Sony Unleashes New Blu-ray Players

Sony skipped the hoopla of last month's Consumer Electronics Show and saved its Blu-ray player refresh for its product-line show today in Las Vegas. In addition to launching some new connected HDTVs, the company revealed its new Blu-ray Disc players and home-theater systems. The most expensive stand-alone Blu-ray models this time will cost $350--a far cry from the big-ticket player prices of just a year ago (when $550 was the top price), and two years ago (when prices maxed out at $1000).

Sony BDP-S560 Blu-ray player
Sony's BDP-S560 Blu-ray player.
Due to reach market this summer, the two new Blu-ray Disc players that Sony will release are the $300 BDP-S360 (a follow-on to the current BDP-S350 model) and the $350 BDP-S560. Both are BD-Live capable (you have to bring your own 1GB USB flash drive, however). The BDP-S560 adds integrated 802.11b/g/a/n Wi-Fi for accessing firmware updates and BD-Live content on titles that offer extras such as social networking, online games, and trailers. Sony touts its support for Wi-Fi Protected setup, which permits easy connecting the player to appropriately enabled wireless routers. And it's DLNA-certified, so the player can connect to other Digital Living Network Alliance-compliant devices to share content such as digital photos.

Both players support AVCHD discs for displaying high-def home video. And both support Sony's Precision Drive technology, which the company says stabilizes damaged discs and corrects wobbling along three directions.

Sony's inclusion of DLNA support and integrated Wi-Fi at a $350 price is a pleasant surprise, but equally surprising (and not in a good way) is the fact that neither of these players supports streaming content, as the LG Electronics BD300 and the Samsung BD-P2500 do. Both the BD300 and the BD-P2500 support Netflix and other streaming services.

On the positive side again, both of the new Sony models have stellar audio codec support, unlike many competing players. The BDP-S360 and BDP-S560 each have on-board 7.1-channel Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD High Resolution Audio, and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, which means that you don't need a receiver in order to decode those next-generation audio codecs.

For their part, Sony's two new Blu-ray home theater systems, the $600 BDV-E300 and the $800 BDV-E500W, offer 5.1-channel sound (though they can decode up to 7.1-channel Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio). Due to arrive on the market in June, the BDV-E500W is the more interesting of the two; it includes Sony's S-AIR wireless audio technology for transmitting audio up to 164 feet from the main system to wireless rear speakers or toas many as 10 individual (and optional) S-AIR AirStation audio devices.

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