Sony BDP-S360 (Blu-ray)  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , , , , ,

Sony's BDP-S360 Blu-ray player ($299.99 list) is a fine example of getting more for less. It delivers even better picture quality than its predecessor, the excellent BDP-S350, yet the S360's price is $100 lower. A few sacrifices were made: You won't get the multimedia streaming features some other players in this price range offer, for example. But if you care about picture quality above all else, the S360 delivers.

Behind a fold-down door on the S360's glossy tinted face you'll find a centrally located tray mechanism, an information display, and basic playback controls. The player's forward-facing power and eject buttons in the upper corners of its face are much easier to operate than were the upward-angled buttons of the S350, especially when the unit is stacked under other components. The basic remote control is a step back from the S350's, which featured bigger buttons on a larger frame. Sony has also eliminated the eject button on the new remote, making it more likely you will smudge the player's glossy face with fingerprints when inserting and removing discs.

The S360 lacks the S-Video connection that was on the S350 but retains the HDMI and component video outputs that support HD video formats. Like the LG BD370, the S360 also features coaxial and optical digital audio outputs for greater flexibility when connecting to an amplifier that may not support HDMI audio. As with most Blu-ray players, the S360 settles for a composite video cable; manufacturers should include HDMI cables, instead, for superior picture quality and simplified setup.

An Ethernet port on the S360 allows simplified firmware updates over a broadband connection, and a USB port can be filled with 1GB or more of flash storage to enable support for BD-Live downloadable multimedia features. The cheap cost of flash memory nowadays should make this optional upgrade standard, but at least this player's USB port is hidden out of sight; the LG BD370 leaves the memory sticking out the front of the player.

Unlike other $300 players such as the Samsung BD-P1600 and Panasonic DMP-BD60, the S360 doesn't support Internet-based streaming of services such as Netflix's Watch Instantly (Samsung) or YouTube (Panasonic). The player supports JPEG and MP3 multimedia file playback, but only from a recorded disc (Blu-ray, CD, or DVD) and not also via USB like other players, including the aforementioned Panasonic and Samsung models.

At 41 seconds, the S360's Blu-ray load time is 2 seconds faster than the S350's. When the S360's Quick Start feature is enabled, it reduces the time the player needs to start up and eject its disc tray from 23 seconds to 7 seconds. The S360 is below average at quickly scrolling through long menus, however: It took 22 seconds, whereas the LG BD370 needed only 15 seconds.

The S360 is better at upconverting standard-definition DVDs than any other Blu-ray player I've tested. The challenging HQV Benchmark DVD showed that the S360 could minimize jagged-edge artifacts better than the Panasonic DMP-BD60. And the S360 nailed all of the benchmark's film cadence tests that check for preservation of detail when dealing with some of the more common frame rates used video production—including the rate of 24 frames per second (fps) in which most movies and prime-time TV shows are captured.

Most Blu-ray movies are stored in the 1080p24 format (1080p resolution, 24 fps), and the BDP-S360 can output this video format to a compatible display via HDMI. But unlike the Panasonic DMP-BD60, the S360 upconverts DVD movies not to 1080p24 but to the more commonly supported 1080p60 format that can introduce judder, which is noticeable in slow panning shots.

On my tests, the S360 displayed exceptionally detailed 1080p Blu-ray video, but it was slightly less capable with 1080i, the format commonly used for bonus material and some animated titles. The 1080i HD HQV Benchmark's video resolution test revealed some flicker that could result in a minor loss of detail; this has been a consistent issue with all Sony BD players that I've tested, including the PlayStation 3. (full Story)

This entry was posted on May 7, 2009 at 4:54 AM and is filed under , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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