I’ve never owned a PS3 although I have thought about buying one almost every time I walk past the PS3 stand. As mentioned above it does provide value since you can use it for gaming and as a BD player. The BDP-S550 on the other hand was a purchase because I wanted a standalone BD player, I already have a softmodded Xbox 360 so buying the PS3 as well didn’t make too much sense. This does come with the bells & whistles that you’d expect from a premium price there is one feature that I wish it had and that is being “region free” – on the other hand the BDP-S550 does have onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, and it has 7.1 analog outputs for those with older receivers. I’ve tested this on a Logitech X-530 the other day since my Dell 27″ LCD doesn’t have a sound bar and it works perfectly on just two channels. I became really excited on how much better it would be on 7.1.
There is an entry level of this player, the [b]S350[/b]; This is slightly cheaper model that doesn’t come with certain features like the analog 7.1 support but if you’re using HDMI anyway, I guess it doesn’t really matter. Also another thing that I have found out is that only limited releases of Bluray titles actually support 7.1 surround sound so do bear that in mind when purchasing, there is a website which lists all of the releases in 7.1 format but I can’t remember it right now. If you also happen to own a Bravia tv, the remote will work with that as well which is handy but will be redundant if you have a universal remote. The player itself is designed nicely except for one irritating flaw but I’ll get to that in a minute. It has a nice blue gloss finish and is slimmer than most of the BD player on the market but I wouldn’t recommend stacking anything on top of it. The player also comes with an ethernet port which I’ve used to update the firmware, just plugged it in, navigate my way through the menu and selected the update…no network configuration required.
So here is the design flaw: Like the BDP-S350, the BDP-S550 has a deeply recessed USB port on the rear of the unit. It’s a flaw because the opening for the port means that many standard USB drives just won’t fit. However, Sony does include a slim 1GB USB drive with the BDP-S550 that fits perfectly, so that deep port shouldn’t be a problem. Except in my case I never got this 1GB USB drive in the box and I couldn’t be bothered chasing the retailer for it.
Again due to the impending relocation I haven’t had the chance to put this player through its paces but what I have seen so far impressed me, I don’t have a large collection of Bluray Titles yet or DVD’s but I have tested a couple to see what the upscaling performance was like and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m confident that as the technology develops they will improve on the loading times, since you still have to wait about 20 seconds or more for the movie to load such as Twilight for example.
So there you have it, my brief look at the Sony BDP-S550, hope that helps..