In addition to the usual unboxing pictures, we have an unboxing video too.

With an ultra-glossy black top and white body, the Sony NSZ-GT1 is a handsome Blu-ray player that will stand out in the A/V stack. While I would have preferred an all-black option to better blend in, my only real concern with the player’s design is that its dimensions and shape limits stackablity. This negates any orientation advantage provided by the slot loading optical drive. The front of the player holds a power button, optical drive, a USB port, connect and eject button. After turning the device around, we find the port for the infrared (IR) blasters, an HDMI input (limited to stereo PCM audio), S/PDIF (TOSLINK) and HDMI output, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, a fan, three USB ports and power input.

After removing the cover, we can see that the NSZ-GT1 uses two fans; one in the back and another by the front USB port. The fans are very quiet so they are not a cause for concern, but the large optical drive is quite loud during load and seek operations. Almost half of the size of the player is taken by the optical drive with the other half occupied by the passively cooled CE4100 and motherboard. Given that the device cannot be stored vertically, I would have traded the drive for a sleeker, smaller chassis more like Sony’s other Blu-ray players.

The included remote is actually a small RF keyboard (placed on a CD case below) with a D-pad located on the top left and a touch pad on the top right. For the most part, I found it easy to use with two hands and really enjoyed that line-of-site was not required to drive the player.

The most significant issue I had with the remote was with the touchpad; which is very difficult to use with any accuracy. A trackball would have been a much better choice. Fortunately, outside of web browsing there are not many scenarios where mouse control is critical so the impact of this design decision is limited, but there are some other annoyances also worth noting:

  • Key modifiers (Fn/Ctrl/Shift/Alt) are not “sticky” like a mobile phone keyboard, which makes one handed use impossible and inconsistent with existing consumer norms for thumb keyboards
  • Disc Player specific buttons (i.e. top menu, audio, eject, etc.) are not dedicated keys and require “Fn” plus the other key to operate
  • Mouse control does not work on Blu-ray and some of the other menus creating an inconsistent user experience
  • The effectiveness of transport controls is inconsistent: working in some scenarios like disc/video playback but not in others
  • No backlight makes it impossible to use in low-light environments

The remote also includes IR capability to control the TV and audio video receiver (AVR) so it can act as a quasi-universal remote, but there are some serious usability limitations to managing the other components in this way. The main problem is that a specific function cannot be assigned to one device (i.e. the AVR controls volume), but also because specific knowledge of the environment and the limitations of the remote are required to make everything work—which seriously limits SAF (Spouse Acceptance Factor). Ideally, an IR receiver and basic navigational functionality should be possible with a true universal remote to at least get the device and necessary components powered on and set to the correct input.

For example, to turn on the GTV and other the devices:

  1. Turn on TV by pressing “TV I/O”
  2. Check that “AMP” is not selected
  3. Turn on NSZ-GT1 by pressing “BD/EXT I/O”
  4. Press “AMP”
  5. Turn on AVR by pressing “BD/EXT I/O”
  6. Use the AVR remote to select the correct input on the AVR

Those fortunate enough to have an HDMI CEC enabled AVR and TV can fix the muddled experience, because the device actually works very well with CEC as long as you assign it to the “Cable TV” input (using another input on the AVR may also work depending on whether the cable/satellite STB is CEC enabled) on the AVR and setup the TV to link volume control with the AVR. In this configuration, turning on the device with “BD/EXT I/O” will also turn on the AVR and TV as well as selecting the correct input automatically; to turn everything off simply press “TV I/O”. This feature was especially convenient when watching a Blu-ray movie, where inserting the disk into the player while “Off” would turn on the device as well as handling everything else required to enjoy the movie without any additional user intervention.

For those who cannot live with the Sony remote, you can swap in a USB wireless keyboard. Obviously the more specific keys may not have a direct map, but I found the similarly sized Lenovo N5901 more than adequate to fill the gap for traditional web browsing. That said, using the “Scroll” left trigger button with the regular remote’s touchpad to move around web pages made the experience tolerable, and I have to wonder if many users will continue to use the browser after the novelty wears off.

Besides the remote a manual, power adapter, two headed IR blaster and HDMI cable are also included with the player.

