All of the talk in the Blu-ray canteen is about 3D-capable decks like the BDP-S470. But if you just want a bargain, entry-level player with outstanding audio-visual performance and a sackful of features? Step forward the BDP–S370.
It’s as good an introduction to Blu-ray as we’ve seen and a fine upgrade for anyone with a first-gen deck. What’s more, if your TV lacks streaming capabilities, it’ll sort that out too. Not bad for well under £200.
Quick off the mark
The BDP-S370’s slab-like proportions can’t help but create a sense of disappointment out of the box. But it doesn’t take long to redeem itself. It’s rapier-fast, booting up in just three seconds and ejecting a disc in two. It’ll get you into any disc’s menu system faster, too.
Once you’re in those menus, though, you won’t want to sully your hands with the tacky remote control Sony has thrown in. Luckily you can dodge that particular bullet thanks to the BDP-S370’s support for Sony’s BD Remote app. Squirt that into your iPhone or iPod Touch and you’ll have full touchscreen control over its functions.
For an affordable deck, the Sony’s picture quality is exceptional. It uses Sony’s Precision Drive HD technology to deliver class-leading depth and clarity, with outstanding attention to even the smallest details.
Motion is stable and cinematic, even during rapid-cut action sequences, and the colour balance is superb, with far greater variation and subtlety than any rival.
The Sony is a capable performer with music, too. Digital music fans will relish its balanced and entertaining sound with WAV, WMA, MP3 and AAC audio files (delivered in most cases over DLNA or via USB, as well as via disc), and audiophiles will be impressed to learn it can also spin SACD (Super Audio CD).
But the BDP-S370 is so much more than just a Blu-ray player: it’s also a media streamer, equipped with Sony’s Bravia Internet Video service. Introduce it to your internet supply, either via a wired connection or Wi-Fi (although you’ll need a Sony dongle for that), and you can stream LoveFilm movies, BBC iPlayer content and YouTube.
The LoveFilm front-end included here really looks the part. True, it’s only in standard-definition so far, and yes, the catalogue of films isn’t all it could be. All the same, £10 a month to subscribe to the service seems a fair deal to us.
The BBC iPlayer feature doesn’t disappoint, and is a long way off the blocky, low-quality experience you probably imagined from IP-delivered TV.
That’s because the BBC reformats the iPlayer in multiple forms, including high-bitrate versions designed to suit the performance of the hardware involved. So quality here is great, while accessing the service is a doddle: it simply appears as a button on the XMB (Xross-media-bar) menu.
Review continues after the break…
Dab-hand at digital
The BDP-S370 also supports a wide range of digital media over DLNA, coping with almost every key audio format (except Apple Lossless and FLAC) as well as video files such as DivXHD and AVCHD.
There’s no Wi-Fi included, though, so you’ll need to opt for Sony’s wireless dongle or, for a more stable connection, buy a Powerline pack if your router is located away from your home entertainment system.
The built-in database includes Gracenote-supplied info that allows you to browse details such as actor and production information from a Blu-ray disc on screen; the BD Remote app, meanwhile, performs a similar function in the hand, giving you info like jacket artwork, actor and production information.
With such an unbelievably complete spec and outstanding performance, the BDP-S370 blows similarly priced models like Panasonic’s DMP-BD65 out of the water. This, folks, is a genuine Blu-ray bargain.