Back in the bad old days — circa mid-2010 — there was a premium you had to pay for 3D equipment. Sony, in its wisdom, realised the way to get 3D into people's hands was to make it affordable. Not only did it release a free update to its PlayStation 3 console, but it released one of the most affordable Blu-ray players in the BDPS470. With 3D!
The Sony BDPS470 is a low-slung black Blu-ray player that looks more like a DVD player than a HD disk spinner. Why? Well, it doesn't have the obligatory fold-down door or blue fascia. In fact it's quite nondescript, and only 36mm high.
The front of the player has a small number of controls on the front — just Eject, Stop and Play — which is not only too few for navigating menus but the buttons themselves are tiny and uncomfortable to press.
Above the controls is a small but legible blue LED display and a USB port for connecting external, media-laden drives.
In keeping with the budget pricing, the Sony comes with a barebones remote which is smaller than most from the company. All of the functions are there, but we'd invest in a universal model to simplify your setup anyway.
Trailing our fingers down the specs list we found it difficult to tell the difference between this player and the AU$70 cheaper BDP-S370. Essentially both provide onboard upscaling to 1080p, HD audio decoding and output, iPhone control, internet television via BRAVIA Internet Video, and DLNA streaming. While the specs also suggest Android control it wasn't available from the Android market at the time of testing.
The main difference between the two then? 3D, of course. So, if you don't need this feature we'd say go for the cheap one.
The player offers Gracenote compatibility which enables the Sony to grab cover art and actor details for DVDs and Blu-rays. This can get tiresome as the player halts completely while doing this, but you can turn it off.
One of the things that impressed us about this player is its support for media formats, and most particularly MKV. While this is seen as a "pirate" format we would hazard a guess that people who download a lot of media would have at least one MKV movie in their collections. Other formats include AVI, DivX, MP4 for video and MP3, AAC, and WMA9 for audio. Unfortunately there's no FLAC audio option and photos are limited to JPEG.
Bravia Internet Video is a boon and allows access to a wide range of sources including ABC's iView and Yahoo7!. You could spend hours just flipping through the dozens of channels on offer without ever having to insert a Blu-ray.
The two players also offer one feature we didn't expect from a budget player — a DSD output. If you own SACDs then you'll know what this is — a high quality digital format that's designed to offer a high-quality signal from your music platters. If you don't have any of these disks, just know that it's good.
Connections are a tad limited as you'd expect, you get a version 1.4-compliant HDMI port, component, AV, digital coaxial and optical, dual USB and an ethernet port. An AU$99 USB adaptor is available if you want to connect the player wirelessly.
No matter the hype, for the next 50 years or so the overwhelming majority of content will be in 2D, and so this is where we started our testing. Using the HQV synthetic tests in both DVD and Blu-ray we found that the Sony had many strengths: it was good at scaling, and in fact much better than our Panasonic VT20, and capable of displaying 24p or video content without jaggies. Noise was kept to minimum whether it was mosquito noise or blockiness.
Moving on to Blu-ray disks we found that the Sony offered superb visual clarity for the price, and featured similar processing abilities to the high-end Bravias. During the opening of the bridge scene the flyover was very smooth, though there though some judder in the yellow road markings, but there was no trace of moire. Noise was basically non-existent while colour and detail were spot-on. The player was also able to dig up plenty of shadow detail from the Batman Begins Blu-ray.
The player was just as talented with DVD delivering solid images and deep blacks from our King Kong disk. As before, MPEG and random noise was also non-existent.
But we haven't mentioned 3D yet! What is there to say? It works! Images were clear and detailed and there isn't a trace of crosstalk to be found. If you want to buy a disk player just for its 3D capabilities there's really no reason to spend more than this.
Loading times on the Sony players is impressively quick, with our Vantage point Blu-ray loading in almost half the time of other players at 24.7 seconds. No more taking a break to make a cup of tea after loading the disk in!
Audio quality was well and away better than we had any reason to expect from the price. CDs actually sounded better through the Sony than when decoded by the Pioneer VSX-1020 receiver. In surround sound mode, we found the player was able to decode the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack from Spider-man 3 and provide a palpable sense of claustrophobia from the alleyway chase scene. However, for full home-theatre impact it's best to let a good receiver do the decoding.
Lastly, the player did a great job of serving up media files and surfing IPTV channels. Watching a documentary on the making of the Gorillaz "monkey musical" we could have been convinced were watching it off-air and not streamed via an internet connection — there was no blockiness to be found.
With less than a week to go of 2010 we've finally found our favourite disk player of the year. It does everything you'd need it to and at just AU$300 it seems hard to justify spending more on a Blu-ray player. What this player doesn't do, you won't really miss.