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Buying an all-in-one Blu-ray system is often the easiest and the cheapest way to upgrade your disc player and sound system at the same time. Build and sound quality aren’t always as impressive as carefully matched separates, but for some people the added convenience is worth the compromise.
There are, however, certain manufacturers who invest a little more time and effort in the performance of their all-in-one systems, giving you a better price-to-sound quality ratio – Pioneer and Sony are two that spring to mind.
Which brings us neatly to the BDV-E300, one of Sony’s current Blu-ray-in-a-box solutions. Although it’s due to be replaced in the spring when Sony launches its first batch of 3D-capable systems (albeit with a firmware upgrade), the BDV-E300 still boasts all the Blu-ray essentials, and because it’s not brand new you should be able to find it for a decent price online.
The BDV-E300 is a straightforward proposition. The main unit is a combined Blu-ray/DVD player and 5.1-channel amplifier, offering 1,000W of power, and it’s joined in the box by front and rear speakers, a thin centre speaker and a passive subwoofer.
The main unit is unashamedly thick and chunky like the home cinema systems of yesteryear, and although Sony hasn’t exactly pushed the boat out the black finish makes it easy on the eye. But more importantly, build quality is excellent.
The LED display panel is large and prominent, while the gloss-black panel above the fascia plays host to a row of buttons (sadly not touch-sensitive). There’s no USB port on the front, which is a real shame if you’ve got a wealth of digital music, videos and photos that you want to enjoy in the living room. Instead, Sony cunningly ties you into the proprietary Digital Media Port on the back. A variety of adapters are available as optional extras, including devices for Bluetooth and wireless network audio, but thankfully you get the TDM-iP20 iPod dock in the box.
The back panel is a busy place. The large covered slot you see toward the top right corner is for an EZW-100 wireless transmitter, which is part of Sony’s S-Air system. It enables wireless audio transmission between compatible products, and in this case it means you can zap an extra pair of surround channels to an amplifier at the back of the room, giving you a full 7.1-channel system. This wireless upgrade kit (WAHT-SA1) is optional, and we found it online for around £150.
The BDV-E300 supports BD-Live, but because the required memory isn’t built-in there’s a USB port for adding a flash drive, which can’t be used for digital media playback. You also get HDMI, component and composite outputs, optical and coaxial digital audio inputs and two pairs of analogue stereo inputs.
This selection is perfectly serviceable, but we’d have liked some HDMI inputs for people who want to switch between their various hi-def sources. Being a budget system, the lack of Wi-Fi comes as no surprise but does mean you’ll need to hook up the system up to your router using the less convenient Ethernet port.