At £480, the BDV-E370 is Sony’s cheapest new Blu-ray home cinema system. This has caught the attention of our wallet, and our inner geek likes the look of the spec sheet too – 3D playback, Wi-Fi networking, all sorts of multimedia playback, 850W of power and wireless rear speakers.
Basically, it looks like a mid-range system in a bargain model’s clothing. So what’s the catch?
Actually, the catch is pretty simple: you don’t get all of the features mentioned above as standard. Some are optional extras. The Wi-Fi capability, for instance, only comes if you cough up around £70 (ouch) for Sony’s UWA-BR100 wireless LAN USB dongle.
And the wireless rear speakers require you to cough up £160 for the WAHT-SAIR2 wireless rear speaker kit, with its audio transmitter and receiver units.
Once these two additional costs have been factored in, the E370 looks rather less great value. So we guess the extent to which it’s a potential bargain depends on how easily you can live without adding the optional extras.
Most Blu-ray players now carry plenty of multimedia capabilities, so it’s no surprise to find the E370‘s Blu-ray/amp unit carrying two USB ports for playback of video, audio and photo files from USB storage or portable media devices.
The Ethernet port that’s essential for compliance with the latest Profile 2.0 Blu-ray standard also has considerable multimedia significance beyond its ability to access BD Live content. You can use it stream in stuff stored on a DLNA PC, or to access Sony’s Bravia Internet Video online platform.
This platform is the most highly developed online system around. The amount of streaming video content it carries is truly prodigious, with highlights being LoveFilm (complete with account syncing and full film streaming), BBC iPlayer, Channel Five’s Demand Five catchup service, and the inevitable YouTube. And that really is just the tip of the iceberg.
Setting up the E370 system is straightforward. The six speakers all connect to the main Blu-ray and amplification unit via simple colour-coded cables, and the system ships with a microphone for auto-calibration.
The only other thing to do right away is connect the system’s Ethernet port to your network and activate a software update. Until you do this, the deck won’t actually play 3D discs.
The rest of the E370’s connections are passable rather than outstanding. For while the multimedia jacks already described are welcome, we wouldn’t have minded more inputs for allowing other equipment to use the E370’s audio abilities. The lack of any HDMI inputs is particularly sad.
Fast out of the traps
The last things worth noting before finding out how the E370 performs are that it can play both Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio tracks, look up track info and cover art on CDs when you’re connected to the Internet; and boot discs impressive quickly provided you’ve got its Quick Start mode activated.
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The E370’s Blu-ray pictures are hard to fault at its price level. They look outstandingly sharp and detailed, gorgeously rich in colour, effortlessly fluid and believable where motion is concerned, and completely devoid of video noise.
Mind the bass gap
The system’s audio isn’t quite so immaculate. As quite often happens with affordable all-in-one systems, the subwoofer fails to tie its bass in particularly convincingly with the sound from the other speakers.
There’s a gap in the frequency range, presumably due to the satellite speakers not going deep enough to get close to the point in the audio spectrum where the subwoofer cuts in. The subwoofer also tends to sound overwhelming during action scenes.
The good news is that the E370’s sound quality is actually rather good with the sort of less explosive audio track that makes up the majority of your viewing time. The non-subwoofer speakers sound refined, clear, detailed and immersive, with a comfortingly soothing tone far preferable to the usual brashness that’s rife at this level of the home cinema market.
More after the break...
A highly capable, 3D-ready Blu-ray home cinema system with a very tempting price tag, if you don’t mind missing out on the optional extras