Yesterday we got our hands on the Sony BDP-S500, the company's step-up Blu-ray player. It boasts a host of cool features, not least a truly magnificent motorised front panel. The question is though, is the £600 S500 as good as the £300 PlayStation 3?
What does the PS3 offer that the BDP-S500 doesn't? Games aside, there's the thorny issue of Blu-ray profiles. Basically, the PS3 is a profile 2.0 player. This means it can take full advantage of interactive features as well as connect to the Internet to add additional content to the discs you've already bought. The S500, meanwhile, is a profile 1.0 player, which means no picture-in-picture or other interactivity, and defiantly no online access.
Of course, the BDP-S500 does have some advantages. The sound processing on this machine is far more advanced than the PS3. For a start, you get analogue 5.1 out on the S500, but you don't on the PS3, plus the PS3 has some issues outputting DTS MA and Dolby TrueHD over HDMI, although it can convert TrueHD to PCM audio and send that over HDMI. The thing is, the PS3 is upgradeable, so it's theoretically possible to add all sorts of functionality in the future.
With all of that said though, the BDP-S500 is a decent player, especially if you have no interest in special features or Net connectivity. It's well designed, has a nice remote control and has plenty of video outputs, including HDMI 1.3, component video and even composite/S-video for those people desperate to watch Blu-ray on their 17-inch CRT. We also applaud Sony for including coaxial and optical digital audio outputs alongside analogue stereo and analogue 5.1 RCA sockets.
Would we recommend you buy the BDP-S500 or the PS3 for your hi-def movie pleasure? Honestly, you'd probably be better off with one of the Panasonic players, either the £300or the (available this summer, no price yet).
It's probably also worth pointing out that Sony is soon releasing the BDP-S350 and BDP-S550, both of which feature profile 1.1 and BD Live, with the BDP-S550 having enough built-in RAM to qualify for profile 2.0 status. -Ian Morris
Update: Read our full.