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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Sony's home theater systems get built-in Blu-ray

Sony's new home theater systems with built-in Blu-ray players are pretty pricey, but include more features than the competition.

Standalone Blu-ray players may still be expensive, but you know Blu-ray can't be too far from being a "commodity" feature when it starts getting bundled in with home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) systems. While we've already seen HTIBs with Blu-ray from Panasonic and Samsung, these are the first systems from Sony, and also the first that we've seen with Blu-ray players that are upgradeable to Blu-ray Profile 2.0. Here's the summary of the information Sony has released so far:

Sony BDV-IS1000

Key features of the Sony BDV-IS1000:

  • 5.1-speaker system, with five tiny speakers
  • Currently Profile 1.1, will be Profile 2.0 with a firmware update (coming this fall)
  • Onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Compatible with Sony's S-AIR technology
  • Two HDMI inputs
  • XMB graphical user interface
  • Available in October, with a list price of $1,000

Sony BDV-IT1000ES

Key features of the Sony BDV-IT1000ES:

  • 5.1-speaker system, with slim tallboy speakers
  • Available in October, with a list price of $2,000

We're impressed that Sony is including full-featured Blu-ray players with these systems. Both systems have onboard decoding for both high resolution soundtracks formats--Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio--and are upgradeable to Blu-ray Profile 2.0 with a firmware update coming later this fall. Two HDMI inputs are also a big step-up over the other HTIB systems from Panasonic and Samsung, as both of those lacked HDMI connectivity and had few options for connecting external gear. And with a Blu-ray player already packed in, two HDMI inputs will be enough to handle most home theater setups.

But even with the generous feature sets, the high prices of these systems will make them a hard sell with consumers. For $2,000, we think most home theater enthusiasts would be better off with an Onkyo TX-SR606 ($400), a PS3 ($400) and the Mirage Nanosat Home Theater System ($600)--a setup that's $600 cheaper than the BDV-IT1000ES. The BDV-IS1000 is somewhat more attractive at $1,000, but we have serious doubts that the speakers will have "no problem delivering the full power of traditional home theater products" like Sony claims. Still, these systems do offer unique styling and the ease of an "all-in-one system", and we're happy to see that they have a decent feature set to go along with their slick looks.