Sony BDP-S360 review: Sony BDP-S360

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MSRP: $199.99

The Good Low price; attractive styling; easy to use; great picture quality.

The Bad Disappointing load times.

The Bottom Line If you want an entry-level Blu-ray player that does the basics and offers solid picture and sound quality, we can't recommend the Sony BDP-S360 enough. There aren't too many extras, such as networked media-streaming capability or support for hi-def files downloaded from the Internet, but this type of functionality isn't likely to interest the target audience for this machine anyway. Good work, Sony -- this machine's a winner

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8.3 Overall

If there's one criticism we can level at the Blu-ray format, it's that it's just too expensive to tempt most people away from DVDs. Although Blu-ray's picture and sound quality is miles ahead, most people think the quality of their standard-definition discs is just fine. To some extent, they're right. DVD is a great format, and it's not hard to see why it's done so well. Blu-ray has more to prove, and prices just aren't falling fast enough.

The Profile 2.0 Sony BDP-S360 Blu-ray player is designed to change all that. It's a low-end, attractive, easy-to-use box that's available for around £120. If you buy a costly enough TV from some retailers, they'll even throw this Blu-ray player in for free. But price doesn't interest us as much as performance, so let's find out how this machine copes with the day-to-day tasks of Blu-ray playback.

Style and substance
Physically, the BDP-S360 is a departure from the Blu-ray players of just over a year ago. Our reference machine, the Sony BDP-S500, is a beast -- it's taller, wider and deeper than almost any other piece of AV gear we've seen since VHS popped its clogs, and it doesn't sit well in a modern home cinema. The BDP-S360 is much slimmer.

Analogue 7.1 audio outputs would be a welcome addition to the BDP-S360, but their omission is unsurprising, given the machine's price

The BDP-S360 adds more than just a slender profile, though. It also brings a new user interface into the Blu-ray mix -- the XrossMediaBar, which is Sony's way of helping you set up and navigate through the system. It's very easy to use, and PlayStation 3 owners will recognise it as very similar to the UI on that games console. Menus appear along a horizontal axis, and the options for each menu line up vertically down the screen. Visually, it works a treat.

In terms of outputs, you get HDMI, Ethernet and both kinds of digital audio connection. There are also component video and composite outputs -- just in case you're a total mentalist and want to render your new Blu-ray collection in SD PAL. Stereo audio out is provided, but there's no 7.1 RCA jack option, which is sad but unsurprising at this price.

Start-up speed
Our standard test for Blu-ray players is the following. We take our test Blu-ray disc, Vantage Point, and place it in the open disc tray. Then we press play on the remote and start our timer. The time it takes for the player to draw in the disc and start playing the Sony Pictures logo gives us an idea of how well a player stacks up against its peers in terms of speed.

The BDP-S360 managed a fairly standard 1 minute and 9 seconds. That's hardly nippy, but it's also not the worst load time we've ever seen from a Blu-ray player. Put simply -- it's probably good enough to keep most people from chucking the machine out of the window.

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