.

sony-bdp-s3200-blu-ray-player-product-photos01.jpg
6.8

Sony BDP-S3200

Score Breakdown

Design 7Ecosystem 6Features 7Performance 7Value 7
Shopping laptop image
Get the best price on everything
Shop your favorite products and we’ll find the best deal with a single click. Designed to make shopping easier.
Add CNET Shopping