Most helpful positive review
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Good value, good sound, quirky software interface
on August 1, 2013
The Sony BDV-N8100W is a nice unit with a ton of features. Rather than write an enormous review of every possible function, I'm going to zoom in on the things that seem to matter most to me. If I don't mention something, it's either because I don't want to repeat what other reviewers already said, or because I just don't use it.
First, I was happy to see that fit and finish is very good for the price. You don't get all-metal enclosures, wooden speaker boxes with Kevlar cones, or large-gauge cables, but materials and workmanship are a good deal for this kind of package at this price point. The main unit and subwoofer tuck away nicely, and the speakers are unobtrusive in our living room. Note, though, that we wall-mounted the front speakers, discarding the tall stands that come in the box. Wall mounted, they produce good sound and visually match up well with our fireplace-hung LCD TV.
Second, it was very easy to set up and configure. Physically, it takes a great deal of time to place everything just so, route cables and power, etc., but at no stage was it difficult.
Third, though, the UI menu system is characteristically "Sony" in that - like every Sony camera and other gadget I've ever owned - ordinary usage requires you to navigate a large and fairly discursive menu system. This can actively hamper everyday use. For instance, astonishingly, there is no function to let you select a particular input mode! By this, I mean you cannot press a single button and jump to HDMI 1 (etc.). Instead, you have to press a function button repeatedly, cycling one at a time through all of the many input options until you get the one you want. Alternatively, you can call up the main menu, navigate left or right to the input control settings and then up or down to the one you want. It's pretty much the same either way, because it takes a lot of button mashing and more importantly it makes it hard to use a procedural universal remote control (like a Logitech Harmony).
Fourth, sound is remarkably good for the price. On movies, TV and music (whether 2-channel or simulated surround) the sound is equal to or better than the separate components I bought for a higher price some years back. And the wireless rear surrounds produce extremely good sound for the purpose, and I've never experienced a dropout or disconnection.
UPDATE November 22, 2013:
In recent weeks, something has gone wonky with the sound in this unit. My guess is that one of the firmware updates did something to change sound processing algorithms, because all voices now take on a weird, distorted kazoo-like character at low volumes. It's not completely unlistenable, but it is distracting. It affects all of the DSP settings (Auto, Movie, Music, etc) except, oddly, 3D Surround Sound mode, so I keep in that mode almost all the time now. A manual software reset did not solve the problem.