Friday, 16 December 2011

Sony BDP S380 Blu-ray Player

Sony have been focusing hard on the Indian audience with their Blu-ray players and home theatre systems. We recently reviewed the BDV-E980 3D Blu-ray home theatre system and besides it performing well, it offered fairly good value for money. In this vein, Sony have launched the BDP S380 Blu-ray player which boasts of full HD 1080p playback and their new Bravia Internet Video streaming features. Read on to know more about the BDP S380 Blu-ray player.

Design and Build Quality
The Sony BDP S380 is a slim Blu-ray player unlike the one that came with the BDV-E980. The front panel has a glossy black finish, while the top has a matte black finish. The player has just four buttons - on/off, eject, play and stop functions. It has a single disk tray in the front on the left and at the bottom right is a USB port. The location of this port allows one to quickly swap USB enabled drives.

Just three buttons featured on this player
Just three buttons featured on this player

Connectivity options for this player are all located at the back. These include a LAN port which can be connected to an Ethernet cable for accessing Sony’s Bravia Internet Video and BD Live, an HDMI port and component and digital outputs.

The remote control of the player is small and compact and sturdy and the spacing of the buttons is done well. The buttons are mostly black but some function ones are coloured. 

The main feature of the Sony BDP S380 is the Sony Bravia Internet video. With the LAN port at the rear one can easily connect to this feature to browse loads of online content such as YouTube, BlipTV, Wired, Epicurious as well as Sony Entertainment TV. Out of the box one can access most of these Internet TV channels, however to use others, a software upgrade is required.

The interface on this player is XCross Media Bar (XMB). This is the same type found on the Sony PlayStation 3 as well as a range of Sony’s home theatre systems. The interface is easy to navigate through and one can access the various options like Network, Videos, Music, Photos and Settings by scrolling horizontally. In each menu, one can access the selection and choose the various Internet TV channels or drives by scrolling vertically. The user interface of this player is really good and one can understand how to use it within seconds.
A single HDMI connector on the player
A single HDMI connector on the player

The player apart from being Internet capable, allows users to use USB ports to connect storage drives and view videos, pictures or listen to music. The beauty of this player is that it supports both FAT32 as well as NTFS drives. This means that one can use their portable hard disk drive up to any capacity to run media. The player supports popular video formats such as MP4, AVI as well as MKV. Audio formats supported on this player are MP3 as well as WMA.

The addition of just a single HDMI port was a bit disappointing as it limits the possibility of connecting to an AV receiver and a display at the same time. However, if one needs to connect to an AV receiver to set up a home theatre system, one can use the HDMI option and use the analog connectors at the rear to set up the display. This is a bit cumbersome and would cause cluttering of cables.

The Sony BDP S380 Blu-ray player was paired with a Panasonic 65-inch 3D capable television to get optimum results from Blu-ray playback. We were definitely not disappointed. The playback was really smooth and the images displayed were crisp and sharp. Our How To Train Your Dragon and The Last Samurai Blu-rays both fared extremely well. Fast-paced action scenes rendered smoothly and colours and skin tones looked natural.

We ran videos of different formats using a 500GB NTFS drive and were able to playback files of formats such as MP4, AVI as well as MKV. The ability to play NTFS drives really impressed us as not many players have this ability. Most players can support just FAT32 drives such as flash drives and thumb drives. An issue we noticed was that some video files took a bit of time to load. However, once loaded, it performed well. While fast forwarding through the movies, no lag was noticed once play resumed. As for music files we were able to playback formats such as MP3 and WMA. These files played really well and no playback issues were noticed.

The remote control is small and sturdy
The remote control is small and sturdy

Sony Bravia Internet TV is the highlighted feature of this player and it is rightfully so. We played various channels such as YouTube, BlipTV, Epicurious, Sony TV and many others. All these channels worked perfectly. We were not able to access all channels and kept getting a message saying the player’s firmware had to be updated. Once the update was done all the Internet TV channels played well and no issues were noticed.

The remote control like the player performed well and there was no need to point it directly at the player for it to work. All in all, the BDP S380 did really well in terms of performance.

The slim Sony BDP S380 Blu-ray player
The slim Sony BDP S380 Blu-ray player

The Sony BDP S380 sells at a maximum retail price of Rs. 8,990. This is a really good Blu-ray player by itself. Sony adding a LAN port and incorporating the Bravia Internet Video in it made this a great player. The only issues we had was that it had just a single HDMI connectivity option. Selling at a price of just under Rs. 9,000, the Sony BDP S380 becomes an ideal purchase for those looking to buy a standalone Blu-ray player as most players available nowadays sell for more.

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