Soniq QPB302B Blu-ray player

Great performance, decent build and a good feature set make the Soniq QPB302B Blu-ray player an absolute steal as one of the most affordable BD players on the market at the moment.


8.0
CNET Rating
9.3
User Rating


Come council clean-up day, you'll often see empty Soniq cardboard boxes awaiting kerbside collection. The brand's plasma and LCD TVs are notoriously inexpensive and popular as a result, primarily sold through JB Hi-Fi stores and occasionally online. Its product range is rapidly expanding and definitely price-driven as this Blu-ray player (one of two current models) clearly demonstrates.

Design and features

Unpacking the QPB302B, the player certainly looks the part and has some weight behind it, well 2.3kg to be precise, which for a slimline unit is respectably substantial. It's quite solid and feels well made compared to the usual standard of other "no-name" brands. Power up time was quick — the drawer opened and closed smoothly and generally the Soniq makes a favourable first impression.

At the time of writing this, JB was offering the Soniq for the "hot" price of just AU$99. We sauntered in to our local store and were even able to squeeze a few more bucks off this low price. So, it's definitely affordable, but like super-inexpensive DVD players, are you simply getting what you pay for?

The Soniq will play a decent variety of disc types and formats including DivX Plus HD, MP3, WMA and CD Audio playback, and will upscale DVD to 1080p. At this bargain basement level, it's one thing to claim what it'll play (MP3, WMA and CD Audio playbacks), but actually doing so can be a different story. We'd heard reports that this player can struggle with certain discs, mainly flatly refusing to play some DVDs, so we ran through plenty of discs to see how it would cope.

A standard remote handset is supplied, it's nothing flash and isn't backlit, but does the job.

Outputs are also standard fare comprising a single HDMI (1.3a), component, S-Video and composite. There are both optical and coaxial digital outs and the player's on-board decoding handles DTS-HD Master Audio as well as the usual Dolby flavours. It'll also do BD-Live (2.0) via Ethernet and has a handy front USB port.

Performance

First up was taking stock of power-up and load times. After pressing the power button, there is a short delay with just a solitary LED alight, and it appears not much is going on. Over in a flash, the player gets straight down to business. The drawer can be immediately ejected/loaded and it doesn't dawdle getting BDs to play — we timed your average disc to take around 20 seconds from no to go. Comparatively, this is on par with much dearer players and left our two-year-old resident Samsung BD-P1500 for dead, loading in around half the time.

Our review sample popped up an initial message saying that something called the "BUDA" was being checked and that it wasn't ready and that playback might not work. Further investigation (online) revealed this is something to do with BD-Live and is the given folder name where the player stores content to external memory. If it didn't pop up every time a BD was loaded, it would save a couple of precious pre-playing seconds and we couldn't find any way of disabling it nor any mention in the instructions.

Once a BD image pops up on screen, you soon forget about this minor annoyance. Closest to hand for our first look was a copy of Fool's Gold, not the most intellectually stimulating of films, but a bright, crisp BD transfer, full of vibrancy and excellent colour spectrum. Unwittingly, we found ourselves drawn into watching the silly opening boat sinking sequence, not because of the lame humour, but simply by how good the Soniq's image looked.

Feeding an Optoma HD20 projector, our LP Morgan screen came alive with a fantastically vivid and well detailed picture. It was all there — natural-looking colours; tanned, but very human-looking flesh tones; fine detail retrieval, even in complex scenes and a general look of a player far more expensive. The other BD player we had on hand was a NuForce-worked Oppo BDP-83SE, with a price tag over 20 times that of the Soniq. Sure, it looked better; sounded better and is perhaps about the best BD machine around, but the maths simply entered the steepest curve of diminishing returns comparing an AU$2300 player with one that can be had for under a hundred bucks. OK, you tend to get what you pay for in this game, but occasionally a veritable bargain comes along and this Soniq is without doubt an HD steal.

All Blu-ray fodder we popped in the tray looked great — we didn't even have to delve too far into the player's configuration or set-up to make things look pretty. The Soniq also scrubbed up old, re-mastered material really well, such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and 2001: A Space Odyssey, both of which show their age a bit on BD, but still provide a decent enough visual HD challenge. The same went for good old DVDs and using only the Soniq's upscaling, we were once more pleasantly surprised at the quality achieved by this player. It managed a better job than the vast majority of standard-definition DVD players and showed no signs of throwing in the towel during playback, with both legit and bootleg software — not during the three weeks we had it playing.

Firmware is king with many a Blu-ray/DVD player's functionality and general operation, and this Soniq is no different. An online search reveals user problems with certain disc types — even title specific. Soniq's recently released a firmware update for this player (v3.0) and with this installed it never refused to play a disc nor froze while doing so. We'd heard that this was the case with a few users, but can't say it was ever an issue with our player.

