The Sony BDP-S370 is their new entry-level player for 2010 and brings with it a surprising level of functionality. It sits at the bottom of the Sony line-up and the notable feature that it doesn't offer is compatibility with 3D, which is being rolled out to other players in the range via firmware updates.
What it does bring, however, is Sony's Internet Video service, so despite being affordable, it brings with it a healthy dose of entertainment outside of its primary remit as a Blu-ray Disc player.
To enable this connection to the outside world you'll find an Ethernet connection on the rear of the Blu-ray player as Wi-Fi is not built-in. Should you want Wi-Fi you can purchase an accessory UWA-BR100 dongle from Sony, which will set you back an eye-watering £79. We opted for a HomePlug solution instead and set-up over a wired network was a breeze.
Other connections offer you HDMI, Component and Composite video and coaxial and optical connections for your digital audio to take advantage of the Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio decoding. There are two USB connections, one on the front and one on the rear. For BD Live content you'll need to insert your own memory stick and we still can't figure out why manufacturers are reluctant to include BD Live memory internally.
The S370 uses Sony's XrossMediaBar like the PS3, which gives you a simple way to navigate through the features on offer, divided into video, music and photos. The front facing USB port, then, is ideally placed for connecting memory sticks for on-the-fly playback and offers support for most of the major formats, including DivX and the MKV DivX HD variety. It will also play your MPEG3 and JPEGs back.
What it doesn't offer, however, is network support (yet) so if you have a home media server, it doesn't care. What it will support in the future, however, is DNLA, although this firmware update isn't due to arrive until June, so we can't comment on how it works.
Sony's Internet Video offering is the sort of thing we are keen on and in this case it certainly gives you plenty to get excited about. We've seen various devices offering iPlayer support, but Sony's offering gives you more. You get big names here – LoveFilm, YouTube and Demand 5 are all included and ready to play out of the box, with offerings from smaller providers too.
Sony today announced that the FIFA World Cup collection would be coming the their service and users will have already received the update to put a place holder in the video menu. The unusual Ford Models offering has nothing to do with cars, but presents video shorts from the Ford model agency, but we guess dads will still find some content of interest in there.
YouTube offers you searching which is a little cumbersome because you have to do it via the remote, but you can login to your account and it works well enough, so you'll be watching Girls Aloud in no time at all. iPlayer deserves a special mention because it also includes BBC HD, so assuming you have a broadband connection that is fast enough, you'll get streaming BBC programmes at their finest. One noticeable difference between BBC SD and the HD service is the audio quality, which is much better.
If you want to use the LoveFilm streaming video service you'll need to have an existing subscription with the company, but then you can easily register your details via Sony's website to get your S370 up and running. Instructions are available in the menu on the player.
All of this and we haven't even mentioned playback from optical discs. Of course you get Blu-ray and DVD playback. The former looks sharp and full of glorious colour. It doesn’t appear to offer the same skill with noise suppression that its bigger and old brother, the BDP-S760, that we reviewed previously does. That player managed to tackle some of the more distinct noise issue from films like Casino Royale, something that the BDP-S370 didn't do so well.
DVDs are nicely handled, with Sony boasting that the S370 will upscale "picture quality to near HD level". Such statements should always be taken with a pinch of salt, but we were very impressed with the quality of the DVD playback, so you'll still get to enjoy your existing collection without making too much of a quality compromise.
You also get Gracenote support with the S370, so it will know what disc you have inserted and offer you the cover art as the icon too with some discs. A full breakdown of the type of discs and formats it will play can be found on the Sony website.
The remote is easy to use and well laid-out and doesn’t throw up any nasties. The BDP-S370 is also compatible with Sony's BD Remote iPhone app, so if you want to control it using your iPhone or iPod touch, you can do that too, which is pretty slick. This also integrates with the Gracenote info, so you can view the disc that is inserted in the player.
The player itself is compact, measuring 430 x 206 x 36mm with a mostly minimalist design. The front features a small display and a glowing light bar. The buttons (power, eject, play, stop) are tiny but easy enough to press, facing up on a small ledge protruding from the front, making them easy to press when it is placed on a low shelf, for example under your TV.
There is a Quick Start Mode that will see the S370 power on in around 3 seconds, but this does mean that is never turns off completely, so it still draws power. Turn Quick Start off and you'll find it takes much longer to wake up. Loading a Blu-ray takes about 35 seconds before you get to the first screen, DVDs are ready in about half the time, but it does vary from disc to disc.
It's difficult to not be impressed by the BDP-S370. Even though it is pitched as an entry-level player, the sheer range of entertainment options it offers make it a compelling choice, especially if you don’t care about 3D. The IPTV features which can be a little gimmicky on some devices are really useful, especially being able to stream BBC HD through iPlayer.
Overall, the DBP-S370 is a great player for the price and with the forthcoming DLNA update, you get even more for your money. We'd have liked straight UPnP support and Wi-Fi would have been a killer addition, but as it is, at this price, once connected the S370 is a very capable machine with bags of extras to keep you entertained.
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