Like other major manufacturers, Sony offers multiple Blu-ray player models ranging from entry level to more loaded high end models. The Sony BDP-S560 represents the direct update to the BDP-S550 model. The BDP-S550 was the high end model from the previous year. While the BDP-S560 is the replacement for BDP-S550, it shares many similarities with the current lower end model, BDP-S360. Sony’s standalone players are in an odd situation as it has to compete with other Blu-ray players and Sony’s own PlayStation 3. This is a problem since PlayStation 3 is considered one of the best Blu-ray players on the market. Even so, Sony’s Blu-ray players are very competitive against the offerings from the other leading manufacturers. The BDP-S360 is one of the most capable player in its segment.
The BDP-S560 adds few more features to the already feature packed BDP-S360. This has been the trend with Samsung, LG, and other top electronics manufacturers. They take the base model and add few more features to the top end models. The BDP-S560 boasts all the features found on the BDP-S360 and adds WiFi and media streaming from your computer. Like the BDP-S360, the BDP-S560 is fully compatible with Profile 2.0 for BD-Live contents. On the audio side, the BDP-S560 is capable of decoding Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio as well as all the other audio options including DTS audio and Dolby Digital. This eliminates a need for a receiver for full decoding options. Strangely, the BDP-S560 is missing the 7.1 channel analog audio output. If you want the 7.1 or 5.1 speaker set up, you will need a receiver with HDMI input. As with BDP-S360, the BDP-S560 does not have internet video streaming contents out of the box. LG, Samsung, and Panasonic have all opted to include video streaming capabilities in one way or other. It is disappointing to see Sony not include Netflix or Youtube capability.
The BDP-S560 retains the flip down front tray design from BDP-S360. The dimension and weight is almost identical to BDP-S360. The LCD screen is located on right side of the player. The playback function buttons are located on the right side of the LCD. However, unlike the BDP-S360, the BDP-S560 placed a USB port at the front of the player for easy access. It lies below the face plate for easy access without having to open the front face plate. The back panel contains the HDMI, RJ-45, Component outputs, and Digital audio output. The overall finish and glossy front face plate makes for an attractive player.
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The included remote control is similar to the older player’s layout. It is more compact and streamlined than the previous offerings. The numeric pad is located at the top of the remote followed by the function buttons in four different colors. The menu and directional buttons are located in the middle with playback function buttons at the bottom. However, the remote does not contain the channel buttons whereas the older version did have them at the bottom. Nevertheless, it is very functional and easy to use remote control. The lack of channel button might not be a deal breaker if you already own a quality universal remote control.
Video Performance and Quality
As with previous Blu-ray player models and PlayStation 3, the BDP-S560 handles Blu-ray playback without any problem. The latest Blu-ray players are fairly good compared to the first generation players. The BDP-S560 displays outstanding video quality. If you are going from DVD to Blu-ray and own a HDTV, you will definitely notice a very nice improvement. The video testing showed no artifacts, jaggies, or moiré during the playback. The fast motion sequence showed no blocking or other defects that was prevalent in the previous generation players. And, the still images during pause showed no defects in the picture. Overall, two movies tested, Batman Begins and Marley and Me, had no problem in any areas. The only down side of the player was the slow loading time. This was present in the BDP-S360 and it carries over to this player as well. The new Samsung, LG, and Panasonic players all had dramatic improvement on loading time compared to the new Sony players. I’m hoping the performance can be improved with firmware updates.
The audio output was flawless on the BDP-S560. Aside from the missing analog 7.1 channel output, BDP-S560 has no faults when it comes to audio output. There are no audio formats that can’t be decoded natively on the BDP-S560. The inclusion of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding should cover all the high definition audio decoding needs. Even with top notch audio system, you will be hard pressed to find any faults in any of the new generation Blu-ray players.
This is a feature packed player that can be had for around $250 as of this review. While there are other players in this price range with more features, you will be hard pressed to get a Sony product and the all the reputation that comes with it. The one true down side of Sony’s Blu-ray player is the loading time compared to its competitors. I would have liked Sony to improve the loading time over the previous generation players. Also, the lack of internet streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Video on Demand was a small disappointment. If you want a Sony Blu-ray player with Netflix, you might want to consider PlayStation 3.
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