Now that Blu-ray players are officially a $100 commodity, it's no surprise manufacturers are trying to cram the technology into home theater systems at the lowest price possible. Sony's BDV-E500W ($800) takes a decidedly more high-end approach, offering Blu-ray playback in a 5.1 home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) system, with step-ups like tall-boy front speakers and wireless rear speakers. Like many Sony products, the BDV-E500W exudes style, from the glossy black speakers to the glass-like front panel of the main receiver unit.
On the other hand, we were surprised by some of the BDV-E500W's shortcomings, especially the lack of any streaming media services, such as Netflix or Pandora--both of which are found on cheaper LG and Samsung Blu-ray home theater systems. We'd be willing to look past some of the missing features if it delivered better-than-average sound, but to us the BDV-E500W sounded just plain average. On its own, we had few complaints with the Sony BDV-E500W and it's one of the more stylish systems we've seen. It's recommendable for those who put a high priority on style and looks, and are willing to pay for it. Just be aware that competing systems offer more features for your home theater dollar.