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Sony BDP-S480 review: Sony BDP-S480

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Design

Sony's budget line Blu-ray player, the BDP-S480, certainly revels in its low price if the size of the player is a core criterion of yours. At 430x36x199mm and 1.7kg, there's not a whole lot to the BDP-S480. Its curved front is slightly deceptive, as it gives the appearance of being a front flap, but is instead effectively a resting shelf for the power, eject, play and stop buttons.

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8.8

Sony BDP-S480

The Good

iOS and Android apps to control. Range of IPTV options. 3D Blu-ray compatible. Media-streaming options. Qriocity support.

The Bad

Sluggish response on Xross Media Bar. Web browser is woeful. Not region free.

The Bottom Line

The BDP-S480 isn't a high-priced Blu-ray player, but it's a decent-quality one.

Every other control you'll want to use with the BDP-S480 is found on the short, stubby remote control. It's not quite at the easy-to-lose-behind-the-sofa level, but it's close.

Features

The BDP-S480 is priced as an entry-level player, and the standout feature that it carries at this price point is that it supports 3D Blu-ray titles. That's still a niche within the Blu-ray market as a whole, but even if you don't have an accompanying panel that'll support 3D, it's not a bad capability to have.

Sony touts the BDP-S480 as being "Wireless LAN Ready", but that's rather evasive marketing talk. You might think this means that Wireless LAN is built in, but it's not; it's simply that you can add an optional USB Wi-Fi adaptor at an additional cost. The model that comes with inbuilt Wi-Fi is the BDP-S580, and that's a scant AU$50 more. We know which way we'd tilt if Wi-Fi was an essential component.

As with many of Sony's A/V products, the BDP-S480 uses Sony's XrossMediaBar for navigation. Amongst its goodies you'll find DLNA streaming, a web browser, access to Sony's Qriocitymusic service and online video streaming, including local services such as ABC iView, PLUS7 and SBS.

The remote might be a bit on the stubby side, but it can also be complemented with Sony's Media Remote application for Android and iOS, which gives you a touchscreen remote and what turns out to be a highly useful onscreen keyboard. More on that shortly.

Performance

Setup of the BDP-S480 walks you through selecting your video connection method (quite how you're meant to see this without connecting up video beforehand eludes us, logically speaking), internet settings for BD-Live and Gracenote content and whether you want a fast start-up time for the player or not. Fast start-up will be quicker, but it'll keep the fans running when on standby, chewing up more power as a result.

In terms of straight playback ability, the BDP-S480 managed a workable job, which is what you'd expect in a player at this price range. The opening IMAX sequence from The Dark Knight played back with only a little shimmer on some screen elements, while retaining its overall dark tone throughout the movie. 3D-compatibility works as long as you've got a compatible panel, and quality was good for the kind of pictures you'll get out of a 3D Blu-ray at this point in time. Load times were also acceptable, without being the fastest we've seen; for the purposes of comparison, Iron Man 2 loaded up to its first menu in 46 seconds, Bladerunner: The Final Cut managed the same thing in 58 seconds and Highlander made it to its language selection screen in a snappy 18 seconds.

That speed was somewhat lost in the main Xross Media Bar, however, which we frequently found to be a bit on the slow and shuddery side. It's especially noticeable if you shift from a PlayStation 3 to the BDP-S480; there's a lack of smooth animation here that's slightly annoying.

The BDP-S480's remote control isn't all that fancy, but the iOS and Android free applications are; there's something very cool about pulling your phone out of your pocket and using it to run the TV that we just can't find fault with. On the stupid-but-cool tricks scale, being able to shake the phone to automatically make the Blu-ray player perform an action — and you can choose which action, although we found pause to be the most practical — scores pretty highly.

The web browser within the BDP-S480 is very rudimentary, and, if you're only using the stubby remote, extremely slow and painful to use in any real way. It's greatly improved with the Media Remote application control, if only because you switch a numeric keypad for an actual touchscreen keyboard, although that doesn't do much to alleviate the slow rendering, lack of Flash support and jerky scrolling.

Conclusion

If you're after an entry-level player with a decent feature set, and don't require the apps and whistles of the mid- to high-end players, then this is a solid buy.