Price (RRP): $449
Reviewer: Thomas Bartlett
Sony says that DVD player sales really started happening when the price of DVD players fell to $400. The Sony BDP-S350 is just about there, with the lowest recommended retail price (and is being advertised, as I write, for $399) of any of the players reviewed for the Blu movie stars article. It is a departure by Sony in two different ways. First, previous Sony Blu-ray players have been based on Pioneer technology, whereas this one seems to be all Sony’s own work. Second, it uses the PS3-like Cross Media Bar (XMB) as its menu system.
The player has both BonusView and BD-Live support, but you have to supply the memory. Specifically, you need to insert a USB memory stick (1GB or more) into a recessed socket at the rear. If you’re buying a stick especially for this, check to make sure it will fit before purchase.
The unit has a ‘Quick Start’ mode. As with most such facilities, it works by leaving much of the unit switched on, even though the various displays are off. Consequently, it uses about 9 watts during standby, or not that much less than the 15-ish it uses when the unit is actually playing a disc, and a lot more than the 0.1 watts used in standby when this option isn’t selected. It had a disc ready to play in 23 seconds, versus 32 seconds without it. I wouldn’t bother.
One important setup point: if you are using a good home theatre sound system, switch the ‘Dynamic Range Control’ setting under the Audio menu to ‘Off’ (it defaults to ‘Auto’, which reduces the dynamic impact of the sound on some Blu-ray titles, such as Transformers).
As to playing your favourite movies: this unit worked very nicely. All the BonusView and BD-Live discs worked precisely as they should. And it was pretty snappy in operation. The picture quality of Blu-ray, delivered over HDMI at 1080p24, was superb, and the video processing was excellent.
Oddly, Sony has dropped some of the expected transport control features. There is fast forward and rewind, but no slow forward nor slow reverse, nor single frame stepping in either direction.