Conclusion

Even if you have to pay full RRP on the Soniq you've still got yourself a Blu-ray bargain. If there are any still in stock, buy two or three and give one to your mum, she'll be chuffed to bits. Blu-ray's getting more affordable and this Soniq represents a new low price tag without skimping at all on overall performance.

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NorbertH posted a comment   
Hungary

The article says: "Outputs are also standard fare comprising a single HDMI (1.3a), component, S-Video and composite."

Is "s-video" a mistake, or does it really have one?

Peveus Facebook
9
Rating
 

"Outstanding"

Peveus posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Value, picture, sound, region free, usb playback

The Bad:Not much

I write this mainly to respond to an ancient comment that said this player cannot output Linear PCM in anything but Stereo. This is not true! In fact, this player does something very cool indeed: selecting "Re-encode" in the audio settings will allow you to play uncompressed Linear PCM in all its multichannel glory over SPDIF (digital audio cable)! The player outputs it uncompressed as a THX signal. Very cool. The Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy on bluray sounds amazing using this feature.

In fact, considering it's price I am amazed at just how good this player is. I cannot commend it enough. The picture is outstanding (just make sure to change the colour space to YcBcR as RGB looked a bit dull on my set), the sound as mentioned above is capable of outputting Linear PCM as well as Dolby and THX HD streams.

AND it plays DivX and MKVs as well as various other formats via the USB port! And last but not least, as some have said, some of the revisions available can be unlocked to be region free. I have unlocked mine, and this is a very welcome feature that is hard to come by in a bluray player/

There is one prime fault with this system which is basically the only reason I gave it a 9 instead of a perfect 10 - DVD Playback. Some titles - not many mind you - simply will not even boot on this player. I have never had a problem with a single movie, but random discs from the Sopranos and the entire third season of Mad Men simply will not run at all. This problem can be fixed with a firmware update off the Soniq site, but this removes bluray region free, so I chose not do so. A small price to pay for region free. I have never come across a Bluray that does this, it seems to just be some DVD TV shows.

If I can find two other minor faults they would be thus:
1) No Optical out. SPDIF works great and sounds just as good as optical, but I prefer optical overall. This article says there is optical out but this is not the case...
2) For MKVs which include emedded subtitles, the player will occasionally cut off the last word of a sentence.

 

kgb107 posted a comment   

Can't complain for $95 for this unit, this is my first blu-ray player purchase (had to get one as I got the blu-ray version of Inception for Christmas!) The unit looks slick, picture quality looks excellent, played Die Hard DVD to see how the upscaling performs and I had no complaints, got Pinocchio blue-ray out from the video shop for the kids and the picture quality for a movie made in 1940 was stunning.

Jimbo
9
Rating
 

Jimbo posted a review   

The Good:Great picture for the price. $90 at J&B

The Bad:nothing yet

This was a great buy at $90 from J&B Hi Fi. Got them down from $100 to $90.

Player hasn't skipped a beat so far. Picture is clear and crisp, Blue-Ray looks great.

Plays a large variety of media files. HD as well. MKV HD movies look fab.

Buy one you won't regret it

 

mightymaki posted a comment   
Australia

The Good:Value & good looks

The Bad:nothing as yet

For $99 this would have to be the best value Blu Ray player on the market at the moment.
All the features one could want & the load time is better than our older Sony. The picture quality is fantastic.
Considering the bargain price & I even bought it on-line for $99 from JB Hi Fi delivered to home for free!
We bought this to use in the kid's rumpus room but have now swapped it over with our older Sony.
At this price we're thinking of buying a few for Christmas presents!

 

chrisoisonline posted a comment   

The Good:everything value for money player

The Bad:nothing

In the review you state that the player has optical out IT DOESNT it only has spidf please change the discription its misleading

MB Rowville
10
Rating
 

MB Rowville posted a review   

The Good:Great Value for Money $99.00 & Performance

The Bad:Nothing...

Great Picture & Loading Times are quick. For $99.00 buck you cant go wrong. Works well on Ethernet also. Recommended Product for Home Theater Bluray Quality... Very Happy.

 

Onboard decoding? posted a comment   

The player can bitstream HD audio, but it won't do multi-channel PCM output (it'll only do stereo).

Also, if you have a search on the internet forums, some versions of the player can be made blu-ray region free.




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User Reviews / Comments  Soniq QPB302B Blu-ray player

  • NorbertH

    NorbertH

    "The article says: "Outputs are also standard fare comprising a single HDMI (1.3a), component, S-Video and composite."

    Is "s-video" a mistake, or does it really have one?"

  • Peveus

    Peveus

    Rating9

    "I write this mainly to respond to an ancient comment that said this player cannot output Linear PCM in anything but Stereo. This is not true! In fact, this player does something very cool indeed: s..."

  • kgb107

    kgb107

    "Can't complain for $95 for this unit, this is my first blu-ray player purchase (had to get one as I got the blu-ray version of Inception for Christmas!) The unit looks slick, picture quality looks ..."

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