Given that Sony pioneered the Blu-ray format, you'd expect it to have some pretty formidable hi-def resources at its disposal.

There's the ubiquitous PlayStation 3 and entry-level BDP-S350 just to name a couple, but now it's time to cast an inquisitive eye over the latest addition to the Sony family: the BDP-S550.

Black and blue

It's a chunky, sturdy player blessed with an attractive glossy blue-black fascia and top panel.

Unlike the entry-level BDP-S350, this model is Blu-ray Profile 2.0 enabled straight out of the box, so you can go online (via the Ethernet connection) and get stuck into all that interactive content stored on compatible Blu-ray titles.

Other features that distinguish it from the cheaper player are the inclusion of a dedicated set of eight-channel analogue outputs and onboard DTS-HD Master Audio decoding.

Connections aplenty

This versatility is great for owners of older AV receivers that don't have any HDMI inputs or that can't decode high-definition audio codecs internally. The BDP-S550 also uses a remote control that sports a useful blue backlight.

Using the player is as easy as pie. It boasts Sony's now customary PS3-style menu system, which not only looks slick but is also intuitive and easy to navigate.

If you do choose to use the player's onboard decoding, the attractive graphic menus give you the option of altering settings like speaker size, distance and level. It will even emit a test-tone to help guide you along.

When it comes to upscaling DVDs, the Sony does a great job: 1080p images are punchy, displaying good levels of detail and stability.

Rich pictures

Move up a level to the delights of Blu-ray and 1080p/24fps and the Sony shifts up a gear, producing rich pictures full of vitality.

Fast panning moments are handled with relative ease and there's great depth to the picture.

Whether you're bitstreaming HD audio in its native form or decoding onboard into LPCM, the Sony still serves up a dynamic, detailed sound.

Dialogue is easy to follow and although the Sony isn't quite as hefty as some of its competitors when it comes to the explosive moments of Transformers, the BDP-S550 still does enough to create a sizeable stir.

So, there you have it: Sony has produced another Blu-ray deck you'd be proud to display on your kit rack and we can't wait for the next instalment. Sony, we're ready when you are...

Stuff says... 

Sony BDP-S550 review

Another attractive Blu-ray deck that's among the best in its class