Is it time we abandoned the 2D Blu-ray player? At this low price Sony’s BDP-S470 makes a serious bid at being not just an excellent 3D Blu-ray player, but a fantastic value all-rounder that could quickly see the rug pulled from under non-3D players.
That is, of course, only relevant if you’ve bought into the idea of 3D for the home. If you’ve got serious reservations, you’re not alone. Our main beef with 3DTV is that at its most effective it’s tiring to watch and has all sorts of picture artefacts. Tone it down a bit and it becomes more comfortable to view, but loses its must-have immersive feel.
All that, however, is largely down to the quality of first-gen 3DTVs - the like of which carry massive prices. The 3D Blu-ray player is less controversial, and there’s a strong argument for future-proofing your home ents set-up for 3D if you’re planning to upgrade to Blu-ray.
For less than £160, it’s hard to argue; a decent standalone 2D Blu-ray player - the like of which won’t be on sale much longer if decks priced like the BDP-S470 continue to build-in 3D - will cost you only around £50 less. For now, the step-down BDP-S370 serves that purpose within Sony’s range.
On the rear of this simply styled, slim deck is the all-important HDMI output, which is accompanied by a set of Component video and Composite video outputs, as well as analogue audio inputs. There are a few options for sending audio to a home cinema, with both optical and coaxial digital ports on board, though there are no analogue outputs. If you’ve got a non-3D-capable HDMI-equipped home cinema amp you will have to forgo lossless Dolby True HD/DTS HD Master Audio.
If that’s a sign that this isn’t a high-end Blu-ray player after all, we quickly found another; the BDP-S470 is merely "Wi-Fi ready", which annoyingly means you must go through the rather irritating process of buying a hefty USB Wireless LAN adaptor. Sony sells one for £69. If you do happen to have a router nearby, the BDP-S470 does have a wired Ethernet LAN port.
One input that proves crucial to the BDP-S470’s appeal is USB. There’s one port around the back exclusively for the purposes of storing BD Live downloads, and another more media-savvy version on the front. In our tests the BDP-S470 easily managed almost every video file we threw at it, including MTS and MT2S, (AVCHD) AVI (DivX), MKV, MP4 (including H.264 high-def MOV files), MPEG and WMV (though not WMV HD).
Our only complaint is that you have to exit video and scroll along the file tree before the BDP-S470 will consider playing photos or music. When it does, WMA, MP3 and AAC files are played, alongside JPG photos - the latter are displayed as thumbnails on the file tree. As a special bonus for lovers of high-res music, the BDP-S470’s disc tray supports Super Audio CDs.
Networking isn’t so versatile: in our tests we managed to play only AVCHD and AVI (DivX) videos, MP3 music and JPG photos.
Digital frippery gets back on track with a string of widgets and on-demand video icons across the luscious Xross Media Bar user interface. Our favourite is BBC iPlayer, which is - at last - a working widget. It’s such an easy to use GUI, arguably too simplistic, but it does the job. So to Lovefilm, which offers a vast library of on-demand standard - and high-definition movies for £9.99 a month. Strange then that Sony has chosen to add its own movie streaming service called Qriocity. We’re promised it will expand into a serious music, gaming and ebook platform one day soon, which it needs to do to step out of the shadow of the Lovefilm widget right next door.
Other widgets include YouTube, Demand Five, Eurosport in among some US-centric utter rubbish such as SingingFool and Hocast.com.
With a copy of Monster House inserted and the 3D version chosen, the BDP-S470 spits out pictures with excellent depth. Using the active shutter glasses that come with a 3DTV (none are included with the BDP-S470 - and at £99 a pop, that’s no surprise), there’s a constant flicker to the picture. The glasses also remove some brightness from the picture. We did notice a constant ghosting around the edges of 3D objects, though we’ll put the blame for that solely on the TV we were using (a Sony LX90).
Two-dimensional images are excellent, with bold colours, plenty of contrast and pin-sharp images that are generally free of picture noise. We only noticed picture artefacts in a couple of DivX HD files we played.
Found for as low as £130 online, Sony’s BDP-S470 makes for a wonderful 2D Blu-ray alone - with 3D support virtually free. Excellent picture quality makes sure of that, but its superb user interface chucks in not just all-round digital file support from USB, but also a plethora of must-have video streaming options such as BBC iPlayer, Demand Five, Lovefilm and YouTube. As a nice bonus it spins 3D Blu-ray discs, with our only criticisms the absence of built-in Wi-Fi, no analogue audio outputs, and less-than-impressive networking.