Sony’s update to their BDP-S350 arrived later than its competitor’s update to their mainstream Blu-ray disc players. Most of the Sony’s competitors have released their updates for their Blu-ray players. This includes Samsung, LG, and Panasonic. While Sony was the main force behind the Blu-ray format, it had some trouble finding a firm footing with their stand alone Blu-ray players. This was partly due to the PS3 being able to handle Blu-ray playback in more than adequate fashion as well as the higher price than its competition. Nevertheless, the BDP-S350 and BDP-S550 were both very capable players with outstanding image qualities. The BDP-S360 went on sale few weeks after the competitor’s players were available to the public. The price point and the features are comparable to that of Panasonic DMP-BD60 and Samsung BD-P1600.
Loaded with Features
The BDP-S360 is direct successor of the Sony BDP-S350, the base model of Sony’s stand alone players. However, there is nothing “basic” about BDP-S360. Like the Panasonic DMP-BD60 and Samsung BD-P1600, the BDP-S360 comes loaded with features at a very competitive price. As with most new players, the BDP-S360 is fully compatible with Profile 2.0. This means you can access any BD-Live content via internet. The BDP-S360 features full audio decoding options. It can decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio Essentials as well as the Dolby Digital and DTS audio. As with the other entry level models, it lacks the 5.1 or 7.1 channel analog audio output. You will need receiver or higher end model for the output options. One glaring omission is the video streaming capabilities offered by Samsung, LG, or Panasonic. Samsung and LG integrated Netflix for their video streaming while Panasonic has opted to integrate the Amazon Video on Demand features. On the other hand, Sony does not come with any streaming or video on demand capabilities. This is somewhat unfortunate as video streaming has become a big draw for many consumers.
The BDP-S360 resembles Samsung BD-P1600’s design. It has flip down front tray much like the Samsung player. The front panel has glossy finish much like the Samsung BD-P1600. The LCD screen is located on the right side along with play and stop buttons. The placement of the USB port in the back is either a good choice if you rarely used them or a bad choice if you frequently use them. Otherwise, there is nothing incredible or terrible about the overall design of the player. The back panel contains the HDMI, RJ-45, USB, and Component outputs. Digital audio output can be done via optical or coaxial along with analog audio output.
The Remote Control
The included remote control is similar to the older player’s layout. It is more compact and streamlined than the previous offerings. The numeric pad is located at the top of the remote followed by the function buttons in four different colors. The menu and directional buttons are located in the middle with playback function buttons at the bottom. However, the remote does not contain the channel buttons whereas the older version did have them at the bottom. Nevertheless, it is very functional and easy to use remote control. The lack of channel button might not be a deal breaker if you already own a quality universal remote control.
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Video Quality and Performance
Sony has always produced outstanding video qualities with their disc players. The BDP-S360 is no exception. Even the previous efforts, BDP-S350 and BDP-S550, were among the best performing players on the market. With more refinements in the current crop of players, it is difficult to point out or single out a player based on image quality. Most of the new players will offer excellent video quality. The BDP-S360 offers image quality comparable to the other new players. The video testing showed no discernable defects such as jaggies or moiré. The fast sequence show no disruption or blocking up issues. Even the pause showed no signs of the defects. The player performed flawlessly on all three movies tested. The only downside of the player was the loading time. All three movies tested exhibited longer loading time than any other player tested. The Samsung, LG, and Panasonic’s new players all offered faster loading time than the BDP-S360. This might be improved with firmware updates but as of now it is the slowest performing player when it comes to loading time.
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As with video quality, there are little separations between the players when it comes to audio quality. The decoding options are what separated the first generation players. Some players were not able to fully decode all the high definition audio formats. However, the current generation players including the BDP-S360 all cover majority of the audio formats. As mentioned earlier, the BDP-S360 will be able to decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio Essential out of the box. Similar to other entry level players, the BDP-S360 lacks the 5.1 or 7.1 channel analog audio outputs. The BDP-S360 showed had no problem with audio decoding.
This is a worthy successor the BDP-S350 and maybe even Playstation 3. Sony has cannibalized their own stand alone units with thePS3 filling in nicely. However, should you not wish to buy a gaming machine along with Blu-ray disc player, the BDP-S360 should have no problem filling in for the PS. The lack of video streaming might turn off some people as it is nice little bonus to be able to stream Netflix or Amazon video on demand services. Otherwise, it is very good player with competitive price.
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