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Colour reproduction is also on the money, not only making John McClane's blood-flecked skin tones look well-balanced and believable, but also doing a grand job with richly saturated hues. It's helped along by strong black levels and a complete lack of noise and artefacts.
This strong picture performance continues when you stick a DVD in the tray. When upscaled to 1080p, our copy of The Departed stands up well to close scrutiny, with crisp detail reproduction, vibrant colours and no jaggies or motion judder to speak of.
The BDP-S300's inability to decode DTS HD Master Audio means we weren't able to enjoy the Die Hard 4.0 soundtrack in all its glory, but its regular DTS track sounds phenomenal via the digital audio output or the 5.1 analogue outputs. The movie's audacious climax might look overblown but the Sony makes it sound absolutely scintillating, with every bang, crash and wallop reproduced with window-shattering clarity.
The deck also proves to be a dab hand with stereo material, offering punchy CD and MP3 playback - though we think Sony missed a trick by not including SACD support.
The BDP-S300 might be one of the cheapest Blu-ray players on the market but be prepared to make sacrifices if you buy one - it only supports one of the four HD audio formats and its Profile 1.0 spec means you won't be able to access Bonus View features.
And despite the format's recent setbacks, it's also worth remembering that HD DVD players like the HD-EP30 can be found for under £200, and come equipped with all the features missing from the BDP-S300. The other thing to consider is that you can buy a PS3 for around the same price online, which also plays Blu-ray and gets you hi-def gaming into the bargain.
But if you're convinced a dedicated Blu-ray player is the way to go, then the S300's immaculate picture quality and slick operating system makes it a decent choice, if not the last word in Blu-ray technology.
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