I've never been one for Sony's hi-fi gear as I prefer the sound of other manufactures' equipment, but I had been looking for a blu-ray player that met my requirements for over a year now. I was waiting for Oppo's BDP-831, which was inexplicably cancelled about a week after receiving 5 star reviews in the major home cinema and hi-fi magazines. Then the Cambridge Audio 650BD came out for the about same price as the Oppo's SRP, but had worse quality DACs and Video scaler, which put me off.
Then the Sony came out that played most of the disc types that the Oppo and Cambridge Audio players (all but DVD-Audio) for less than half the price of those players. Chuck in iPlayer support and I was sold!
I'm very glad I decided to get this player. It loads Blu-Ray films faster than a Playstation 3, DVDs faster than my old Denon 1920 DVD player. DVD up-scaling is strong, with the exception of line drawn animation (like Family Guy or The Simpsons) which sometimes causes thin horizontal lines to shake and break up. Blu-Ray playback is excellent and stable, provided you have a TV that can display 720p or 1080p at 24 fps.
On-line content was fairly good, but I was unable to play HD content from LoveFilm or YouTube without buffering problems on my "up to 8Mb" from Tiscali (which was no faster than when I had their "up to 2Mb" service). iPlayer has no such problems though as the BBC's servers are much faster than the afore mentioned services.
A nice surprise was finding that the USB playback feature does support H.264/AVC video in a .MKV container (it's not mentioned in the blurb, but is mentioned in the manual), so you can playback all those (legally acquired) TV shows you've downloaded from the Internet.
Multi-region DVD playback can be achieved via universal remote (e.g. One4all, with the magic button, and Logitech Harmony) hacks, which are the same as they were for the BDP-S360 (easily found via a Google search). There is no such easy hack for multi-region Blu-Ray playback however. On some players multi-region Blu-Ray playback can be achieved via a hardware hack, but that would invalidate your warranty, so for most it's not worth the risk. However, region coding on Blu-Ray discs is optional and many "region A" Blu-Ray discs are actually region free.
If I had one niggle with the player it would be that it doesn't have built in wireless networking, and the Sony wireless network USB dongle is an expensive add-on which sells for 5 times the going price of other wireless network USB dongles. This alone though is not enough for me to dock a star on an otherwise exemplary player.
DLNA Update (updated 27-3-2012):
Having recently built a NAS machine (using FreeNAS), which has UPnP/DLNA support, I thought I'd give the BDP-S370's DLNA client feature a whirl. The first thing I found was that the Sony player was quite fussy and I was unable to get it to connect to FreNAS's FUPPES UPnP service (despite trying the DLNA and PlayStation 3 profiles). I started to search around for alternatives that I could install on my main Windows 7 64 bit PC (with an eye for using Windows Home Server 2011 instead of FreeNAS). I tried Tversity, but no joy, then I tried the Sony recommended Serviio, but the software didn't function at all. Finally I tried TVMOBiLi, which was picked up by the BDP-S370 immediately.
With TVMOBiLi's transcoding feature disabled, I was able to test a range of formats including MP3, FLAC, AVI (DIVX), MKV, MPEG-2, MPEG-TS, MPEG-M2TS and MP4. FLAC wasn't supported, which is no surprise, but MKV, MP4 and MPEG-M2TS were also not supported, which is odd considering that the BDP-S370 is quite happy playing these formats on a USB hard drive. (Strangely MPEG-TS files have the M2TS icon the the Xrossbar UI, despite MPEG-TS and MPEG-M2TS being different and the BDP-S370's inability to play MPEG-M2TS via DLNA).
I then turned on TVMOBiLi's transcoding feature and was able to then playback a FLAC (transcoded to LPCM, sans meta-data) as well as an MKV file, transcoded to MPEG (though I'm unsure as to which flavour of MPEG). The FLAC file had a pause of around 3-8 seconds before playback commenced, with the MKV file it was more like 20-40 seconds. When the transcoded MKV started playing back it had a noticeable judder in it, no doubt caused by the computer to do real-time transcoding of a 720p MKV.
I then re-muxed the 720p MKV into a MPEG-TS stream (using tsMuxeR) and tried playback again. Playback was smooth which suggests that the problem was indeed the transcoding (and not the wireless network).
