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Sony BDP-S580 review: Sony BDP-S580

Sony BDP-S580

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Matthew Moskovciak
Matthew_Moskovciak.jpg

Matthew Moskovciak

Senior Associate Editor / Reviews - Home theater

Covering home audio and video, Matthew Moskovciak helps CNET readers find the best sights and sounds for their home theaters. E-mail Matthew or follow him on Twitter @cnetmoskovciak.

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5 min read

Sony BDP-S580
7.8

Sony BDP-S580

The Good

The <b>Sony BDP-S580</b> is a faster-than-average Blu-ray player and its exterior design is one of our favorites. The BDP-S580 has built-in Wi-Fi and the best current lineup of streaming-media services, including Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, Vudu, Slacker, and CinemaNow, and the free iOS and Android control app can search some streaming services.

The Bad

The BDP-S580's user interface can be tedious to navigate. And even once you load a streaming service like Netflix, Sony's custom interface displays small cover art that can be tough to read. The BDP-S580 also lacks the popular MLB.TV service, as well as onboard memory for accessing BD-Live features.

The Bottom Line

The Sony BDP-S580 has built-in Wi-Fi and more streaming services than all competing Blu-ray players, but its user interface is mediocre.

If you're buying a Blu-ray player in 2011, you're probably as interested in streaming-media services as you are in Blu-ray. The BDP-S580 is a tantalizing option for a streaming-media fan, packing in more services (including Netflix, Amazon Instant, and Hulu Plus) than any of its competitors. It also has built-in Wi-Fi and an excellent smartphone application you can use to search Netflix and other streaming-media services--no competitor provides this option for searching inside Netflix.

Yet we can't recommend the BDP-S580 without a few caveats. Unlike other Blu-ray players, the BDP-S580 has its own custom user interface for each streaming-media service, and these aren't as good as the other players' interfaces. And Sony's main XMB interface can be tedious to use, especially when scrolling through all of the numerous streaming services. Since most buyers generally stick to just a couple of major services, competing units like the Panasonic DMP-BDT210 and LG BD670 that offer better navigation may be preferable. But if you want all of the niche services that Sony offers and don't mind putting in the effort, the BDP-S580 is a solid option.

Design
In terms of looks the BDP-S580 is our favorite 2011 model so far. Like most Blu-ray players it sports a glossy black front panel, with a minimalist aesthetic and no large buttons on the front. Instead the buttons are tiny nubs along the bottom edge, which we liked ourselves--although some users might prefer full-size buttons. There's a handy USB port on the front panel in addition to the one on the back.

Sony BDP-S580 remote
Sony's remote is nice and simple, although it lacks direct buttons for accessing streaming-media services.

The included remote is pretty good. It's relatively minimalist, with a lot of space devoted to the central directional pad and the playback buttons below. The only thing missing is a direct button for Netflix (which can be found on Samsung and Panasonic Blu-ray remotes, as well as many Sony TV remotes) or other streaming-media services.

Sony remote app
We love that you can search Netflix and Amazon with the iOS remote app, but the ads are inexplicable.

The BDP-S580 can also be controlled by Sony's Media Remote app, available for both iOS and Android. It's the best remote app we've seen for a Blu-ray player so far, entirely because you're able to use your phone to type in searches of streaming-media services, a function that isn't offered by any of its competitors yet. If you've got a smartphone, the ability to use search using your phone makes up for some of the deficiencies in the player's user interface.

User interface
The BDP-S580 has a modified version of the Sony XMB interface, which will be familiar to users of the PlayStation 3, PSP, and other Sony home theater products. While we're fans of the interface on the PS3, it doesn't work quite as well on a standalone Blu-ray player.

Sony BDP-S580 user interface
The XMB interface only lets you see a few services at a time.

One problem is the sheer number of services Sony offers. While we appreciate that Sony included lots of high-quality names like Netflix, Amazon Instant, and Vudu, many of the others (Singingfool, Flixster) seem more like filler. Even worse, Vudu is buried in with these other niche services, making it really difficult to find.

Sony BDP-S580 user interface

Sony BDP-S580 user interface
The Amazon Instant and Netflix user interfaces on the BDP-S580 are subpar.

The user interfaces of the individual apps are mediocre too. As mentioned above, rather than give each app its own interface, Sony tries to creates a more unified look for all the services. Unfortunately, the result is less than ideal. The cover art in the Netflix and Amazon Instant interfaces is smallish and can be difficult to read while you're leaning back on the couch, especially on smaller TVs. And though the layout has improved significantly via firmware updates over the last couple months, it still lags behind the user interfaces of competitors like Panasonic and LG.

Overall, we definitely prefer the simple approach to streaming-media services offered by Panasonic and LG over Sony's. Check out our full review of Sony Bravia Internet Video for more information and comparisons of the content portals offered on Panasonic, Samsung, and LG Blu-ray players.

Features

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Key Blu-ray features
Wi-Fi Built-in 2D-to-3D conversion No
3D Blu-ray Yes Onboard memory No
Other: DLNA

The Sony BDP-S580 has a few premium features (built-in Wi-Fi, 3D Blu-ray support, smartphone control), but it doesn't have 2D-to-3D conversion or onboard memory. We wouldn't worry about missing either of those. In our opinion, 2D-to-3D conversion is little more than a gimmick, and onboard memory is only used for BD-Live features, which we never find ourselves using.

