S300 Viewing and Listening Evaluations, Conclusion
As the HQV testing suggested, the Sony BDP-S300 performed well with Blu-ray playback but fairly poorly on normal DVD playback. I viewed a number of movies during this evaluation period and feel confident that I have a good handle on how this unit will perform over the long run.
Wow! Can I just say wow? This movie looked and sounded great. In a rare moment of weakness, I saw 300 at the IMAX theater when it was first released (I usually wait for everything to come out on video). I was worried about the choices the director made in the graininess of the film quality. Since the entire movie (for the most part) was filmed in a warehouse in Canada, this was obviously an artistic choice. My fear is that the high definition transfer would somehow accentuate the grain and make what should be a reference quality movie useless for review purposes (and I really wanted to use this movie for review purposes).
Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was the "mood" of the movie preserved but there was a great deal of detail that showed through. While many of the backgrounds (especially the sky) were a murky, grainy, mess of copper and white (giving the onboard video processors fits I'm sure), the characters in the forefront were full of stunning detail that constantly had my jaw dropping in amazement. Lines were nearly always well defined and razor sharp. The detail was at times so deep and defined that I didn't even notice the overall grain to the picture. Of course it doesn't hurt that this movie is very engaging and engrossing. But I don't have to tell you that do I?
It was mighty hard to take pictures of the exact same frame of the movie on both discs but I got pretty close on the picture below. It's very easy to notice the increased definition on the musculature on the hunchbacked Ephialtes (even if it isn't the exact same frame). There were other shots that showed how there was more detail in the blacker scenes in the Blu-ray version but when I compressed the pictures so they would be manageable online, that detail was completed obfuscated. While it isn't really a surprise that the 1080p native Blu-ray transfer is better looking than the DVD version, it does give you an idea of how much you might be expected to miss by using the S300 with a standard definition DVD rather than the Blu-ray version.
Sometimes they make a movie that is so different, so revolutionary, that it creates a rush to the box office. And then they make a sucky sequel. Welcome to 28 Weeks Later the sequel to the innovative 28 Days Later. Rather than describe to you the depth of my loathing for the derivative POS, just take my word for it. Don't see it. If you're a die hard zombie fan… OK, but for the rest of the world, save your time. I wish I had. One of the nice things about outputting a 1080p native movie to a 1080p native display is the stability of the picture. There isn't really any scaling going on so many of those types of artifacts we might see just aren't there. This movie was full of dark scenes (as you might expect) and each of them was devoid of any banding, macroblocking or any other sort of visible artifact. Tons of detail was discernable especially on people's faces.
I rarely watch previews but occasionally one slips through. Dead Man's Shoes was one of those that did and it immediately caught my attention. While I had a hard time understanding what was said at times because of the thick British accents, I found this film to be very engaging and more than a little disturbing. This movie exhibited the sort of the gritty "indie" film style that you'll immediately recognize. The lackluster deinterlacing performance of the S300 was evident here. If you paid attention to the dark background, macroblocking appeared and moiré popped up occasionally during motion scenes.
Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Fit For
I'm not going to tell you what this movie is about because… well, the plot isn't really all that relevant. If you're in it for the plot, you're watching the wrong movie. They let you know that right from the beginning when they subtitle what is obviously the Sphinx "New York." If you didn't laugh at that, turn the movie off and send it back, it isn't for you. While this is far from the pinnacle of animation, it does have a lot of hard black lines that bounce (often unexpectedly) around the screen. The complete lack of jaggie reduction reared its ugly head many times during this movie almost to distraction.
The Sony BDP-S300 does not decode Dolby TrueHD but it does do Dolby Digital Plus. Popping in the Dolby produced The Sound of High Definition demo disc (which inexplicably has a picture of Alicia Keys on the cover but nothing within by her), I listened to the three selections available. Of course they all sported high definition video, but I was also pleased to see that the output over HDMI was 7.1. If you are connected via analogue outputs (see above) you'll only have 5.1 available. Until the new formats the best we could hope for was 6.1 so this was a first for me. Overall, the music that accompanied each of the short movies was very lifelike and crystal clear. There was a ton more dynamic range than I was used to hearing as well. Taking a listen to the uncompressed PCM track on 300 seemed to be quite a bit better than the Dolby Digital track though it was recorded about 3-5dB louder (not the easiest comparison). The dynamic range was increased as was (to my ears) the fidelity. Definitely a bonus in my book.
