Onkyo BD-SP309 3D Blu-ray Player First Look
- Supports Blu-ray 3D Playback (When Connected to a 3D-Compatible TV)
- HDMI Output Supports 3D, 1080p, DeepColor, x.v.Color (JPEG Only), and CEC
- Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus Decoding
- Supports DTS-HD Master Audio Essential
- 1080p Upscaling of All Standard-Definition Video Sources (1080i, 720p, and 576p)
- Plays AVCHD, DivX Plus HD (MKV), MP3, and JPEG Formats
- 1080/24p Video Output for Full-HD Movies
- Ethernet Port for Media Streaming via Home Network, BD-Live, and Firmware Updates
- BD-Live Functionality for Interactive Content
- 2 USB Ports (Front/Rear) for Media Content
Note - these specs came from the European website as the BD-SP309 isn't listed on the US site yet.
In a post-Oppo Blu-ray world, it is hard to release anything that doesn't get compared to the powerhouse. Really, you don't have much of a chance of competing on features since the Oppo pretty much has everything. So you can't have more than everything. Well, you can do that with the audiophile companies who do and add things that are marginally based in science, claiming unmeasurable improvements in playback and fidelity. Or you can just take an Oppo, slap it in your own case, and jack up the price $3k.
Certainly one of the things you can do to compete is to release a player at a lower price point. Since the cheapest Oppo is $500, that's the bar. Onkyo has come in at half that amount with their new BD-SP309 Blu-ray player. That's a pretty significant savings. But the question is: What features did they have to cut? Well, not the important one. The key buzzword these days is 3D. If you can't support it, don't release it. The Onkyo BD-SP309 supports 3D playback over HDMI (of course) allowing you to view Avatar in all its 3D glory when enough people are out shopping that you don't have to feel bad that you don't have glasses for them. For 2D content, the BD-SP309 will upconvert everything to 1080p over HDMI. While Onkyo has been touting their Marvell Qdeo chipset in their new receivers, the scaler is not mentioned for the DB-SP309 indicating that it is a proprietary chipset. This doesn't necessarily mean it will perform poorly on the HQV and other video scaling tests, but we just don't know. Taking a look at the back of the BD-SP309 tells the rest of the story.
In the history of Audioholics we've rarely seen so sparse a back panel. When we first saw the image, we half expected a tumbleweed to roll by. As you can see, you're going to need an HDMI input on something in your system as there are no other video outputs. The BD-SP309 does support digital audio from both coaxial and optical outputs. At first we thought this was a bit strange until we remembered that some of the lower priced receivers will only accept video over HDMI. Also, if you wanted to send the video to your brand new 3D display and the audio to your legacy receiver, you'd need additional audio outputs. There are no analogue outputs at all. This is certainly a Blu-ray player that is positioned to take advantage of the analogue sunset.
There are two more claims to fame for the Onkyo BD-SP309. First it has both front and back panel USB ports. This will allow you to stream content from USB drives. We actually like this as it allows for a more permanent drive to be attached to the back port while still having the front port free for transient content (like stuff your friends might bring over).
The second feature is that the BD-SP309 can stream Internet radio and video on demand via Pandora, Netflix and VUDU. Since most of Onkyo's new receivers (and many of their HTiBs) can stream content, we were wondering if they'd include such features. We like the inclusion of Netflix and VUDU as it makes sense to include streaming of movie services from a Blu-ray player. The Internet radio and Pandora seem a little tacked on but they certainly are welcome.
It may sound (read?) like we're slamming the BD-SP309 in this first look, but we really aren't. The Onkyo BD-SP309 may be spartan, but it has everything you need for your 3D viewing pleasure. If all you are going to use your Blu-ray player for is Blu-rays, you could do much worse. The VUDU and Netflix streaming are great "value-added" additions and should help move units. While power users will want to look elsewhere, those wanting 3D and not really caring much about anything else can save a few hundred dollars over other options.
For more information, please visit www.us.onkyo.com.
Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.