The BDP-S480 is a cutting-edge 3D Blu-ray player from Sony. At around £140, it's about £40 cheaper than the step-up BDP-S580, but the only apparent difference between the two is that the higher-end model has integrated Wi-Fi.
The S480's arrival warrants some excitement. The brand's previous Sx70 range garnered plenty of praise, plus a pile of industry awards. Read on to find out why this year's model offers both more and less than its predecessor.
Demise of the component connection
Standing just 36mm tall and 199mm deep, the S480 won't eat up much space in your equipment rack. Some cosmetic changes have been made to last year's design -- the addition of a curved lip below the screen being the main one -- but the player doesn't look drastically different.
Rear-side connectivity includes a single HDMI output, component video, phono AV, a single coaxial digital audio output, Ethernet, and a USB port. There's another USB socket on the front.
It doesn't take long to discover that the component output has beenand is now unable to deliver high-definition footage. Video resolution is capped at 480i, and you can now actually get a better component signal from DVD, which is delivered at 576i.
On the plus side, it's good to see that Sony has upgraded the media-playback support on this year's Blu-ray decks. The S480 was able to stream MKVs from a network-attached storage drive across our test network, whereas previous Sony players have always ignored these files. The deck also plays back AVCHD and AVI files. It didn't care for MOVs, though. Audio-file compatibility covers MP3, AAC, WAV and WMA.
Once online, the deck's XrossMediaBar interface integrates with the Bravia Internet Video portal charmingly. The sheer amount of content on the portal is impressive, and there's a long list of service providers to trawl under the 'music' and 'video' tabs. BBC iPlayer and Demand 5 provide catch-up TV services, with YouTube, Dailymotion and Sony Entertainment Television the other notable diversions.
The deck also incorporates a Web browser. It lacks Flash support and is prone to crashing, but, if you need to get online quickly, it's a handy alternative to powering up your laptop.
Last year's Sony Blu-ray players provided the benchmark for disc-loading speeds. Unfortunately, this deck is slower than last year's fleet-footed BDP-S570.
The remastered Goldfinger serves up the 007 logo in 58 seconds -- down from 46 seconds or thereabouts last year. Lou Reed's Berlin (a simpler authoring job) takes 41 seconds to get to the menu screen -- 10 seconds slower than last year's model.