It's not just the cinema screen that is showing off 3D films, with the release of the Sony BDP-S470 Blu-ray player it is moving into our living rooms. Is 3D just a fad or is it here to stay? The success or failure of ticket sales and 3D home cinema equipment will be the deciding factor.
Finally after weeks of waiting I now have a Sony BDP-S470 Blu-ray player. I think I could write a whole essay about how Sony's website didn't state it wasn't released at the time and was actually a pre-order, but that's another story. It's apparent delivery from Sony UK (and not Sony Leicester as the receipt suggested) was a rather odd one - it was delivered by a Taxi driver. It's not everyday you see a parcel delivered in this way; I'm not complaining, it's just unusual.
In the box you of course get the Blu-ray player with a permanently attached power cable, a remote control, batteries, warranty information, manual and a leaflet to state that a firmware update would be released in March to add 3D support and the ability to stream from iPlayer. I did of course assume this firmware update to have already been applied since the unit had only just been released in the UK according to their sales department. I was wrong, but it didn't take long for the update to be applied. After a restart I found that as the player boots up it cuts the signal to the TV totally several times which is annoying, but something I can put up with by not turning my TV on until the player has booted up.
When it first starts up it will find the resolution which is best suited for your screen - for me it started with 1080i and decided to stay with it - I found this rather surprising actually as I thought my TV was a lower resolution than that. The menu is a little different to ones I am used to, though I can't comment on whether or not it's similar to other Sony devices I imagine it will be. The various categories for the menu are arranged horizontally and as you select one the options for that category. For example if you select the Video category you will see options for watching the current disc (if available), media from a USB device (if connected) or from a variety of online services such as BBC iPlayer, YouTube and LOVEFiLM. Under the music category you also get access to various online radio stations.
One of the first things I did was to plug in a USB device containing a HD video saved in .mkv format. It was both surprising and pleasing to see that it played it without any problems - the same went for subsequent tests using XVID encoded AVI files. Moving on to actual physical media I tried the Blu-ray version of the Stargate movie - I was amazed at how much better the picture was than on my DVD release. Just to make it clear, although it has it's "cheesy" moments, Stargate was one of my favourite movies so it was one which would be easier for me to spot differences in quality for. Although the player will upscale DVDs, it's good to try it with a DVD that has had some work done to it to prepare it for Blu-ray consumption.
The next test was with an animated feature - Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The purpose of this test was that with animations it's easier to pick up grain, pixelation and compression artefacts due to areas of solid colour. Again, to my amazement the colours were vibrant and the picture crystal clear.
Before trying these various videos I was very dubious at how much better Blu-ray would actually be and I assumed I probably wouldn't notice the difference. I was wrong - since "upgrading" to Blu-ray I've begun replacing my favourite films with Blu-ray versions just so I can enjoy them with better picture quality; there's no going back now.
For a Blu-ray player it is certainly crammed full of features and with it's ability to view online content it's almost a good substitute for a Freeview box - if Sony eventually add the ITV Player to it. In the US I presume these various online features will have their own localised versions such as Netflix so I'm sure they won't feel left out!
Over the past few weeks since I first started using it I've had about 2 or 3 firmware updates - proof that Sony care about the product enough to continue working on it's development past it's release. So many firmware releases may sound like it's a player with issues but the firmware updates have mostly been to add new features to the box. In the most recent update they improved router connectivity and added support for the DLNA feature.