Sony has won the format war against the now-defunct HD DVD, but the Blu-ray still hasn't reached what many had hoped for in terms of market penetration. The PS3 has been the main player keeping Sony alive for most of this race, but the release of the new BDP-S350 may well change all that. Entering the market at $299 retail and streeting for a bit less, the new Sony player finally might get Joe Six-Pack off the couch to go Blu. This new player is small at 17 inches wide, just less than nine inches deep and two-and-a-half inches tall. The build quality is adequate for the price point, but finally Sony has made a player that does what we need.
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The BDP-S350 offers bitstream output of all audio formats, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, which it can also internally convert to LPCM. The player of course plays DVDs and can upscale them up to 1080p, and it can play CDs as well. Audio outputs consist of one optical and one coaxial digital output and a pair of single-ended stereo analog outputs. Video can be output in composite, S-Video, component or HDMI 1.3a.
Sure, all this is great, but what sets this unit apart from previous Sony models is that the BDP S350, with the current firmware installed, is BD-Live-capable. Yes, a true profile 2.0 player from Sony, their first one since the PS3. To top it off, this unit has great functionality, loading even notoriously difficult discs in mere seconds and outputting exceptional video from DVDs and especially Blu-ray discs. Not only has Sony broken the $300 price mark, but they have done it with a player that works so well and responds to commands so quickly that anyone (not just Blu-ray mavericks who are upgrading for better performance) who buys this player will be happy with it, including those who have been holding out and are used to the speed of DVD players. For those used to the PS3, Sony has added the Xcross Media Bar as a menu for this player.
Read about the high points and the low points of the BDP-S350 on Page 2.