We know, we know, we're really late on this one -- thanks Sony -- but around here we think it's important to review every Blu-ray player. And we're sure there are some who don't want to wait for the replacement due out in a few months, so here's the impressions of Sony's current entry level Blu-ray player. The good news is that although this player is missing many critical features, it shares just about everything we loved with the much more expensive BDP-95FD that we reviewed last month (psst: it's obvious that Pioneer and Sony work together on their Blu-ray players). So if picture-in-picture, internet content, TrueHD and DTS-HD aren't important to you, then you may want to save some money and pick one of these up now.

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Sony BDP-S300 Review

The Good
  • Same great info bar that the Pioneer player had. Again, we like the bit-rate meter, although it can be deceiving.
  • Coaxial digital output, for those who need it.
  • HDMI-CEC works well.
  • Great looking player and remote.
  • Pause and resume work well, player doesn't shut down too quickly -- we wish this was the norm.
  • Out favorite thing about this player -- a feature that the Pioneer also has -- is the ability to change resolution on the fly and display current source and output resolution combined with the Source Direct feature that will automatically play everything at its native resolution. You still have the option to upconvert without stopping the movie though.
  • Player menu comes up even when disc is playing, but you still can't configure many aspects of the player.
  • Discrete analog outputs, which are only for LPCM.
  • 24p output worked flawlessly.
  • Price: around $330 at select retailers.
The Bad
  • A few of the bads are also the same as the Pioneer, like the on screen info that is hard to tell what chapter you're on, i.e. 8 of 58.
  • No Ethernet port for updates
  • No back light on the cool looking remote.
  • Boot times are long at 45 seconds to eject from off, 25 seconds to load a disc.
  • A scrub bar like the new Samsung players would be nice, since most Blu-ray titles don't include one.
  • No RS-232 for automation control.
The Ugly
  • No BonusView (aka Profile 1.1)
  • Analog outputs are useless for anything other than LPCM sound tracks. Paidgeek at AVS says TrueHD is supported, but our Sony contact says no.
  • Partially failed HQV Film Resolution Loss Test, side banding on bottom corners and top right center box. Test is only useful if you are converting 1080i to 1080p.**

Conclusion
Considering how many things this player has in common with the Pioneer Elite player, it's a steal at $350. But with all the Profile 2.0 players around the corner -- that also have much better next-gen audio support -- we can't imagine anyone except bargain hunters picking the BDP-S300 up at this point. That being said, we do think it is the best of the bargain decks available right now from a usability standpoint; but then again, we've never had the chance to test the Panasonic DMP-BD30 which certainly has the most complete spec sheet of all the stand-alone Blu-ray players on the market right now. While we enjoyed spending some time with this player, like everyone else, we are much more interested in seeing the next generation of Blu-ray players in action.

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