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Sony lowers price on Blu-ray HTiBs

Sony's BDV-E300 and BDV-E500W home theater systems incorporate Blu-ray players for less.

The BDV-E500W features wireless rear speakers. Sony

As Blu-ray continues its meteoric progression toward commodity-hood, Sony is doing its part to speed the process by building BD players into increasingly affordable home-theater-in-a-box systems, or HTiBs.

The company announced two new systems with built-in Blu-ray players, the BDV-E300 ($600 street) and BDV-E500W ($800), at its 2009 Las Vegas line show. When they ship in June, these new models will replace the more expensive current lineup, consisting of the BDV-IS1000 ($1,000) and BDV-IT1000ES ($2,000).

Both of the new systems incorporate full-featured profile 2.0 Blu-ray players that can send the latest BD soundtracks, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio, out over the included speakers (or out an HDMI port via LPCM or bitstream). Sony's press release didn't include wattage specs for either system.

The $600 BDV-E300 seems like a pretty good deal for a Blu-ray HTiB. Sony

The main step-up feature of the more-expensive BDV-E500V is wireless rear speakers. In a cool twist, Sony's S-AIR wireless system has a range of 164 feet, so in addition to not having to run speaker wires to the rear speakers, the system gives you the option to purchase "up to 10 individual S-AIR AirStation audio devices [for use] throughout the home," according to the company's press release. The step-down BDV-E300 is also S-AIR compatible, although it only ships with wired speakers. The E500V also comes with a pair of tall-boy speakers for the front left and right channels, while the E300's front and surround speakers are equal in size.

Additional features on both units include a DM port, which allows you to connect one of four proprietary accessories, which range in price from $80 to $200: the TDM-NC1 (a Wi-Fi music streamer), the TDM-BT1 (a Bluetooth adapter), the TDM-NW1 (a dock for certain Sony Walkman MP3 models), and the TDM-IP50 (an iPod dock). They also offer Sony's XMB onscreen interface, a USB port for flash drives for use with BD-Live content, and an instructional DVD to ease the pain of setup.

If you're doing the math, the BDV-E300 does seem like a pretty good bargain at $600. For example, you'll need to pay $650 to get the company's new BDP-S360 Blu-ray player ($300) and HT-SS350 component system ($350) separately.

Comparable Blu-ray HTiBs announced at CES include a pair of $800 Sharp systems, the high-end HT-BD1250 and stylish HT-BD7200 by Samsung (price TBD), and the Netflix-enabled LHB954, LHB977, and LHB979 from LG (again, prices TBD).