Unfortunately, we've got rather a lot to say here. First and worst, the deck isn't compatible with the new 'Profile 1.1' standard set to become mandatory on all Blu-ray players released from November. This means the S1E can't be guaranteed to play all the extra features that might appear on future Blu-ray discs -- particularly features that use picture in picture facilities. This seems a bitter pill to swallow on a £650 machine -- especially when 'fully functioning' players are imminent.
Even more surprising for £650 is the S1E's provision of only an HDMI 1.2 output, denying you the possibility of HDMI 1.3 features like automatic lip-synching, digital carriage of hi-def audio formats and compatibility with the Deep Colour system. Toshiba'shigh-end HD DVD player does carry HDMI 1.3.
Also odd given Sony's fanatical support for the format is the fact that the S1E doesn't carry SACD playback.
Our next beef with the S1E concerns how slow it is. Switching the deck on from standby, it takes on average of one minute and 10 seconds to get to the point where Blu-ray's menu screens finally appear. Yawn.
Finally, our test sample suffered all manner of weird operating glitches during our extended tests. Failed menu screen loads, weird playback glitches, failure to HDMI 'handshake' smoothly with a few TVs, problems playing back some standard definition discs in the right aspect ratio… basically, the machine feels as buggy as the first version of Windows 98, again reinforcing our sense that the player, and possibly Blu-ray in general, just isn't quite finished.
Yes, the Sony BDP-S1E delivers sublime Blu-ray picture quality. Yes, it's got a few 'premium' features. Yes, it sounds great, too. But the twin problems of it already being out-of-date thanks to its lack of Profile 1.1 support and its multiple operational quirks and bugs conspire to make it a very difficult machine to really recommend your spending £650.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Jon Squire