The system boots up very quickly but sadly it takes us back to the disc loading dark ages with Terminator Salvation in the tray – its time of one minute 25 seconds feels particularly sluggish when some other systems clock in at around 35 seconds.
Still, at least its picture quality gives us something to cheer about. The job of any Blu-ray player is to transport those pixels to a TV without any degradation or glitches and it does a fine job. The system features P4HD, PHL Reference Chroma Processor Plus and the High Precision 4:4:4 colour processing to add extra sparkle to its sharp, gleaming 1080p pictures, and with Batman Begins in the tray the images are stunning.
Gotham’s murky alleyways and interiors are rendered with absorbing depth and punchiness, not to mention excellent shadow detail – all of which makes the picture look effortlessly cinematic. The system backs this up with a natural colour palette, sharply defined edges, fluid motion and a complete absence of noise.
Sound quality isn’t up to the same standard though. Sure, the bamboo cones inside the satellites produce a crisp, dynamic sound and the rears offers a decent sense of surround envelopment, but collectively the system doesn’t achieve the necessary sense of scale, which makes the movie’s set pieces sound underwhelming.
Much of the blame for this can be laid at the feet of the sub, which as expected is too quiet and reserved – we had to activate H.Bass and crank up the subwoofer to its highest level before it even began to make an impact. Without a decent bass foundation pulling it all together, the overall sound is thinner than we’d hoped, struggling to achieve any sort of cohesion and solidarity.
The punches and kicks during the fight scene between Batman and Ducard’s goons in chapter 35 don’t land with the necessary weight and impact. Similarly the roar of the Batmobile’s engine sounds thin, explosions are flat and loud crashes sound shrill.
Still, it’s not all bad – dialogue is clear and open, the clarity of which improves greatly with Centre Focus activated. And despite its flaws elsewhere, the BT230 makes a passable CD player, lending a pleasing fluidity and drive to different types of music. DivX, MP3 and JPEGs are all tackled without any problems too, whether they’re played from USB or streamed from a PC.
Although we’re impressed by the SC-BT230’s range of features, sizzling picture quality and ease of use, its sound quality is sorely disappointing. Normally we’d cut this system some slack based on its bargain price, but Sony’s BDV-E370 manages to deliver better audio quality for a similar amount of money, as well as throwing a wider range of online content, 3D compatibility, auto calibration and faster disc loading into the bargain.