The new Sony BDP-S370 Blu-ray player packs quite a punch in terms of performance and features. It's an ideal companion for an HDTV.
It has an all-black smooth exterior, very similar to the monolithic design claims of the Sony Bravia TV. Its surface doesn't attract fingerprints and the BDP-S370 Blu-ray player is nice, compact and quite sleek, measuring just over an inch thick.
It has a disc tray located at its front left, and a strip running along its bottom which has a few physical buttons for functions such as ejecting the disc and skipping through tracks. The Sony BDP-S370 has a single line LED-display next to the disc tray and a front USB port situated at its right front corner. An extra USB port, Ethernet, HDMI, and other audio-video ports are situated at the Sony BDP-S370's rear. Port placement is convenient on the BDP-S370 and nothing is amiss. The Sony Blu-ray Disc Player has an all-metal casing and feels well built - it weighs just 2kg, making it nice and portable to carry around.
The Blu-ray Disc Player itself comes with a multitude of connectivity ports: Audio-video line out ports, component video, digital out (coaxial and optical), HDMI, USB (another one on the front) and an Ethernet port can be found on the Sony BDP-S370 Blu-ray player's rear.
The Sony BDP-S370 supports Dolby Digital, DTS, and DSD audio output. The Sony BDP-S370 also comes with a remote control (model: RMT-B107P) and a standard audio-video cable - surprisingly no HDMI or Component cable comes bundled with the Blu-ray player. Instead of the Sony BDP-S370's regular remote controller, you can use your Apple iPhone or iPod Touch as a remote, too, if you download a free app from the iTunes Store.
Using the Sony BDP-S370
We hooked up the Sony BDP-S370 to a 40-inch HDTV through an HDMI cable for all our tests. The Sony Blu-ray Disc Player took about 90 seconds to start the very first time - and that's pretty much its cold boot time. You can have this reduced down to a couple of seconds by enabling the Sony BDP-S370's Quick Start Mode through its Easy Setup screen, first thing that greets you on the TV screen.
Here you select how the Blu-ray player is connecting to your TV (HDMI/Component Video/Video). In the next step you choose whether to allow the player to connect to the Internet or not. You also enable Gracenote (to pull additional disc info from the Net), and the Blu-ray player's Quick Start Mode (if required).
After getting past the Quick Start Mode, the Sony BDP-S370 player switches to the Blu-ray player's home menu screen. The menu's nice and easy to navigate - it has side-scrolling items like Setup, Photo, Music, Video, and Network.
You can go left or right with the remote controller's directional buttons. Setup screen in the Main menu lets you finetune every aspect of the Sony BD-S370 Blu-ray Disc Player. You can adjust screen settings, aspect ratio, output video format, etc. Audio settings include audio over HDMI, Dolby Digital (Coaxial/Optical), and Downmix which allows you to apply Dolby Surround sound effect to the audio output.
BD/DVD Menu lets you choose the default in-menu language, subtitle mode, and also allows you to choose a BD Hybrid Disc Playback Layer - either BD or DVD and CD. Parental control allows you to password protect the Blu-ray player. You can also restrict the playback of scenes and connecting to the internet through the Parental Control area. Under System Settings tab, the Blu-ray player allows you to turn on Quick Start Mode to shorten the startup time - and it does work. You can also change the player's Gracenote settings through its system settings tab.
Choosing Photo lets you view photos (only JPGs) on a connected USB device on the Sony BDP-S370 Blu-ray Disc Player; you can play photo slideshows as well. Same USB device can have audio files (MP3 file format supported) and you can play it through the player's Music menu option. You can also connect to National Public Radio and listen to live radio and audio podcasts. Video functions similar to Music.
Everything but MKV plays from USB - DivX, XviD are both supported. Otherwise, you can search for a keyword in the Search Internet Video tab. You can of course access the Blu-ray disc in here, too. Moreover, popular video sites like YouTube, Blip.tv, Wired.com -- in all 17 popular video sites -- across are supported. You can't visit any site you desire on the BDP-S370 - a very good feature Sony might want to incorporate in future versions of its Blu-ray Player offerings. BD-Live, a feature that allows you to access additional content (refreshed previews and exclusive special features) on the Blu-ray player through the Internet, is also supported on the Sony BDP-S370.
A special mention for YouTube - you can search for any video by using the Sony BDP-S370 remote's number keys - it's exactly like typing out an SMS on a non-QWERTY mobile phone. If a search gives multiple results, you can play a video and press the skip track button to go to the next track in the playlist on YouTube. You can login to your YouTube account and rate videos, check YouTube's featured videos in real-time. You can pause tracks being played, it's pretty cool.
Watching a Blu-ray Movie with the Sony BDP-S370
We had fun watching Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End on our 40-inch Philips LCD TV. Cycling through various tracks, forwarding a video at 2X speed or playing it backward, changing subtitles, every command was followed swiftly by the Sony BDP-S370 - everything operated as expected, no problems whatsoever. Click a track through the BD menu to play it in full-screen; you can go back to the previous menu by clicking on the Pop-up Menu button. With the output resolution set to full-HD 1080p, even standard DVD flicks upscaled pretty well.
However, the Sony BDP-S370 can also send video to the HDTV without converting it (choose Original Resolution) - this helps if your HDTV is better at upconverting or downconverting content than the player. Our time spent watching Blu-ray content on the Sony BDP-S370 Blu-ray Disc Player was largely good - no deal breaking revelations to report. Watching the movie itself was a nice experience, both in terms of video and audio quality.
A few things to keep in mind, though. The Sony BDP-S370 can connect to the Internet wirelessly, too, but you need a proprietary Sony UWA-BR100 Wireless LAN Adaptor. One more network-based feature is yet to materialise: DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance). Sony promises that you'll be able to enjoy media from your computer, over your network, via a firmware update due later this year.
We didn't like how any operation or command to do with the Blu-ray disc interrupts anything else that you may be doing. While watching a YouTube video or listening to online radio, you're taken back to the default home menu screen when you eject the disc - can't the tray just pop out in isolation? Also if one were to pull out the USB drive in the middle of a scene the player just takes you back to the home screen menu - why?
Overall, we are happy to report that the Sony BPD-S370 delivers on every front it claims to offer. The Blu-ray player's Quick Start Mode really helps bring down boot time down to a maximum of 2-3 seconds - almost instant on which is excellent response time. Throughout our testing (re: watching movies, streaming online media) Sony BDP-S370 Blu-ray player operated quietly and didn't heat up all that much.