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Feedback on Sony BDP-S790 (Case Design/Drive Noise vs Panasonic DMP-BDT500)
(Reply to a review of the Sony BDP-S790 Blu-ray 3D Player in the news page. I doubt this is common considering the great reviews (press) the S790 has gotten and many seem happy with theirs. If drive noise levels were very high, reviewers should have noted it.)
"Sony BDP-S790 - great electronics/features but my 2 had high drive noise levels
Just an FYI - The two S790 samples I owned (and returned) had very high levels of drive noise and vibration. The 2nd S790 was so noisy it could be clearly (loudly) heard from 7+ feet away. And it wasn't just a few discs - out of several dozen I tried, most had totally unacceptable noise and vibration levels when played in two different S790s I bought earlier this summer [2012].
   Of course I first suspected the drive noise/vibration problem was due to out of balance discs, but tests in other players (my Sony S1000ES and a Yamaha A1010 - and later a Panasonic BDT500) were quiet with the same discs - but those players have larger/heavier case designs, centered drives (w/flip-down faceplate/cover), larger/isolation 'feet' (vs small rubber pads) and of course a different drive mechanism.
   With some players (including the S1000ES), I occasionally hear a high-pitched whine when playing discs, but it's not nearly as annoying as the drive noise/vibration of the two S790 samples I tried. (Granted my Yamaha A1010's first power-up drive seek sounds like an old 5-1/4 floppy drive (growl/grind), but is generally quiet otherwise in use.)

The S790 has great features (especially for the price - including 4K support) but IMO the build quality felt like cost cutting taken too far compared to their previous upper-tier models I've owned. The lighter weight S790 has an off-center drive and does not have isolation feet like some older models did (for example S1000ES) - only small rubber bumpers. Both S790 samples I had were very loud and transmitted a lot of vibration with many discs of mine. (Again same discs tested in other players on hand.)
   Although the S790 is the current flagship model, IMO it doesn't feel as well made in comparison to previous higher end models I've owned. But that alone wouldn't have mattered if it hadn't been so noisy in use. (The worst I've ever owned/used, regardless of cost or brand.) I can't believe my 2 samples are typical, perhaps a noisy batch of drives but aspects of the S790 case/design (light weight, off-center drive, feet, etc) IMO are not the best for vibration damping/suppression.

After the 2nd noisy drive Sony S790 sample (even worse than the first), I decided to replace it with a Panasonic DMP-BDT500 (w/dual HDMI outputs like the S790, but has a centered drive, flip-down front cover, isolation feet, beefier chassis and 7.1 analog outs) - very quiet with same discs that were buzz saws in two S790s. Price was similar on both - under $250 delivered [Summer 2012]. (In 2013, AZ sale prices on DMP-BDT500's were as low as $149.99)

790

500

IMO the Sony S790 has better net features and interface, but no regrets on going with the Panasonic BDT500. (My first Panny player.) The S790 also has 4K support, which I don't need but that would be a major plus for anyone with a 4K display/projector of course. Both players have excellent 2D/3D and upscaling in my experience. I've always been very impressed with my previous Sony player's DVD upscaling as well as Blu-ray PQ. The Panny 500 seems just as good to my eyes, and might be a hair better for 3D perhaps, but PQ differences to me were too close to call and not a reason alone to pick one over the other. Wired Ethernet used on both so I can't comment on wireless performance and don't use either model's steaming apps or internet features. (The BDT500 has support for 4 user's custom settings/prefs/wallpaper, etc but my primary focus is simply BD/3D/DVD playback.)

I've used the Sony interface for years and prefer it to the Panasonic's initially but I'm getting over that. However the BDT500's Trackpad Remote really takes getting used to. Many owners don't care for it and I can understand that.

I've been a longtime Sony BR player fan, having owned CX960 and CX7000 Blu-Ray changers (both bought at clearance sales) plus two S1000s. The S790 was bought for its dual HDMI out primarily, and if not for the noise/vibration issues, I'd never have returned it. (I was very happy with the S790's performance/feature set otherwise.)

I'm sure others have had better luck than I did with the S790 (clearly most must have!) but just wanted to mention something that often gets glossed over (or not mentioned) in 'pro' reviews. (I was very impressed with the S790 otherwise, but the noise factor with these 2 samples was an absolute deal breaker - regardless of features/price, it just wasn't tolerable period.)

  Some may have had an opposite experience with these two players. Maybe I just had bad luck (twice), but considering the build quality/case design I didn't feel like trying a 3rd time. The upside is I'm very happy with the Panny BDT500, and if not for the noisy S790's would likely never have tried that brand/model.

