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As expected, the rear panel lacks an Ethernet socket, which you'll find on every HD DVD player going, but there are plenty of other sockets. Apart from the HDMI output (which we'll discuss in a minute) you'll find component video, S-video and composite video outputs, though quite how useful the latter will be is anyone's guess. On the audio side, there are optical and coaxial digital audio outputs (to send Dolby Digital and DTS bitstreams to your receiver) and 5.1-channel analogue outputs to take advantage of decoded multi-channel soundtracks.
Like the step-up BDP-S500, the HDMI output is version 1.3, which will output 1080/24p pictures (dubbed ‘True Cinema' here) and up to eight channels of linear PCM audio.
The player takes an age to boot up (around 90 seconds), but we've come to expect that from high-definition disc players, and once you're into the deck's menu system there are no complaints. The menu design is highly polished and responds instantly to remote commands. The remote itself is superb, boasting a thematic blue control dial and a clever button arrangement that makes it simple to use. One operational word of warning - if you turn the power off mid way through a film, you can't resume the movie from where you left off.
The BDP-S300's picture quality is stunning, with no flaws to report. We tested it out with Die Hard 4.0 on a Toshiba 52Z3030D TV, and as expected the deck's detail reproduction really stands out. The level of sharpness on offer is astonishing, making images look crisp and almost three-dimensional.
Aerial shots of Washington D.C. are highly impressive, with the deck making light work of tiny details like windows and brickwork on buildings. Further evidence of the Sony's detail-handling prowess can be seen during shots of Bruce Willis, whose stubble looks unusually sharp and realistic - it's possible to make out individual hairs, which is something you'd never see on DVD.