Like most players in its price class, the BDP-S580 is DLNA-compatible, which means you can stream digital media files over your home network using a DLNA server or off a connected USB drive. Supported file types include MKV, Xvid, JPEG, and MP3 (a full list of supported file types is available on page 30 of the user manual (PDF). While we were successfully able to play back our suite of test files, digital media files have tons of variation in how they're encoded, so your results may differ. If digital media playback is important to you, we'd recommend looking through user opinions on CNET and elsewhere to see how a player performs in real-world scenarios.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Streaming-media features
Netflix Yes Pandora Yes
Amazon Instant Yes Napster No
Vudu Yes Picasa No
Hulu Plus Yes Facebook Yes
MLB.TV No Twitter No
YouTube Yes Weather No
Other: Qriosity, Crackle, Slacker, NPR, Berliner Philharmoniker, Gracenote

Sony's content portal, Bravia Internet Video, is absolutely jam-packed with services. Even beyond the services listed above, Sony has a ton of niche video services that it supports, from Wired to Dr. Oz.

Amazon Instant Streaming is our favorite extra, especially for viewers without cable. While competing services like Vudu are a compelling alternative for video-on-demand movies, Amazon Instant offers by far the largest selection of TV shows for pay-per-view watching, including both network and cable shows. Sony Bravia Internet Video is also the only content portal to offer both Amazon Instant and Hulu Plus.

That being said, the BDP-S580 isn't our favorite Blu-ray player for streaming media, because of the user interface shortcomings discussed before. Again, check out our extensive hands-on review of streaming on Blu-ray players for comparisons.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Connectivity
HDMI outputs Single Analog outputs Stereo
Component video output Yes Digital audio outputs Coaxial
USB ports 2 SD card slot No

The Sony BDP-S580 has the same assortment of ports you find on most Blu-ray players. As usual its component output is limited to 480i resolution because of annoying AACS rules.

Blu-ray disc load times and player speed

Blu-ray disc load times and player speed
Average seconds Composite score
Disc loading 42.41 Disc loading 94
Netflix 23.72 Netflix 131
Navigation 5.57 Navigation 135
CNET speed rating 109
Higher composite scores indicate faster performance, with an average 2011 Blu-ray player having a composite score of 100. For more information, see our guide to how we test Blu-ray players.

CNET speed rating (composite score)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The Sony BDP-S580 has a CNET speed rating of 109, which means it's faster than an average 2011 midrange Blu-ray player. The relatively high speed score is due to fast Netflix and navigation times, both of which are significantly faster than the competition.

The BDP-S580 is actually a little below average in disc-loading times, so if you'll mostly be using the player to watch Blu-ray movies, it may not be the best choice. The competing Panasonic DMP-BDT210 is the fastest disc-loading player we've reviewed this year.

If you're interested in all the details about the BDP-S580's speed compared with other 2011 players, check out our full 2011 Blu-ray player comparison chart and scroll down to the load times section.

Image quality
We put the BDP-S580 through our full battery of image quality tests, but before we get to the results, let's be perfectly clear--we don't think most buyers should worry about image quality when deciding what Blu-ray player to buy. The differences, especially on the Blu-ray side, range from minute to nonexistent, and even DVD performance is very close between players. The only exception is for people with home theater projectors, where you may actually see a difference on a 100-plus-inch screen. In that case, it may be worth shelling out for a reference-level Blu-ray player like the Oppo BDP-93.

If you're into the nitty-gritty image quality details, again, check out our full 2011 Blu-ray player comparison chart and scroll down to the performance section. For more information on our testing procedure, you can read more about how we test Blu-ray players.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Blu-ray image quality: test patterns and program material
Film resolution Pass 'Ghost Rider' Pass
Video resolution Pass 'Mission Impossible: III' Pass
Text overlay on film Pass 'Sunshine' Pass
Cadence tests 8/8 'Tony Bennett: An American Classic' Pass
Chroma zone plate Pass 'NIN Live: Beside You in Time' Pass

You'll find no complaints from us on Blu-ray image quality, as the BDP-S580 passed every single test we threw at it. The only other Blu-ray player that performs that this well is the Oppo BDP-93, which sells for $500. However, we wouldn't read too much into that, as all the players have essentially identical image quality under real-world viewing conditions.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Streaming-video image quality
Netflix Pass

Though the image quality of Netflix streaming video varied a little bit last year between players, we haven't observed any differences so far among this year's models. The BDP-S580 provides the same Netflix image quality as other players, but remember streamed image quality varies a lot on a title-by-title basis, and also depends heavily on the quality of your broadband connection and home network.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">DVD image quality: Test patterns and program material
Film resolution Pass 'Seabiscuit' Pass
Video resolution Pass 'Star Trek: Insurrection' Pass
Text overlay on film Pass 'Invite Them Up' Pass
Cadence tests 7/8

DVD image quality was overall excellent on the BDP-S580, passing all of our program material tests. While it did fail a 2:2 cadence test, it's relatively rare for that to be relevant to typical media watching.

Conclusion
The Sony BDP-S580 has built-in Wi-Fi and more streaming services than all current competing Blu-ray players, but its user interface is mediocre.

Sony BDP-S580
7.8

Sony BDP-S580

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8