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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|3D Blu-ray||Yes||Onboard memory||No|
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.
|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.
|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|
|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.|
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.
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.
|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.
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.
|Video resolution||Pass||'Star Trek: Insurrection'||Pass|
|Text overlay on film||Pass||'Invite Them Up'||Pass|
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.
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.