Reviewer: Thomas Bartlett
No sooner had Sony assaulted the accessibility problem with Blu-ray by launching its $449 BDPS350 budget player, and its higher-spec BDPS550, than it comes up with this behemoth. At over ten kilograms, this is a premium player.
In operation it isn’t very much different to the S350, it’s cheaper cousin, but it has these little things about it that scream quality. One such is a little thing that truly marks high quality equipment: a smooth and silent disc drawer.
System integrators will love the RS-232C interface. Sony says that you also get a full DTS-HD Master Audio decoder, complete with 7.1 channel analog audio outputs.
There was no noticeable difference between this unit and the BDPS350 in video performance. It offered essentially the same features and, seemingly, the same video processing circuits. On Blu-ray these were brilliant. On PAL DVDs they were fairly good, but the deinterlacing circuitry was tricked by my test clips into thinking film-sourced material was video sourced, and its quality was thereby reduced. This was identical to the treatment by the BDPS350, but somewhat different to other players, so I conclude the same processors are used.
I could not test the claimed ability of the unit to decode DTS-HD Master Audio, due to an odd design choice. You can set the Blu-ray audio output to ‘Direct’ (which feeds the audio bitstream unaltered to your receiver via HDMI) or to ‘Mix’. If you choose ‘Mix’, then you also get secondary audio from BD-Live material, but the unit uses the standard DTS core from the high definition audio track.
Apparently the DTS-HD Master Audio decoding only comes into play if you select ‘Direct’. With a modern receiver, this sends the undecoded bitstream to the receiver for decoding. But if you have a HDMI receiver without this capability, then the player will fully decode this sound.
I have to confess that I don’t see why Sony would have implemented it this way, especially as the unit will decode Dolby TrueHD with the ‘Mix’ setting (albeit, limiting the output frequency to 48kHz).
The remote control is a little disappointing, being essentially identical to that of the low cost model, except with the addition of a backlight for about half the keys.