Competition and Comparison
The Sony BDP-CX7000ES and its non-ES version really have no competition. There simply are no other mega-changer Blu-ray players on the market. The Escient control system provides a better interface but is no longer in production. Request also makes a controller that can control the BDP-CX7000ES, although I have not had a chance to review it. The real competition would be the Kaleidescape system. Although, at this time, Kaleidescape's Blu-ray capabilities have not been fully implemented. If you do not need a high capacity changer, you can learn more about other Blu-ray players, click here to learn more. For more on video servers in general click here to learn more.
The interface and remote need a bit of work. A theater remote without backlighting or buttons that are easy to discern by touch is problematic. A $1,900 Blu-ray player with a sub-standard remote and no built-in memory for BD-Live? Really? The least Sony could have done was throw in one of their own flash drives and a remote with glow in the dark buttons, preferably one that could directly access discs by slot number.
The BDP-CX7000ES lacks some of the popular features found elsewhere in the Sony lineup such as 3D and media streaming functionality. While I personally am not (yet) a fan of 3D at home, I would have liked to have seen this capability included so that those with 3D capable systems would not need to use a second player. Surprisingly, the changer was not compatible with SACDs either. Accordingly, those with 3D discs or SACDs will require a second player in their system to handle these discs.
While I am OK with the spacing for the discs that will be there for a while, the spacing around the rental slot should have been bigger to allow for easy access to rental discs that would be changed out often.
Lastly, as to the changer's physical attributes, I would have liked a provision to daisy chain multiple units for those with larger collections so that all discs could be integrated into one guide. Perhaps a third party will come out with a unit that can do this for the Sony mega-changers.
On the performance side of things, the BDP-CX7000ES was solid. There were certain aspects, as discussed above, where performance could have been better but overall it was pretty good. From an ergonomic standpoint I would have liked to have seen a native resolution option in the video settings and better data management. For example, it would be nice to be able to use a keyboard to enter data, or to be able to browse discs via cover art (not just a column of tiny thumbnails) or even to directly access a disc by punching in the disc's slot number on the remote.
If you need a large capacity Blu-ray changer that can be integrated into a home automation system, the Sony BDP-CX7000ES is it. In fact, it is your only choice. The non-ES version, the CX960, is less than half the price but lacks the RS-232 port crucial to integration with control systems.
The BDP-CX7000ES is a very capable Blu-ray player and a solid DVD and CD player as well. Its disc management is not up to the standard of a Kaleidescape system or some of the third party controllers but was still fairly quick and easy to use. If you haven't been spoiled by Kaleidescape, Escient or another similar product you will likely have no complaints.
The real shortfall I see with the system is its 400 disc limit. Many of us have larger collections and are looking to the mega-changer to house all of their discs and present them in one, integrated guide. For those with collections exceeding 400 discs you can divide the discs into different changers by groups (genre, disc type, family member) or look into third party controllers to coordinate multiple changers into one guide.
Personally I see the BDP-CX7000ES as a great way to store your top 400 Blu-rays and DVDs with convenient access (really, who has more discs that you really want to see over and over?) and then add a second, single disc, universal player for those special discs such as 3D or SACD or even DVD-Audio. This solution would also negate the issue of the hard to access rental slot.
Unless you are willing to spend several times the price of the BDP-CX7000ES for a Kaleidescape Blu-ray system, (which isn't fully realized as of yet) the Sony BDP-CX7000ES is the way to go for being able to have your Blu-ray library cued up and ready to enjoy.