The Sony BDV-E770W is the company's flagship Blu-ray home theater for 2010 and it's outfitted with just about every feature you could think of. It can stream media for a ton of online sources (including Netflix, Amazon VOD, Pandora, and Slacker) and it comes with a USB Wi-Fi dongle so you don't need Ethernet in the living room. A wireless rear-speaker package is also included, which is a welcome plus now that many manufacturers don't include this even on high-end systems. You can connect an iPod directly to the BDV-E770W's USB port, and browse your music using the onscreen display. The built-in Blu-ray player is even 3D-compatible.
With all that functionality, it's surprising that the BDV-E770W lacks a major feature available on competing systems like the Samsung HT-C6500, and even much cheaper systems like the LG LHB535: HDMI inputs. That's a shame, because the BDV-E770W combines the rest of its functionality with excellent sound quality, stylish design, and fast disc-loading speeds (for an HTIB). If you can get around the lack of HDMI inputs, the BDV-E770W is an impressive Blu-ray home theater system even at $600. Still, buyers should definitely check out the competing Samsung HT-C6500, which offers slightly better sound, two HDMI inputs, and a lower price tag.
Sony's home theater systems find the sweet spot between the overly glossy look of Samsung's and the ho-hum drab of Panasonic's systems. The overall aesthetic is a muted, matte-gray finish, with some gloss added to the AV receiver/Blu-ray main unit for a refined feel. All of the speakers are small enough so that they don't intrude on your living room, coming in at 3 inches wide by 8.88 inches high by 2.88 inches deep. The subwoofer is on the large size (10.88 inches wide by 16 inches high by 10.88 inches deep) and needs to be wired to the AV receiver/Blu-ray main unit. The front panel buttons on the main unit are just tiny nubs that run along the crevice on the bottom; think of them as a happy medium between touch-sensitive controls and physical buttons. Looks are subjective, but we like the Sony's style the most out of systems we've seen this year.
The included remote is cluttered, as is the case with many all-in-one systems. We liked the inclusion of button rockers for volume control, although they're placed too far down for such important controls. The directional pad is centrally placed, and we appreciated it being surrounded by important Blu-ray buttons like "top menu" and "pop-up menu." Playback controls are well-placed, but the buttons are small. If it was up to us, we'd dump the number pad to focus the remote on the more-important functions.
Like nearly all Sony products these days, the BDV-E770W uses a version of the XMB interface. We're fans of the design, although there's a slight learning curve up front to get the logic of the layout. Different media types (music, photos, videos) are laid out horizontally, along with the setup menu. The most important thing is that navigation feels zippy (although not as quick as on a PS3), so you can quickly get around the menu.
Blu-ray playback is lumped in with all streaming-media services under the Video icon. Our biggest gripe with the video section is that Sony didn't use a lot of discretion when picking services; there are a lot of nonessential streaming-video services that would be better grouped into a folder like "more services." On the upside, main services like Netflix, Amazon VOD, and YouTube are grouped at the top for easy access. Sony also has an icon for Qriocity, which is Sony's own on-demand video service. Sony includes a cross-platform video search function, but it doesn't work with Netflix, Amazon, or YouTube, which dilutes most of its utility.
|# of speakers||5.1||"Tall boy" speakers||No|
|Wireless rear speakers||Yes||iPod dock||USB|
|Auto speaker calibration||Yes|
The BDV-E770W is well-appointed with features. It includes the TA-SA200WR wireless surround amplifier, enabling you to use the rear speakers without running wires from the front of your home theater to the back; that's a feature that missing from the competing Samsung HT-C6500. The BDV-E770W doesn't have an iPod dock, but you can connect an iPod directly to the USB port using the standard USB dock connector cable included with iPods.
|Key Blu-ray features|
|3D Blu-ray||Yes||Onboard memory||1GB|
Blu-ray features are a strong point for the BDV-E770W as well. The big advantage is 3D compatibility, which means your HTIB will be future-proofed if you ever decide to get into the new format. Wi-Fi is included, although note that you'll need to use the included dongle. The need for a Wi-Fi dongle is a hassle, when competing systems offer Wi-Fi built-in.
The suite of streaming-media services offered by the BDV-E770W is one of the most complete packages offered on the market. Netflix and Amazon VOD are excellent choices for streaming movies, and Pandora and Slacker nicely cover free streaming music. With the most recent firmware update, the BDV-E770W is also DLNA-compliant, so you can stream music, photos, and videos from a connected PC. Overall, we slightly prefer Samsung's expandable Apps platform, but it really depends on which services you care about.