Sony's back panel is well-populated with ports, especially now that many Blu-ray players offer only the most meager connectivity options. All the standard ports like HDMI and Ethernet are included, but the BDP-S590 also offers both types of digital audio outputs (optical and coaxial), as well as a standard analog AV output. Sony also includes another USB port on the back (in addition to the one on the front), which is nice if you don't like a USB drive hanging off the front of your player.
The BDP-S590 can play back a variety of digital media files over its USB port and over your home network using DLNA. I tested a mishmash of digital video and audio files, with surprisingly positive results. MKV, DivX, and Xvid files played back perfectly, and were surprisingly quick to load. A ripped DVD (from TS video and audio folders, doesn't work with ISO) did play, although there was a very noticeable skip when going from one TS file to the next.
On the other hand, it's only a barebones digital music player, without cover art or browsing options beyond your own folder structure. I generally consider Blu-ray players to be mediocre local-media streamers at best, so if you're a heavy torrenter or digital music streamer, you're better off with a more specialized device. But the BDP-S590 handled digital video files surprisingly well, so it's worth weighing that as a factor if you're choosing between two competing players.
Rounding out the features list is 2D-to-3D conversion, but I've never seen that functionality work well, so I wouldn't put much stock in it. There's no onboard memory, but most manufacturers are omitting that feature, too. That's fine by me, as it was only needed for the (nearly useless) BD-Java features. There's also a Web browser; it's so slow and pages render so poorly that you'll never use it.
Performance: On the slow side
Performance may be the most important criteria for HDTVs and speakers, but it's almost irrelevant when it comes to choosing a Blu-ray player. Last year, we found that all major manufacturers' Blu-ray players had nearly identical image quality.
I still put the BDP-S590 through its paces to check Blu-ray image quality, DVD image quality, disc-loading speed, and Netflix image quality. Blu-ray and DVD image quality were unsurprisingly excellent, as you'll find on any modern Blu-ray player. Netflix streaming quality was also great, looking as good with HD content as any other player.
The BDP-S590 (like all recent Blu-ray players) loads movies considerably faster than the Sony PlayStation 3, but it's somewhat slower than other 2012 standalone Blu-ray players. That's largely because of its lousy disc-loading speeds, taking nearly twice as long to load a movie with a simple menu, like "M:I:III." The BDP-S590 is relatively speedy with loading Netflix and general navigation tasks, but if you plan on watching a lot of Blu-ray movies, you'll need some patience.
If you want all the testing details, check out CNET's 2012 comprehensive Blu-ray chart, but the main takeaway is that Blu-ray player performance just isn't that important as a distinguishing feature. You're better off picking a player based on which model has the features you want and is easiest to use.
What about Sony's other Blu-ray players?
The BDP-S590 is the midrange model in Sony's lineup, but the company also offers two other models this year.
BDP-S390 ($130 list): Wi-Fi + streaming apps
BDP-S590 ($150 list): Wi-Fi + streaming apps + 3D (reviewed here)
BDP-S790 ($250 list): Wi-Fi + streaming apps + 3D + dual HDMI outputs + 4K upscaling + Skype (with optional camera)
I haven't tested the Sony BDP-S390 yet, but it's likely the better buy overall for most people. For most buyers, who don't have 3DTVs, 3D Blu-rays, or interest in the format, 3D isn't an essential feature. (At the time of publication, you'd save about $11 at Amazon if you opted for the BDP-S390 over the BDP-S590.)
Conclusion: Best-looking Blu-ray player, but not the best
The Sony BDP-S590 is a good all-around Blu-ray player and definitely worth considering if you put high value on aesthetics or the ability to play back digital video files. Otherwise, most buyers should take a long look at my Editors' Choice for Blu-ray players, the Panasonic DMP-BDT220, which has a better user interface and is faster to load movies.