Also, partnering a stand-alone Blu-ray deck -- complete with its own remote -- with a separate, subwoofer-based sound system clearly isn't going to make for the most integrated home-cinema package in the world. Indeed, we frequently found ourselves juggling the two remotes and wondering how to access a particular feature.
The BDP-S350 doesn't include any analogue 7.1-channel outputs, and the subwoofer can't decode the Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD next-gen sound formats. These are key audio failings in the Blu-ray world, although it seems unlikely that speakers as small as these could reveal the difference between Dolby True HD, DTS-HD and their non-HD counterparts anyway.
The HTP-BD3IS' performance largely compensates for the quibbles we've mentioned, though. The speakers, in particular, confound all expectations by producing a loud, clear sound stage that's able to fill even quite a large room. Even more surprisingly, their audio is very immersive, washing over you in an organic whole, rather than sounding like a disparate set of noises coming from five different points around the room. How Sony has managed to overcome the laws of physics in this way is beyond us. But we're not complaining.
The picture quality delivered by the BDP-S350 is outstanding too. In fact, it's among the best we've seen from an all-in-one package, offering terrific sharpness, rich colours and minimal motion artefacts.
Our main complaint in terms of performance would be that, although the subwoofer is powerful, it sounds rather disconnected from the tiny satellite speakers, and slightly imprecise at times. The bass also leaves some male voices sounding rather unnatural. But there are far fewer problems than we'd expected to find.
We'd fully expected the Sony HTP-BD3IS to be all style and no substance. But, although it's not perfect by any means, its performance is far less compromised by the tiny size of its speakers than we'd thought possible.
Edited by Charles Kloet