An all-in-one system is the perfect solution for anyone who wants to boost their TV performance without having to invest in a dedicated home cinema package or breaking the bank.
And the Sony BDV-N7100W is a brilliant performer complete with 3D Blu-ray player, a 5.1 surround speaker package and a host of streaming features packed into a compact and stylish system that costs £600.
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Let’s cut straight to the chase – the Sony BDV-N7100W sounds brilliant. It’s exciting, with crystal clear detail, punchy rhythms and precise timing that keeps you content just to sit back and enjoy watching your favourite films.
Subtle detail goes hand in hand with loud and punchy effects that are steered confidently across all five satellite speakers – it’s simply fun to listen to. It won’t reach the same dynamic heights as a traditional (and therefore larger) 5.1 separates system, but the satellites nevertheless deliver an open and dramatic sound for their compact size.
Play ParaNorman on Blu-ray, and the BDV-N7100W’s clarity is stunning with dialogue-heavy scenes –fully conveying the deadpan humour and sarcasm of the characters’ voices.
Switch to something with more explosions, and the Sony delivers all the car crashes, gunshots and shattering glass littered across Michael Bay’s Transformers with precision and punch – the speedy, upbeat nature of the Sony’s sound keeps you engrossed in the action.
The subwoofer doesn’t go as deep or taut as dedicated subs, but it integrates well with the satellites and provides satisfying weight and impact to the overall sound.
The BDV-N7100W goes loud, too, and maintains its clarity and composure even at high volumes. The new design of the satellite speakers has a hand in this performance.
The satellites use Sony’s new ‘Magnetic Fluid Speaker’ technology that swaps the traditional damper for a ferrofluid material – a liquid magnetic material developed by NASA in the 1960s – to reduce distortion and deliver clearer and more accurate sound even at higher volumes. It seems to have worked, especially for the mid-to-high frequencies.
Switch to broadcast TV, and the BDV-N7100W retains its sonic characteristics, with even daytime TV shows starting to look and sound that much more enjoyable. Sony has introduced a new ‘Football Mode’ – a sports feature that uses acoustic measurements taken at a Brazilian stadium to replicate the atmosphere of being at the ground, and also cuts out the commentator’s voice.
We experimented with this feature on BBC’s Wimbledon coverage, and while it does indeed take out the commentary, there’s a great deal of added noise that, to us, sounds unpleasant and brash. Crowd noise is amped up but sounds distorted, and the impact of the racket hitting the ball is softened, losing much of the tension and excitement.
For us, it’s a bit of a gimmick, and not worth sacrificing the overall sound quality of the BDV-N7100W.
Sony knows how to make good Blu-ray players – its budget players have won multiple Awards – so it’s not surprising that the picture quality of the BDV-N7100W is full of subtle detail, vibrant and natural colours, and smooth motion. Deep and subtle black levels add to the impressive quality of the picture.
There’s a slight level of picture noise when it comes to DVD, although that’s to be expected. Test its 3D-playing capabilities with the stunning landscapes of Life of Pi, and the image remains bright and clear. The TV and type of 3D of course matters, but the Sony delivers a picture with stable motion and a dramatic depth.
The Sony BDV-N7100W is a striking-looking system, with slim and elegant speakers and a stylish Blu-ray player that isn’t your usual run-of-the-mill black box. The top cover slides open to reveal the disc tray, and there’s a glowing blue light that blinks every time a button is pressed on the remote control.
Sony’s new Sense of Quartz style is angular and attractive without being too flashy – it looks stylish, and complements Sony’s 2013 range of BRAVIA TVs. Our review sample was finished in black, but there is a white version available, too.
Open the neatly packed box and it might be easy to panic at the number of components and wiring involved. Mercifully, everything is labelled and colour-coded so you know exactly what goes where – you’ll be able to set up the BDV-N7100W faster than most Ikea furniture.
The front speakers and subwoofer connect to the Blu-ray player, while the rear speakers go into a separate unit that connects to the Blu-ray player wirelessly (transmitters are included). This means you can keep that main unit tucked away at back of the room to reduce the mess.
You should take a bit of care with positioning the speakers. You can wall-mount them for added height, otherwise you’ll need to invest in two pairs of stands, such as the Award-winning Soundstyle Z2s (£70 a pair). We propped the centre speaker in front of the TV like a soundbar, although you might want to use a stand for that as well to reduce vibrations.
Once everything is in place, you simply run the auto calibration with the included microphone. It’s quick and fairly accurate, although its good practice to check on the measurements manually.
‘Blu-ray in a box’ seems an insufficient moniker for what this range-topping Sony BDV-N7100W system can do. Not only does it play 3D Blu-rays and DVDs, it also supports CD and SACD discs, and streams music from smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth.
You can connect via NFC, too – simply tap a compatible smart device on the NFC tag on the Blu-ray player and you’re good to go.
DLNA support means we were able to stream music files from connected NAS device or laptop, although it’s worth bearing in mind that the Sony favours MP3, WMA and AAC songs – there’s no support for WAV or FLAC files.
The built-in wi-fi and wired ethernet connectivity means video and music streaming is possible thanks to the comprehensive Sony Entertainment Network service. You also get popular smart apps such as YouTube, BBC iPlayer, video on demand services Netflix and LoveFilm, and internet radio service vTuner.
Social apps are available, too – be sure to keep the software updated to make sure all the apps run smoothly.
The Sony keeps connectivity simple with two HDMI inputs and one output – support for ARC (Audio Return Channel) and 4K upscaling is available, too. There’s also a digital optical input, a pair of analogue inputs and an FM antenna.
Last year’s Xross Media Bar menu system is still present on the BDV-N7100W – it’s a smooth and fast interface, although the list-style interface is starting to feel a little convoluted.
We wish it had the simpler tile arrangement found in its new range of TVs. Still, it’s easy to find your way around with the supplied remote control handset. Sony's remotes are ergonomic and instinctive to use, and the entire system is responsive and easy to live with.
You can also use Sony’s TV SideView app (right) on your smartphone or tablet to control the TV, although we’re not too convinced by the small volume and playback buttons on the screen.
This is a brilliantly put together system for the money. The design and streaming features certainly attract, but above all we love the Sony’s enthusiastic and detailed performance with both picture and sound.
While home cinema enthusiasts might prefer a dedicated separates system, the BDV-N7100W is a talented and exciting system that’s definitely worth a place in any home.
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