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New Sony Blu-ray players: Better than PS3?

Sony has announced it will release two new standalone Blu-ray players, the BDP-S350 and the BDP-S550, which offer some compelling features such as Blu-ray Profile 2.0 compliance and DTS-HD Master Audio support.

Is the BDP-S550 the first standalone Blu-ray player better than the PS3?
Is the BDP-S550 the first standalone Blu-ray player better than the PS3? Sony

Sony has announced two new Blu-ray players scheduled to be released in the second half of the year: the entry-level BDP-S350 and the step-up BDP-S550. We haven't been the biggest fans of Sony's recent standalone Blu-ray players (the BDP-S300 was really slow and the same price as the PlayStation 3). Fresh off its victory over HD DVD, however, the company has announced two new Blu-ray players for 2008, both of which sport considerably more attractive feature sets and prices. Here are the details:

Key features of the Sony BDP-S350:

  • Supports BonusView, which means it is Profile 1.1 compliant
  • BD-Live ready, which means it can gain BD-Live capability with a firmware update
  • Ethernet port for firmware upgrades
  • Supports 1080p output at both 24 and 60 frames per second
  • Onboard decoding for Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD
  • Bitstream output for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio
  • About $400 list price, scheduled to come out this summer

Step-up features on the BDP-S550

  • Onboard decoding for DTS-HD High Resolution and DTS-HD Master Audio
  • 7.1 analog outputs
  • 1GB local storage, which should make it Profile 2.0 compliant
  • About $500 list price, scheduled to come out in the fall

While the BDP-S350 is interesting for its relatively low price point, it's still going to be hampered by the fact that it costs the same as the PlayStation 3--which offers almost all the same functionality (except bitstream audio output for high-resolution soundtracks), plus you get a high-definition game console and a media streamer. On the other hand, we could see the BDP-S550 being a hit with home theater enthusiasts because it offers a couple of key step-ups that make is a particularly solid standalone player--DTS-HD Master Audio Decoding and 7.1 analog outputs. We're betting that the PS3 eventually gets onboard DTS-HD Master Audio decoding--which will make BDP-S550 less attractive--but for right now it looks like a solid option for audiophiles, especially those who plan to use the 7.1 analog outputs. Of course, the BDP-S550 will also have to compete with other step-up standalone players coming out this year and we're betting the Panasonic DMP-BD50 will give it a run for its money.