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Sony BDP-S300: Blu-ray's been to Weight Watchers

Sony has slimmed down both the price and body weight of its Blu-ray players and announced that the BDP-S300 will be available for a bargain price of $600 this summer

As we perch on the edge of our seats waiting for the Blu-ray vs HD DVD scuffle to end, we have plenty of time to predict which format will be triumphant. The latest salvo is Sony's announcement of a seriously cut-price Blu-ray player, the BDP-S300.

It's a step up from the enormous BDP-S1 -- it's cheaper, smaller and amazingly will now play audio CDs (an amazing technological leap forward). The BDP-S300 also features built-in decoding of Dolby Digital Plus and support for Sony's wide colour gamut, which should produce better high-definition pictures. The player will also control other Sony kit via the HDMI port.

Amusingly, the S300 will have a retail price of $1 more than the 60GB PlayStation 3, with the former being priced at $600 (£310; the PS3 will be £425 when it is released in the UK on 23 March). So, we are forced to wonder, who will be prepared to buy a stand-alone player when they could have an entire games console for the same price?

Sony is currently only committing to a US launch for the player, but as the gargantuan BDP-S1 is only available in the US, that's not exactly a huge surprise. Come on Sony, stop ignoring the rest of the world, we need our hi-def fix too.

So is this a sign that the largest single advantage HD DVD has -- price -- is about come to an end? HD DVD has already seen its disc sales lead eroded this year, so a price cut bringing Blu-ray hardware closer to HD DVD players is surely going to be bad news. Especially when Blu-ray has slightly more studio support -- and James Bond on his way. With CeBIT fast approaching, we'll have plenty of questions to ask both the Blu-ray and HD DVD people. -IM