I was especially impressed by the Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds duet of "Lie in Our Graves." The mixing was excellent with each of the two guitars was located primarily in their own front speaker (Dave on the right, Tim on the left). The surrounds were used to convey the sense of being in a large venue (Radio City Music Hall) and all the crowd noise. This really tricked your ear into thinking that you were part of the performance. What was weird was that at first I didn't even notice the surrounds. It just sounded so natural.
I'd love to comment on the BDP-S300's SACD and DVD-A ability but these were sadly not included. While I can sort of understand DVD-A as it is a competitor to Sony's SACD format, the lack of SACD support is just baffling. Yes, I understand that most people purchasing an entry level Blu-ray player isn't really looked to purchase a bunch of SACDs but it is still a $500 machine. You can get a universal player for under $200 these days and, as far as I know, you don't have to pay royalties to yourself if you don't want to. Why not include it and give a little support to a format that you created? Baffling.
If you're looking for an entry level Blu-ray player and either aren't worried about deinterlacing or aren't planning on using the unit for upconverting DVDs then perhaps this is the unit for you. Without Dolby TrueHD or any of the HD DTS decoding though you're going to have to upgrade the unit if you'd like to take advantage of the increase fidelity those formats offer. With so many other units with greater capabilities on the horizon (or in the stores for just a little more money), this doesn't seem to be a very good purchase.
Sony Electronics, Inc.
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Sony Electronics is the largest component of Sony Corporation of America, the U.S. holding company for Sony's U.S.-based electronics and entertainment businesses. Sony's principal U.S. businesses include: Sony Electronics Inc., Sony Music Entertainment Inc.; Sony Pictures Entertainment; Sony Broadband Entertainment; Sony Computer Entertainment America; Metreon; Sony Style and Sony Wonder Technology Lab.
The Score Card
The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:
Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating
Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.
Audioholics Rating Scale
- — Excellent
- — Very Good
- — Good
- — Fair
- — Poor
|High Definition Video Performance|
|Standard Definition Video Performance|
|High Definition Audio Performance|
|Analogue Audio Performance|
|Deinterlacing & Scaling|
|Ergonomics & Usability|
|Ease of Setup|
|Fit and Finish|
Worth buying? No, I would get the Sammy BD-P1200 despite its reputation for bugginess. At least it internally decodes Dolby TrueHD and provides bitstream audio support. Yes, you will see an increase in PQ even on a 42" 720p set unless you sit far away. (It will still have a better picture!)
What a piece of garbage for $500.00. I hope Sony loses their shirts on the blu-ray format. Maybe, just maybe this will teach them a lesson to play nice and come up with one unified format that everyone can afford and enjoy. I don't hate Sony, I just despise their defiance and ignorant ways of thinking things through, because its the buying public that gets burned, not Sony.
It doesn't matter if Sony loses their shirts on Blu-ray, there are more powerful companies like Panasonic and Samsung involved - Blu-ray will not lose to HD DVD.
There are also 17 companies with patents in Blu-ray Disc technology - it is not "Sony's format" as many ignorant people may have you believe.
CyberLink Corporation; Dell Inc.; Hewlett-Packard Company; Hitachi Ltd.; Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.; LG Electronics Inc.; Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (Panasonic); Mitsubishi Electric Corporation; Pioneer Corporation; Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.; Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd.; Sharp Corporation; Sonic Solutions; Sony Corporation; TDK Corporation; Victor Company of Japan, Ltd.; and Warner Home Video Inc.
Sounds to me like you're describing the HD DVD format as most people were behind Blu-ray as the next optical media disc before Microsoft stepped in and gave Toshiba the extra boost they needed to go ahead with their format. Toshiba are the largest patent holders in DVD technolgy and it is their greed that forced them to go ahead with HD DVD, which keeps the income pouring in for them....or at least it would if the format sold discs!