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Sony Announces 2nd Generation Blu-ray Player, at $599 MSRP

Posted on Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 12:24 PM by Scott Jentsch

Sony announced yesterday that they are going to release a second generation Blu-ray high definition disc player this summer. The BDP-S300 will be available for $599, the lowest price yet for a Blu-ray player, which is welcome news indeed (the 1st generation Sony BDP-S1 currently retails for $1,000).

Photo of Sony BDP-S300

Sony BDP-S300 Blu-ray Player

The new player follows the trend towards shrinking the size to more closely match many of today's DVD players. No exact measurements were given in Sony's press release, but a comparison of the press photos between the first and second generation units makes for a 3" height on the BDP-S300 vs. 4.1" for the BDP-S1. The 2nd generation Toshiba HD-A2 player saw a similar reduction in size when it was released this past December.

The BDP-S300 will feature 1080p at 24fps (frames per second) output, which provides for an exact output of the source on the disc. Some recently released HD televisions and projectors are capable of taking that 1080p24 signal and displaying it without having to perform any conversion to a more traditional 30fps rate, resulting in a slightly better quality picture.

The player also supports AVC-HD discs encoded with xvYCC technology, which Sony's vice president of marketing Jeff Goldstein explained as "the standard expands the current data range of video approximately 1.8 times, so the player can now output more natural and vivid colors similar to what the human eye can actually see." The xvYCC standard is not widely supported by display devices at this time, but will most likely be the next innovation in upcoming products.

Unlike its predecessor, the new player will be able to play audio CD's, which may help those who are trying to keep the number of components in their system to a bare minimum.

A few details which were missing from the Sony press release (see below) include whether the BDP-S300 will fully support the BD-J programming standard for interactivity on Blu-ray titles, whether it will support multiple video streams (PIP commentaries, etc.), and if it will include a network connection to facilitate online firmware updates and future online interactivity.

While the latter is questionable, I would certainly hope that the second generation product would support the complete specifications of the format, including the programming language which can enhance the viewer experience and provide studios with the flexibility to offer advanced features with the knowledge that more consumers will be able to use them. Check out the Journal article titled "An Interview with an HD DVD Insider" for an example of the kinds of interactivity that are possible on the rival HD DVD format.

The $599 price is definitely good news when compared to the $1,000 price tag on the first generation model. It is also in line with the soon-to-be-released Toshiba HD-A20 HD DVD player, but many people accustomed to seeing sub-$100 DVD players on the shelf at Best Buy are still going to question whether spending $600 on an HD player is worthwhile, especially when two competing formats are vying for the market (not all movies on HD disc are available in both formats).

Unless you have the money to afford both a Blu-ray and an HD DVD player, I recommend sitting this format war out until the prices come down to the point where you can, or one format succeeds in offering all HD movies available (ending the exclusive studio support, which caused the war in the first place).

I have an HD DVD player (which I'm very happy with), and am waiting for Blu-ray players to come down in price and fully support the Blu-ray format specifications. It is frustrating to see announcements of movies like "Cars," the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, "Casino Royale," and older movies like "Dances with Wolves" that will only be available on Blu-ray. While there are still more movies that I want to see on HD DVD than on Blu-ray, frustration over titles like these is there nonetheless.

Time will tell if Sony can release this product on schedule, and when it does get released, if it has an impact on consumers, and on the format war itself.

Press Release

SONY INTRODUCES ITS SECOND BLU-RAY DISC PLAYER FOR THOSE SEEKING 4-STAR HOME THEATER ENTERTAINMENT

LAS VEGAS, Feb. 27, 2007 – Sony today unveiled its second Blu-ray Disc™ (BD) player, bringing the movie theater experience home for videophiles and movie buffs alike.

Following the success of the company’s first player, the newest unit is expected to broaden the market with a price of around $600, a new design, advanced audio codecs, BRAVIA™ Theater Sync, and CD playback.

“We plan to continue leading the Blu-ray Disc charge with products for the home that exceed consumer expectations and fulfill Sony’s vision for an HD world.” said Jeff Goldstein, vice president of marketing for Sony Electronics’ Home Products Division.

The new BDP-S300 model can output 1920 x 1080p (progressive) high-definition video, currently the highest resolution high-definition signal available through an HDMI™ connection. The player supports various video formats, including MPEG2, MPEG4-AVC and VC1.

For those who own an HDTV set without HDMI, an analog component output for 1080i (interlaced) is available as well.

The new BD player is compatible with most standard DVDs and has the added feature of 1080p upscaling through HDMI to 1080p capable HDTVs, improving the picture performance of existing DVD libraries.

Sony’s BD player outputs signals at 24 frames per second, reproducing a film-like image.

The model also supports AVC-HD discs encoded with xvYCC technology, a new international standard for wide color space, which Sony has branded as x.v.Color. Goldstein said “the standard expands the current data range of video approximately 1.8 times, so the player can now output more natural and vivid colors similar to what the human eye can actually see.

The new BD unit incorporates BRAVIA™ Theater Sync utilizing HDMI connectivity, which integrates the operation of the player with a compatible BRAVIA flat-panel LCD television or audio/video receiver. With the touch of a button, you can automatically turn on and switch inputs matching connected devices.

Additionally, the player offers multi-channel linear PCM digital audio output via HDMI, and can decode Dolby® Digital Plus, providing optimum surround sound to an appropriately equipped receiver. The unit has optical and coaxial digital audio out, along with 5.1 channel decoding capability for backward compatibility with existing receivers.

The player supports BD-ROM, BD-Java, AVC-HD and DVD playback from DVD/DVD+R/+RW encoded discs, CD playback, as well as MP3 audio files and JPEG images stored on DVD recordable media.

The player joins Sony’s family of full HD 1080 line of products, which spans from the original BDP-S1 BD player and extends to BRAVIA™ LCD televisions and Grand WEGA® SXRD® rear-projection sets, as well as the PlayStation® 3 game console, Blu-ray Disc-enabled VAIO computers, PC drives and recordable BD media.

The new BD player will be available this summer for about $600 at Sony Style stores, online at sonystyle.com and at other retailers nationwide. Consumers can obtain more information online from Sony about Blu-ray Disc products, technology and related events at www.sony.com/bd.

Source: Sony Press Release

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