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Sony has finally released their third generation BDP-S350 Blu-ray player, which was hinted at during CES 2008 in January under the code name of Sapphire 3.
Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray Player
The new player has Bonus View (Profile 1.1) functionality built-in, which allows for picture-in-picture content, but the other major feature, BD-Live (aka Profile 2.0), which delivers online interactivity and downloadable content, is not yet finished. Sony is saying that the feature will be available sometime in 2008.
On the plus side, the BDP-S350 features 7.1 channel Dolby® TrueHD and Dolby® Digital Plus decoding and bit-stream output, as well as DTS®-HD High Resolution Audio and Master Audio bit-stream output. This built-in support for decoding the lossless audio formats is an extra feature that many people may enjoy, and it's a feature missing from the PlayStation 3 (currently the only Blu-ray player that we recommend purchasing). Time will tell if professional reviews and user opinions make this a player worth considering.
I trust Sony to release the BD-Live update in 2008 as it promised, but I still wonder why it's taking so long? Right now, I have not seen anytruly compelling BD-Live content that extends the enjoyment of the movie for which the content is included. Most of what I have seen is generic portals containing trailers and previews, or online polls that don't have much to do with the movie. As studios release more movies with BD-Live functionality, the content provided should mature. With Disney making big promises about BD-Live features for Finding Nemo and Sleeping Beauty this fall, I hope that Sony can beat those titles to release with a firmware update that brings this player up to speed with the full Blu-ray specification.
The new player is 55% smaller than its predecessor, measuring just 17" (W) x 2.375" (H) x 8.75" (D), which is down from 17" x 3.125" (H) x 14.8" (D), so less materials have been used to make each unit. To put this smaller size into perspective, looking back at the first-generation BDP-S1 was 17" x 4.1875" x 14" which makes the latest model a little less imposing in your entertainment cabinet. The original model was also 16 lbs., which is quite a bit heavier than the lightweight 6.75 pound BDP-S350. In the press release (below), Sony even brags about the fact that less packaging is necessary, resulting in a 43% reduction in CO2 emissions related to shipping.
If you would like to take a look at the complete details about this player, including connection options, format support, and more, please see the Owners Manual on Sony's web site.
The BDP-S350 has a list price of $399.99 and Amazon.com has it in stock and is currently offering it for $399.99 with free shipping. Typically, we have not seen major discounts on Sony's Blu-ray players, nor any Blu-ray players of late, so you can look around for a better price, but I'm not thinking you'll find any major discounts from reputable retailers.
This price puts it right up against the current top-of-the-heap when it comes to Blu-ray players, the Sony PlayStation 3, which also happens to be a video game system with the brains of a supercomputer. Amazon has the 40GB PS3 for the same price of $399.99 and free shipping, so it comes down to whether you like the idea of a standalone player with movie-specific extras or a combination player that is also capable of playing video games and playing media on your network and downloading movies.
The two knocks I have against the PS3 are the frustrating lack of IR control, which can be mostly conquered by purchasing either the official Sony Bluetooth remote or the Nyko Blu-wave IR adaptor and remote control (this was my choice), and the fact that when the fan kicks in on the PS3, you can kiss a quiet room goodbye. The unit needs to be placed behind doors or something (well-ventilated, of course) because the fan is very distracting when watching movies.
The full press release from Sony is included below.
SONY’S NEXT-GENERATION BLU-RAY DISC PLAYER NOW AVAILABLE AT SONY STYLE STORES AND RETAILERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY
NEW YORK, JULY 16, 2008 – Sony’s next-generation Blu-ray Disc player, model BDP-S350, is now available across the country at Sony Style retail outlets, sonystyle.com and other authorized Sony retailers.
The BDP-S350 supports BonusView (picture-in-picture), which is featured on select new Blu-ray Disc home video releases, and is also BD-Live ready, with an Ethernet port for easy firmware updates and access to Internet-based interactive content features. A firmware update enabling BD-Live is planned later this year.
It also features quick start up mode improving the player’s boot up time to approximately a few seconds and offers an external port for local storage for BD-Live, allowing users to add an optional flash storage device (sold separately).
“We leveraged our expertise in film production and digital technology to build a machine that movie fans would truly love,” said Chris Fawcett, vice president of marketing for Sony Electronics’ Home Products Division. “An advanced Blu-ray Disc player like the BDP-S350 is a must for every HDTV owner because it delivers the ultimate video and sound quality, while unlocking features you can’t find on DVD, downloads or video on demand.”
Since many consumers own extensive DVD movie libraries, the BDP-S350 incorporates Sony’s new Precision Cinema HD Upscale technology that converts standard-definition signals (480i) to 1080p and outputs a full HD equivalent resolution signal to 1080p TVs via HDMI. Additionally, the model also adds Sony’s new Precision Drive HD, which helps to detect and correct wobbling discs from three directions, stabilizing playback of bent or scratched Blu-ray Discs and DVDs.
Not only does the new BDP-S350 model deliver enhanced performance, it is easier on the environment. Compared to Sony’s previous BDP-S300 Blu-ray Disc model, the new BDP-S350 model reduced the overall unit size by 55 percent, reduced packing material by 52 percent and reduced the unit’s total weight by 38 percent. The compact size of the finished package allows Sony to reduce the C02 emissions related to shipping by approximately 43 percent.
In addition, the unit features 21 percent less power consumption in playback mode and 43 percent reduced power consumption in stand-by mode. It also features lead-free solder, all-paper packing and the user guide is printed on 70 percent recycled paper with Volatile Organic Compound-free vegetable oil based ink.
The model offers 7.1 channel Dolby® TrueHD and Dolby® Digital Plus decoding and bit-stream output, as well as DTS®-HD High Resolution Audio and Master Audio bit-stream output.
The BDP-S350 supports AVCHD discs encoded with x.v.Color™ (xvYCC) technology, an international standard for wide color space reproduction. The standard expands the current data range of video by about 1.8 times, allowing the players to output more natural and vivid colors similar to what the human eye actually sees in the natural world. The players also feature compatibility with an array of video formats, including BD-R/RE (BDMV and BDAV modes), DVD+R/+RW, DVD-R/-RW, CD, CD-R/RW (CD-DA format), and JPEG on DVD/CD recordable media.
The new BDP-S350 is now available for about $400 at Sony Style stores, online at sonystyle.com, at military base exchanges, and at authorized retailers nationwide.
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