Another thing that struck me, when browsing a large music share, was how inadequate the Xrossbar UI is when dealing with a large number of files in any given folder. Thankfully TVMOBiLi creates several pseudo folders which make navigation easier (e.g. Artist -> A-C -> Allison Crowe -> Secrets), but even then it is still a rather long winded process.
I recently tried Serviio out again with a Windows Home Server (WHS) 2011 PC (a HP Micro Server) as a new Serviio plugin for WHS has been released and it worked well, though the PC was underpowered for transcoding video, so I stuck to DIVX AVI, MPEG and MPEG-TS for the video files. Recently I found that tsMuxeR was no longer working with some MKVs, but I've recently come across a new tool called Rebox.NET, which can convert MKVs to MPEG-TS (without transcoding), and it seems to work with more files than tsMuxeR does.
Truth be told, the BDP-S370's DLNA support is not overly useful due to its weak video container support - connecting a USB HDD is a better (not to mention easier and cheaper) option.
Wireless networking update (new):
We all know that the official Sony dongle is extortionate at nearly 70% as much as the player itself. I was on the Sony forums and a user mentioned this Netgear adaptor: Netgear WNCE2001 Universal WiFi Internet adaptor 802.11n
, which is cheaper (it works by connecting to the BDP-370's LAN socket and uses its USB socket for power). You'll need a laptop to set it up, but for the saving it's worth the additional hassle if you are comfortable with setting up a wireless network.
This Buffalo adaptor should also work Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti Dual Band Wireless-N Ethernet Converter, Access Point and Bridge - Wireless bridge - 802.11 a/b/g/n - desktop
. It has two LAN sockets, so it would be useful if you have say an internet connected TV as well as an internet connected Blu-ray player. The downside is that, unlike the Netgear, it occupies a mains power socket.
I haven't personally tried either solution as my BDP-370 is close enough to the router to be connected via LAN cable, but I thought the option was worth mentioning. If you do try either, please post a comment to let me know how you got on.
Sound Review (Updated):
I've now had the opportunity to assess the Sony BDP-S370's sound vs. my Denon 1920 (a DVD/SACD/CD player). When playing SACDs (Super Audio CDs) the old Denon beat the Sony hands down, achieving greater detail and clarity, while delivering a more realistic sound. I somewhat expected this as the Denon has a DSD based DAC which is the native format of a SACD, while the Sony has to convert the DSD signal to a PCM one as it has a PCM based DAC.
I then moved onto an Audio CD and a 24/96 DVD, both of which are PCM based, which means the Denon should be at a disadvantage. However, the Denon once again delivered better detail and clarity, while once again delivering a more realistic sound.
So in summary while the Sony is a good performer in movie sound, it is less accomplished as a music player and could do with some UK tuning or some component upgrades. However, perhaps this is slightly unfair as the Denon's price as new was £100 more than the Sony's new price, however the Denon is also 5 years old so things should have improved since then. I believe that Sony's next player up Sony BDP-570 is supposed to have improved audio circuitry and 7.1 analogue outputs, but if other reviews are right, then this upgrade has done nothing to improve the musicality. So I guess I'm saying that if you are more of a music person than a film person, then the Sony players may not be the right fit for you.
Further to my previous comments, I tried using the analogue audio outputs on my Samsung TV instead of those on the the Sony player. When I did the sound was immediately and substantially improved. I can therefore conclude the BDP-S370's weakness with sound lies with the analogue outputs (OPAMPs/DACs). This means that if you have a home cinema amplifier with HDMI, then you can effectively sidestep this weakness.
Internet Video Update:
Sony have just added 'Demand Five' (Five's catch-up service) to the internet video section. I watched Archer and part of Chinese Made Easy, both streamed comfortably with excellent quality, which was as good as (if not better than) Freeview (SD)!
Unfortunately I just discovered that the Drama section (i.e. CSI, Grey's Anatomy, etc.) is not available via the Bravia Internet Video version of Demand Five, which Five informed me is due to licensing issues. This majorly affects its usefulness as Five's main shows are dramas, but you can still use it to catch up on Home and Away and Neighbours.
NEW: Sony have added their own video on demand service, Qriocity, which contains a meagre selection of films in SD and HD. Pricing for the Qriocity films ranges from 4. Read more ›