Update (Feb 2013):
   After seeing so many web reports on problems with these two Blu-Ray movies, I just wanted to report that with my setup (One BDT500 HDMI out to HDTV, the other HDMI out to a Yamaha RX-A2000 (firmware 3.34) AVR, I had no audio dropouts with 2012's "Total Recall" (Walmart Steelbook day 1 buy) with bitstreaming and no playback problems with Dredd (also day 1 buy, played in 3D). A common tip/fix for anyone with audio dropouts on 2012 Total Recall was to set the BR player to output PCM instead of bitstream. (Have the Player decode the audio instead of the AVR.)
  My BDT500 has firmware 1.49 (current as of 2/1/2013) and BDLive is off/disabled. (Not using an SD Card in the player and unless required, I don't.)
  Often BR player firmware updates are released to fix playback problems like this (or DRM), but a thread in the Blu-Ray forum mentions a replacement option (YMMV) for (2012) Total Recall owners that have had problems with their discs. (And some questioned if AVRs needed an update to fix what many felt was a Dolby TrueHD encoding issue.) I'm curious if there will be a different # on later discs.
   For Dredd, some have returned/swapped discs but often without better luck. What's frustrating is many times there's not enough detail in problem posts (specific player model, firmware used, etc) to see if that's a common factor. (But much detail on what store it was from, if it had one or two security tapes on the case, etc, thinking there was some specific bad/suspect batch of discs at certain stores/sources.)
[Update (2/6/2013): Apparently there were some bad Dredd Discs.]

3D AVCHD Playback Tests: The Panasonic BDT500 played recorded AVCHD 3D files off an SD card from my son's Sony HDR-TD10 3D camcorder (3D 60i and 2D 1080/24p tested). SD Card was formatted in the Sony HDR-TD10, set as the storage medium vs internal flash memory. (I think later Sony Blu-ray players like the 5xx/7xx series would also.) Also verified the Sony TD-10's 3D files from SD Card play OK in a Samsung BD-F7500 (front USB port) after navigating to "Stream" folder on the SDCard.

My Panasonic BDT500 seems Picky on Blu-Ray Disc Condition/Scratches:
After many months of use without any problems, I've recently noticed this Panasonic BDT500 seems very picky on blu-ray disc condition. (My Pioneer BDP-51 was famous for that also but most of my BR discs are in VG condition.) Although it's not a common issue (never with new Discs and overall very rare) - I've had a few Blu-Ray movies freeze with the Panasonic BDT500 (firmware 1.53 as of spring 2013) despite cleaning the discs (which had no major scratches/issues visible) and the same discs play fine in other machines (Sony BDP-S1000ES and Yamaha BD-A1010). Since I've only recently noticed this, I first suspected it might be related to the last firmware update (1.53) but also plan on trying a lens cleaning.
  I had tried all the usual tricks (cleaning/polishing the disc, resetting/unplugging player, tested with and w/o an SD card, BD-Live disabled/enabled).
   Very disappointing especially after seeing repeated major freezes and lockups, in some cases even with an apparently mint condition disc - for example Despicable Me 3D. I can't see any scratches on the disc, yet it freezes the Panasonic BDT500 (w/FW 1.53) repeatedly several chapters into the movie (within a few seconds of the same point - yet I can't see a single scratch on the disc and was sure I had played it months ago without any problems). (Update: Tests after 1.63 firmware update played that disc fine. Also had used a lens cleaning disc but think the 2 thin brushes on it don't really do much.)
   Two other discs also freeze repeatedly but those were bought used and I can see a faint very thin scratch on them although nothing major and both discs play perfectly in the Sony and Yamaha players - and new discs of the same title play fine on the BDT500 so it's not a disc compatibility issue. (I've not tested any scratched DVDs yet to see how they fare but plan to.)
   I'm getting a lens cleaning disc to try, but not confident it will help. (Not sure it's a dirty lens issue and often lens cleaning discs are not helpful with that - requiring disassembly/manual lens cleaning if that really is the culprit.) If a lens cleaning doesn't help (or later firmware), I'll have to keep the Sony or Yamaha connected for cases where discs freeze in the Panasonic. I'd seen a few reports on the web from BDT500 owners on this problem (mostly from rental discs, which often can be in very poor shape) but also have seen a BDT500 owner reply their sample did not have problems with most rental (scratched) discs."

Someone correct me if I'm wrong but the Sony S790 can output video on both HDMI ports simultaneously but the BDT-500 can't. (Although typical use of both is with a non-3D/pre-HDMI 1.4 receiver where you use main HDMI to TV and 2nd HDMI to the AVR for audio.)


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