As one of driving forces behind the Blu-ray format, Sony may have produced more Blu-ray players than anyone else. Every year we see many new models from them as high-end features trickle down the line, and new features appear. This trickle-down effect leads to every player being a better value than the year before, and to the higher-end players becoming even more niche products.
This year the $88 Sony BDP-S3200 is only one step above their entry-level model, but has almost all the features most people want. It lacks 3D, but keep in mind more TV vendors are now dropping 3D support instead of adding it. There is no 4K scaling, but any 4K display you’d buy already has a scaler inside. What you do get is Wi-Fi, a large selection of apps, and a compact form factor.
The exterior of the BDP-S3200 continues the Sense of Quartz look that Sony began last year. Angles on the top of the player lend it a distinctive appearance, while also making it nearly impossible to place anything on top of it. There’s a bit of style-over-substance when it comes to the design. Plusit picks up fingerprints. The only controls available on the player are Eject and Power. Anything else requires use of the remote control.
The remote is small and compact but not backlit. Its buttons have a mushy feeling to them.
Connections on the BDP-S3200 are only HDMI, Coaxial, and Ethernet. To make the player small, the power supply is a wall-wart style plug that will take up space on your surge strip. Though admittedly, the compact width of the BDP-S3200 makes it easier than most to place with your other AV gear.
A Familiar UI
Sony has used the Cross Bar interface since the release of the PlayStation 3 in 2006. As the menu choices have expanded this interface has grown harder to navigate. The video item alone has over 70 items to scroll through. As they add more streaming services, it becomes harder to find the ones you want. Sony has started to simplify this with their Sony Entertainment Network which can now be set as the default screen.
Video and Audio streaming services might complicate the UI, but nothing is hard to find. Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Hulu Plus and all the popular services are present. Sony’s proprietary Video Unlimited and Audio Unlimited services are available through the BDP-S3200 as well. You can now add more apps through the Opera Web Apps tool. More companies are using this, as these apps are HTML 5 based and can work on any device. However, on the Sony these apps have to stay inside the Opera App itself, so it isn’t easy to access them.
The streaming apps are the most recent versions available. Sony previously used their own custom interfaces for some apps, but now rely on the standard ones. Apps load up to 50% faster than other Blu-ray players from this year. The interface is still slow compared to a Roku or dedicated streamer, but average for a TV or Blu-ray player. Once playback of a program starts there are no speed issues. Netflix looks good in 1080p and buffers fast over Wi-Fi.
Blu-ray playback is accurate with average load times. Color decoding is accurate for both RGB and YCbCr color spaces. All common cadences, including 24p and 60i, are correct and locked onto fast. Chroma errors are absent so all your Blu-ray movies will play back right on the BDP-S3200. DVD scaling has aliasing that is visible on angles in test patterns and real world content. DVD formats, including 3-2 interlaced, deinterlace properly and it locks to the cadence quickly.
Streaming Blu-ray rips made with MakeMKV did not work over the network, as the Sony does not support the format. Streaming more common formats, including .mp4 for video and FLAC for audio, works fine. Navigating your network library is easy enough, but falls behind what LG offers this year. As with almost all current players, BD-Live is not supported unless you provide a USB memory stick for storage.
Better Options Available
The Sony offers a lot of streaming options, and does well with Blu-ray content, but it isn’t the best Blu-ray player out there. The LG BP540 costs a little bit more, has a better interface, responds quicker, and is better for network streaming. It doesn’t offer as many streaming services as the Sony does, but it has every major one that Sony offers. Read our review.
The Sony BDP-S3200 isn’t bad, but the slow interface will make you wish you spent an extra $15-20 for a quicker one every time you use it. It’s a decent player but not the best.
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