Sony's Blu-ray player with built-in Wi-Fi, no interesting Internet services available this week

If you're looking for a cheaper alternative to buying an Internet-ready HDTV, and don't need all of the widgets the sets will be rolling out, a networked Blu-ray player could be a viable option. Most importantly, these units are offering the same Netflix and Amazon On Demand video-streaming services as on the TVs, so you have additional movies and TV episodes available at the touch of a remote.

If you're looking for a cheaper alternative to buying an Internet-ready HDTV, and don't need all of the widgets the sets will be rolling out, a networked Blu-ray player could be a viable option. Most importantly, these units are offering the same Netflix and Amazon On Demand video-streaming services as on the TVs, so you have additional movies and TV episodes available at the touch of a remote.

The problem with most of both the connected HDTVs and Blu-ray players currently on the market is their connectivity is limited to an Ethernet port. Yes, it offers faster transfer speeds, but it requires an Ethernet jack in your living room or some converter unit (like an Ethernet-to-powerline adapter) at extra expense. The latest Wi-Fi option, 802.11n, is good enough for most streaming needs (if not optimal), but is still too rare in the home theater.

Leave it to Sony to go only halfway with its new BDP-S560, which was announced earlier this year but will be available starting tomorrow, according to its Sony Style Web site. Its pricing ($349.99) is decent considering you still see many units without Wi-Fi going for $299, and it does let you wirelessly stream photos from any Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) device to your HDTV. What about those other services, like the Samsung BD-P3600's support for Netflix and Pandora or LG BD390's support for Netflix and Vudu? (Granted, the Samsung doesn't offer integrated Wi-Fi—coming with a dongle instead—but the LG does.) Not a one.

So you're essentially buying the BDP-S560 for the promise that Sony will offer some cool Internet-related services in the future, since no one cares much for the BD-Live online-only bonus content. Unlike Samsung and LG, Sony obviously has a more complicated relationship to movie streaming, since it still owns a major movie studio, but do I really care about being able to stream photos from my PC, especially since the player can't even support streaming music and video from other networked devices? Or to put it another way: Why is Sony bothering to release this player other than being able to say it has a Blu-ray unit with integrated Wi-Fi?

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