Sony BDV-E370 review
Sony's entry-level Blu-ray system takes all the best bits from the superb BDP-S370 Blu-ray player, fuses them with an AV receiver and chucks them in a box with a set of 5.1 channel speakers - a convenient and cost-effective way of getting a complete high-def home cinema.
The main unit is a surprisingly dull, boxy affair for a Sony system, but it hides away a wealth of treats. As well as playing Blu-ray discs, it can stream on-demand content through Sony's BRAVIA Internet Video feature. The list of content providers is unsurpassed (BBC iPlayer, Demand Five, LoveFilm, Eurosport, Blip.tv, YouTube, Dailymotion to name but a few), while on the music front you can watch concerts by the Berliner Philharmoniker or listen to the National Public Radio service.
Then there's DLNA media streaming of music, video and photos stored on networked PCs, and those of you with Wi-Fi internet routers can do all this wirelessly - provided you buy the optional USB dongle, which will set you back an extortionate £70.
But the system's coup de gras is its 3D compatibility, a feature that can be added post-purchase by downloading the relevant software update from www.sony.co.uk/support. The HDMI port on the back is specified as v1.4 for that very purpose. You'll need to buy a compatible TV and the necessary Active Shutter glasses of course, but at least you're getting a 3D source at a lower price than Samsung's HT-C6930W.
Power output is rated at 850W in total - more than enough to wake the neighbours - and there's a decent array of connections including two digital audio inputs, but the lack of HDMI inputs for other HD kit is a real shame.
The system's astonishing multimedia support continues through the USB port, which plays DivX, MPEG-1/2/4, WMV9, MP3, WMA, AAC and JPEG from storage devices, while the Gracenote-powered Entertainment Database Browser calls up details and cover art for the disc being played.
Want more? How about a range of sound EQ modes, picture presets and HD audio decoding? You can even add Sony's optional S-Air kit to make the rear speakers wireless.
Set-up is a piece of cake. The system boasts an auto calibration system, complete with a microphone to measure the room acoustics, while the main menu uses Sony's excellent Xross Media Bar. This dual axis menu works beautifully, gliding around the system's myriad functions in style. Boot-up and disc loading times are fast too, making this a very user-friendly system.
The compact satellite speakers are well-built for a one-box system, and that comes through in the clean and powerful sound quality. Avatar's stunning sound design is dynamic and engaging, thanks to the front channels' sharp detail reproduction and the rich, expansive ambience provided by the rear channels. It's all orchestrated with smoothness and expert control, and the lack of harshness in the high frequencies comes as a pleasant surprise.
Dialogue from the centre channel is open and direct, but the passive subwoofer lets the side down. It is boomy and doesn't sit very well with the sats. However, the system's Blu-ray and DVD picture quality is wonderful, boasting sharp detail, effulgent yet natural colours and pleasing depth.
The BDV-E370 deserves praise for its wealth of features, 3D support and excellent picture performance, all of which can be yours for a surprisingly reasonable price. On the downside, the subwoofer doesn't live up to the quality of the other speakers and adding Wi-Fi is a pricey business, but there are enough positives elsewhere to stop these things being deal-breakers.