Introduction Setup Impressions
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  • vshah - Monday, November 29, 2010 - link

    is it nsx-gt1, or nsz-gt1? it varies in the title/article. Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, November 29, 2010 - link

    Editorial mistake :) Fixed, thanks! Reply
  • piroroadkill - Monday, November 29, 2010 - link

    I'm not entirely sure who this is aimed at: the setup process looked pretty long-winded for most people who sit infront of a TV, being spoonfed content while drooling. I mean, seriously, a question whether you want the thing to boot slowly or quickly? It should make the best guess for defaults in the majority of cases, and give you the option to fuck with it later: look at how the Windows installation process has been streamlined over the years.

    Then the tech savvy guys? They already have an htpc and are more than willing to play around to get it right, using xbmc or some such...
    Reply
  • bji - Monday, November 29, 2010 - link

    Sony consistently makes the worst remote controls of any major consumer electronics manufacturer. It's likey they don't employ even a single user interface person to help design these devices, they just either rely on out-of-touch engineers or dumb marketing people to design their remotes.

    The ultimate example was the Playstation 2 remote. It was a grid of buttons with the DVD controls (ffwd, play, rewind, etc) placed fairly randomly and with no tactile distinction whatsoever between the keys. So totally lame.

    Ever since the Playstation 2 remote I've been paying attention to Sony's designs and every time I see a Sony remote I am reminded that they still have the suckiest remote designers.
    Reply
  • nutmac - Monday, November 29, 2010 - link

    I would love expand HQV 2.0 benchmark comparison against popular players, such as PS3. Reply
  • babgvant - Monday, November 29, 2010 - link

    That's a great point; I've never seen a media centric review of the PS3. As hard as it gets pushed as the ultimate BD player, it would be really interesting to actually test that. Reply
  • Voldenuit - Tuesday, November 30, 2010 - link

    Andrew,

    while I found your review well-written and informative, I can't help but feel that you were a little too lenient with it in your final thoughts.

    A google device that has no universal search? Fail.
    A media streamer that has no worthwhile codec and container support? Fail.
    A remote that is unusable by anyone without an IT degree? Fail.
    A consumer device that you have to press Ctrl-Alt-Del to reboot when it hangs? WTF?

    At the $300 asking price with the level of functionality and robustness out-of-the-box, the NSZGT1 deserves to be publicly lambasted, if not downright ridiculed.

    Even Apple's RDF wouldn't be able to disguise this Thanksgiving turkey.

    Also, any chance AT will revisit the Boxee Box with the revised firmware?
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, November 30, 2010 - link

    Andy will respond to your comments on his leniency towards the NSZ-GT1 :)

    We will take a look at Boxee Box again as soon as TrueHD bitstreaming is enabled or December 15th, whichever is earlier.
    Reply
  • babgvant - Tuesday, November 30, 2010 - link

    GTV is a CE device targeted at mainstream users, so the abysmal container support is forgivable; otherwise, those are all valid points. That said, I think the platform's potential outweighs the teething issues; so while the current implementation is clearly unfinished, and I worry that Google doesn't understand the difference b/w the TV and mobile user experience, it is still too early to get out the pitchforks and torches. Six months from now will be another story.

    IMO the current MSRP for this player is too high (Sony even dropped the price $100 a few days ago, so they must also recognize this); it's crazy that we can buy a better BD player (faster, quieter, more power efficient and has 3D) from Sony for $140 less. Between us, unless the apps platform gets exponentially better real soon I think they will need to knock another $100 off the top to be competitive in the mainstream. I could have made that clearer in the FT.
    Reply
  • Aloonatic - Wednesday, December 01, 2010 - link

    Grrr, lost my comment with FireFox crashing, so my reply in brief...

    Re: $300 - This is a BluRay player too, let's not forget.

    Then the rest of my rambling comment was mostly a complaint about Sony controllers, when they will invest in people to sort out this problem? They haven't produced a good controller/remote since the original PS controller, and that was a less than subtle copy of the SNES controller (and they are just copying Nintendo again with Move) which was OK at the time, but now is very old and tired but still they persist with it with the PS3?!?! Sort it out Sony! It's not like you are a corner/cost cutting budget brand for Jebus' sake!
    Reply

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