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Sony BDP-S5500 review:Streaming games and spinning discs make a value player

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The Good The Sony BDP-S5500 Blu-ray player offers excellent picture quality in a compact package. Streaming media is the prime focus, and users can assemble shortcuts the way they like for the first time on a Sony player. The ability to play PlayStation Now games is a bonus.

The Bad Compared with a Roku, the Sony is slow to load streaming apps. There are no display or playback controls on the unit itself. The Settings menu is sluggish.

The Bottom Line If you're looking for a streaming box that not only does Blu-ray movies but also plays games, then the Sony BDP-S5500 is an absolute bargain.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Ecosystem 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Value 9

Review Sections

While streaming media is undoubtedly more convenient than physical discs, Netflix (4K or otherwise) still can't match the picture quality of Blu-ray. If you want the convenience of streaming movies but also want to watch them in the best possible quality, then a Blu-ray player such as Sony's latest BDP-S5500 is still the best way to go.

Sony has improved on last year's BDP-S3200 and BDP-S5200 models by tweaking the user interface and picture performance. It offers a discreet size, and also some interesting features including 3D playback and streaming PS3 games thanks to PlayStation Now.

While streaming dominates and we wait for 4K Blu-ray to hit the market, the BDP-S5500 is one of the last of a dying breed. That said, it's probably one of the best disc players you'll see this year for the money.

Design

Sarah Tew/CNET

Back when CD Walkmans were still a thing, I had a Discman that was only a little bigger than the CD itself, and it cost a lot more than a regular model. But in this modern era the reverse is true -- Sony somehow charges less for smaller models than it does for the larger ones.

Witness the S5500. At $100 (£109 in the UK and AU$169 in Australia) it's about as big as two Blu-ray cases side-by-side (roughly 8 inches square) which makes it half the size and price of the flagship BDP-S7200.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While last year's Sony players boasted jewel-like cosmetic touches, the S5500 has almost no flair. It's gunmetal gray and throws in some faux-brushed-aluminum accents. The front of the unit facing the viewer is fairly unremarkable, with just the disk tray, an eject and power button plus a USB port.

Sony eliminated the display entirely, so you'll need to rely on your television for navigation, which can be annoying if you just want to listen to a CD.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The remote control is small but fully featured and still includes a Netflix shortcut. The buttons are a little squishy and a little close together, though.

Features

Sarah Tew/CNET

Let's start with the most interesting feature first: the S5500 and the $90 S3500 are the first Blu-ray players to feature Sony's PlayStation Now streaming service. For a $19.99-a-month subscription fee, or a la carte rental charge, you can stream 100 or more PS3 games to your TV without needing a game console. The only set-top box that offered this service previously was the $79 PlayStation TV , which lacks a Blu-ray drive. The Playstation Now service is only available in select areas of the continental US and Canada for now.

The BDP-S5500 is a 3D Blu-ray player that features support for all of the latest movie audio codecs. It can also transcode from DTS which is convenient if you have an audio system, like many sound bars for example, that can only decode Dolby.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As the BDP-S3500 and BDP-S5500 appear almost identical, what is the difference? Firstly, the S5500 offers "Triluminous" technology which Sony says provides greater color depth with the right discs (a handful of mastered in 4K Blu-ray) and a compatible Sony TV. Secondly, only the S5500 can play 3D discs.

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