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Just when it looked like HD DVD had the upper hand in the high-definition format war, along came Warner to pull the rug out from under its feet. Its decision to go exclusively Blu-ray from May (with Paramount rumoured to be following suit) has prompted many experts to predict that the format war could be over by the end of 2008.
HD DVD still has a price advantage thanks to Toshiba's frantic price slashing, but even that's being slowly eroded by the new batch of ‘mass market' Blu-ray players that boast more affordable prices than the first decks launched over a year ago.
One such player is the Sony BDP-S300, which is a good £400 cheaper than the company's debut deck, the BDP-S1E, making it one of the cheapest Blu-ray decks available. But Sony hasn't compromised on build quality to achieve this - the S300 is an attractive and well-made piece of kit, with a blue-tinged translucent fascia and fetching dark-grey finish elsewhere.
And taking a look at the feature list, it appears that Sony hasn't cut too many corners here either in order to reach this attractive price. The only significant omissions are Dolby True HD, DTS HD and DTS HD Master Audio decoding, but otherwise the spec sheet is in pretty good shape.
The deck decodes Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital and DTS, upscales DVDs to 1080p, plays MP3 and JPEG files and even spins high-definition MPEG-4 AVC-HD footage stored on a DVD. It supports content encoded with x.v.Colour technology (Sony's name for the xvYCC standard), which extends the colour range and offers more accurate and vivid reproduction (if you've got a TV that can display it) but it's worth noting that this differs from Deep Colour.
The BDP-S300 is a Profile 1.0 player, which means it's not compatible with Bonus View (Profile 1.1) discs containing picture-in-picture features. This lack of futureproofing could make the deck outdated very quickly, and it's unlikely that it can be upgraded.