Sony’s BDP-S185 is an affordable, ridiculously compact Blu-ray player with full ‘net functionality. Just 290mm wide, principally because it uses an outboard power brick, it’s being promoted both as space-saving and energy efficient. This is home theatre for eco warriors on a budget.
One thing’s for certain: the BDP-S185 is cute. Also available in silver, this diminutive deck has a slick brushed-aluminium exterior, gently sloping roof, and stubby little remote control.
Connectivity is predictably basic. Grouped in a huddle are HDMI, phono AV and a coaxial digital outputs, plus Ethernet. A USB is provided under a bung on the front fascia for local media playback. File compatibility from this is extremely good. The player only stumbled a few times with my ill-mannered assortment of rips and downloads, playing MTS, MKV, AVI, WMV and MP4 content.
Audio support covers MP3, AAC, WMA and LPCM. Curiously, the deck was unable to navigate specific albums; instead it could only navigate loose music tracks within a designated folder.
While this player’s XrossMediaBar GUI is the same its full-size stablemates, there have been some obvious specification cutbacks. Super Audio CD compatibility is out the window and there’s no media streaming across the network.
But I suspect this won’t worry too many buyers. The deck still offers unfettered access to the Sony Entertainment Network. Home of numerous streaming and catch-up TV services, from BBC iPlayer and Demand 5, to YouTube (at the time of audition the deck was using a standard-def YouTube client) and Dailymotion, it presents a busy face to the world. And with Sony’s Movies Unlimited VOD service onboard you’re certain to save yourself some cash travelling to the local video rental store.
Loading speeds are on the slow-side of average. A Java-heavy Blu-ray (Goldfinger) took 61 seconds to lumber onscreen. However, image quality is worth the wait, with copious fine detail and effortless colour gradations. The deck has full BD playback functionality, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Bitstream these into a waiting AVR and the deck sounds just as good as its bigger brothers.
The model isn’t 3D compatible, but that’s fine given the price. For many, this will be their first taste of Blu-ray – and it doesn’t disappoint.
The BDP-S185’s green angle is rather compelling. Sony claims it uses 47 per cent less power than regular-width models in the Sony range (I measured a maximum of 10W), and as it’s narrower and a good deal lighter, packaging and transport costs are similarly reduced. Sony estimates this to be a saving of 40 per cent in carbon emissions.
Overall, it’s difficult to fault the BDP-S185, given the form factor and price. Sony lists the player at £90, but it’s available for less if you shop around. This makes its something of a steal, given that it features pretty much all the functionality of the brand’s £100 BD-eschewing SMP-N200 media player.
Price: £90 Approx
Highs: Convenient form factor; IPTV-rich content portal; good USB playback
Lows: Not the quickest deck on the block; no DLNA functionality; no Super Audio CD support
Upscaling: yes to 1080p
Multiregion: no Region B BD/R2 DVD
Connections: 1 x HDMI v1.3; phono stereo audio; 1 x coaxial digital output; 1 x Ethernet; 1 x USB
SACD/DVD-A: no/no Even Sony won’t offer SACD playback at this price
Dolby True HD/DTS-HD decoding: yes/yes
Dolby True HD/DTS-HD bitstream: yes/yes
Profile 2.0: yes
Dimensions: 290(w) x 188(d) x 42.5(h)mm
Features: Media playback via USB; IPTV via the Sony Entertainment Network; 10W power consumption
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