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Sony BDP-S3700 review: Sony's BDP-S3700: There's life in HD Blu-ray yet

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With 4K Blu-ray having finally arrived in 2016 and streaming players costing as little as $30, it seems almost "retro" to be buying a 1080p disc player these days. Or does it? Standard Blu-ray discs lack the benefits of HDR but can still look better than streaming video, even in 4K.

The Good

The Sony BDP-S3700 Blu-ray player demonstrates good features and performance for the money. The number of streaming apps is solid, and disc loading times are fairly respectable.

The Bad

Entering text in apps is laggy and frustrating. The implementation of the PlayStation Now gaming app is relatively poor.

The Bottom Line

The Sony BDP-S3700 Blu-ray player offers a lot of features for little money but a lack of input responsiveness can spoil some of the fun.

Despite not planning to release a 4K Blu-ray player until 2017 at the earliest, Sony still sells plenty of regular, old 1080p Blu-ray players. They include high-end models like the $350 UHP-H1 as well as more modest offerings such as the BDP-S3700.

Features

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The S3700 is a cut above many sub-$100 players. In addition to PlayStation Now, the player will also stream from a lot more services than competitors, including apps such as Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube, Pandora and Spotify. And of course the Sony will play back Blu-rays, DVDs and CDs.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The BDP-S3700 is a digital-only machine with only an HDMI port, digital coax, and USB for connecting your gear. Internet access can be provided by either wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The interface is friendly and easy to configure with shortcuts to your favorite services, while the stubby remote control has the all-important Netflix shortcut. I had some niggles with usability, however, the most glaring being the inability to eject or insert a disc when Netflix or other apps were active. I also found the interface could be slow to respond, especially when inputting text in apps. A lag of several seconds between each letter makes it unusually frustrating to setup or search Netflix, for example.

PlayStation Now

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Sony

For $20 a month or $100 a year, users can access new and back-catalog PS3 games from this Blu-ray player. All you'll need is a PlayStation controller, sold separately.

In practice, however, this feature is too limited for all but the most occasional gaming.

We tried out PlayStation Now using a PS4 controller connected via the USB port and found that adventure games such as Uncharted worked best. Intensive first-player shooters, on the other hand, were too laggy to be competitive, an issue that probably has as much to do with the streaming platform as with the player itself. There were also bugs: playing the "relaxing" puzzle game Flower quickly became jarring due to loud audio pops and pixilation.

Text input lag was even worse than with Netflix, taking six seconds between pressing a letter and it appearing onscreen. Games also took a very long time to load: from Galaga to Uncharted 3, most games took between 2 and 4 minutes to access the loading screen.

Picture quality and speed

The Sony is a capable performer for the price. It passed all of our synthetic and real-world image tests in both Blu-ray and DVD. We tested the player with a high-end LG 4K OLED and found the image to be particularly pleasing.

As far as playback speed, the Sony wasn't especially quick, taking 24.9 seconds to get into Netflix and 11.26 seconds to start "Mission Impossible III" from off. While this beats the competitive LG BP350 by more than a few seconds, if you want more speed can it's worth spending the extra twenty bucks on the quicker Samsung J5900.

Conclusion

Sony is one of the only brands that has bothered refreshing its line of Blu-ray players for 2016, but given that the 2015 models are still good, it's hard to see Sony making the same effort next year.

Picture quality is a non-issue these days, as most players under $500 perform almost identically. It's speed that now separates them. While the S3700 is a solid performer with a likable interface, the speediest player under $100 is still made by Samsung.

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7.6

Sony BDP-S3700

Score Breakdown

Design 7Ecosystem 7Features 8Performance 7Value 8