Blu-ray is largely Sony's baby, and we expected the Japanese giant to be a little more doting towards its triumphant infant than it has been so far. Sure, the PS3 is comfortably the best-selling Blu-ray spinner on the planet, but we're not exactly buried under must-buy dedicated players.
Last year we saw the BDP-S300, a pleasant enough player that nevertheless reeked of 'stop-gap'. But now Sony's flagship, the BDP-S500, has set sail for the UK, promising improved audio support and serious hi-def performance.
It certainly gives off the right impressions. The S500 is a great-looking box, and we particularly like the motorised panel which glides down to reveal the disc drawer.
It mostly lives up to expectations in action, too. Colours come over as vivid and natural, while slow movie panning shots look great thanks to its 24-frames-per-second motion powers.
There's a real sense of depth to the image too, which is one particular area where hi-def gives old-school DVD a kicking. Not that you'll feel obliged to throw your existing collection of disks – the S500 upscales to hi-def really well, producing a stable image with well-balanced colours. So far, so good.
There are, naturally, a few quibbles, which become slightly bigger issues when you consider the S500's fat price tag. While it produces bags of detail, there's not quite the same level of information in the deep, dark blacks compared to other premium players like the Pioneer BDP-LX70A and Panasonic DMP-BD50.
Review continues after the break...
And it's a mixed bag on the sound front too. Home cinema aficionados will be disappointed to find that it can't handle raw DTS-HD Master Audio via the HDMI socket. Not a crushing blow to civilisation, agreed, but it isn't what you'd expect of a flagship model.
In the end, though, the lack of an Ethernet connection and the fact that it doesn't completely outperform the half-the-price PS3 means we still haven't seen the best Sony's Blu-ray family has to offer.