Sony BDP-S350 review

At just over the two year mark since the first Blu-ray players hit the streets, Sony releases its third-generation player, one that some would argue isn't even a fully featured unit. But aside from how important you think BD-Live is, Sony's latest BDP-S350 has a lot more to offer than its predecessor (the BDP-S300); in fact, it addresses most of our complaints, but unfortunately our favorite feature also got the axe (source direct). The biggest difference you'll notice right off the bat is the size, as it's about half as deep as the 300. While this really doesn't make much difference when enjoying Blu-ray movies, it does show how much more mature the HD chipsets have become in two years. The speed improvement of the player on the other hand will make a difference. While the 300 took 45 seconds just to eject when powered off, the 350 can do it in 6. This puts it in a two way tie with the fastest player we've tested.


The Good

  • Pretty fast, took 6 seconds to eject when off and only took 23 seconds of "loading" after inserting a disc.

  • 24p light is a nice touch, but a little annoying because it's so blue.

  • HDMI-CEC worked great even with a non Sony TV.

  • Good looking with a remote that is better than last year's.

  • Coax and optical digital out are nice for those who haven't moved on to HDMI audio.

  • Network connection for BD Live (via future update) and firmware updates.

  • Power cord isn't permanently attached, a nice touch for custom installers.

  • Very nice on screen display, including scrub bar.

  • The menus are like other Sony products (think PS3).

  • AV sync and other options accessible while disc is playing.

  • Bitstreams all codecs.

  • Internally decodes TrueHD and DD+.

  • No problems playing any disc we tried.

The Bad

  • No internal decoding of DTS-HD HR or MA.

  • Both TrueHD and DD+ get down mixed via TOSLINK to DD, not DTS as some players do.

  • Recessed USB port.

  • No back-light on remote.

  • Failed upconversion and de-interlacing HQV tests.

  • No RS-232 for home automation.

  • No screen saver -- we waited 10 minutes with a disc on pause and nothing ever happened.

  • Only 2-channel analog outputs (BDP-S300 has 6).

  • No BD-Live until firmware update.

The Ugly
Out favorite feature of the BDP-S300 (source direct) is missing and the 24p "auto" feature didn't work on our favorite 1080p30 title, Planet Earth (BBC). So to watch it at its native resolution, we had to stop the movie to change the frame rate to the native 30.

As you can see, other than the fact that we can't change the resolution on the fly anymore -- or simply choose to pass on the native resolution of the content -- we really don't have anything substantially bad to say about the BDP-S350. It played every disc we threw at it perfectly, and it's much faster than its predecessor. We are disappointed to see so many players dropping analog outputs, but the trend is expected as we saw a similar progression with DVD players almost ten years ago. But as much as we enjoyed Sony's latest player, unless you have to have the new codec support, we wouldn't recommend throwing out your BDP-S300. As for how it stands up to the competition, we won't compare it to players that cost substantially more, but we will say that without having both it and the Samsung BD-P1500 side-by-side, it's so close we'd have to go on brand preference to decide which to buy.