The BDV-E370 is Sony’s latest entry-level Blu-ray home cinema system. At first glance, it’s a straightforward one-box affair, but there’s more to it than meets the eye – thanks to a software update available at Sony Support, this system can play 3D Blu-ray movies when paired with one of Sony’s 3D TVs and active shutter glasses. That makes it a potential rival for Samsung’s brilliant HT-C6930W system, and a much cheaper one at that.
Stuffed into the box is a central control unit, which fuses together a Profile 2.0 Blu-ray player and 850W 5.1-channel amplifier, as well as five compact satellite speakers and a passive subwoofer. The main unit isn’t the most attractive Sony has ever designed, with a chunky shape and dull black finish making it disappointingly anonymous, but the recessed underside and gently glowing white light are pleasant touches.
The rear panel is busy, although the lack of HDMI inputs will annoy anyone who wants to channel other HD devices though this system. The HDMI output is version 1.4 and therefore compatible with Full HD 3D video signals, and alongside it you’ll find component and composite outputs, two digital audio inputs (one optical, one coaxial), analogue stereo input, an Ethernet port and a second USB port. A set of coloured speaker plugs correspond with the matching cables for easy installation. If you want to reduce clutter you can make the rear speakers wireless by purchasing Sony’s S-Air transmitter and receiver.
Another optional extra is the £70 UWA-BR100 wireless LAN adapter, which plugs into either USB port on the rear panel. This makes it possible to access the wide range of networking functions (more on these later) without the need for a clumsy cable. Unsurprisingly, cheaper non-Sony dongles won’t work, forcing you to buy Sony’s version. When you factor this adapter and the S-Air equipment into the overall price, Samsung’s HT-C6930W starts to look like better value with its built-in Wi-Fi, supplied wireless rear speakers and 3D readiness out of the box.
The 225mm-high front and rear speakers are robustly built, attractive and easy to install if space is tight. They’re coated in a gloss black finish and sport springclips on the back for the cables. The centre speaker’s long, thin casing is discreet, while the cube subwoofer’s plain black finish and surprisingly solid build put it in a different class to most other all-in-one subs.
Like the latest systems from Panasonic and Samsung, the BDV-E370 provides a range of on-demand content, courtesy of the BRAVIA Internet Video feature. Zip to the Video section in the home menu and you’ll find a list of catch-up TV services, including Demand Five, BBC iPlayer (which only appeared after a software update), Eurosport, Blip.tv, LoveFilm, YouTube, Dailymotion and more. This choice of web content puts Panasonic and LG to shame in terms of quantity and quality – only Samsung’s Internet@TV comes close – and it’s great to see that you can watch clips from Dailymotion in HD (although they still look noisy).
We watched a few programmes on each service and encountered few problems, although some episodes of Cowboy Builders on Five refused to load, telling us that the ‘network is down’ – but that may have been a blessing in disguise. What we love most is that you don’t have to be a tech boffin to enjoy these features, thanks to the smooth, uncomplicated onscreen displays.