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All-in-one Blu-ray cinema systems provide the most convenient and cost-effective way of upgrading to hi-def, removing the hassle and expense that comes with buying separate AV receivers and speakers. But surprisingly there aren't that many of them doing the rounds - Panasonic and Samsung have launched all-in-one systems and several are due out later this year, but so far the choice has been limited.
Sony offers a selection of one-box Blu-ray systems but not in the truest sense of the word. Instead of using a combined Blu-ray/receiver unit, Sony's approach is to pair together its existing Blu-ray players and home cinema amp/speaker systems. One such pairing is the HTP-B350IS, which combines the BDP-S350 deck and HT-IS100 amp/speaker system, both available separately but are slightly cheaper when bought as a package.
The system is immensely stylish, but by far the most appealing feature are the five tiny satellite speakers, each one no bigger than a golf ball, which are the updated version of the speakers supplied with the superb DAV-IS10 system. Their diminutive size makes them easy to integrate into your surroundings (you can even wall-mount them) but they're designed to sound like much bigger speakers and can comfortably handle the 50W they receive from the amplifier.
The hub of the HT-IS100 is the SA-WIS100 subwoofer unit, which provides the system's 450W of amplification, audio decoding and connections. It's robustly built and styled in a classy black finish, with a see-through top section that houses a few buttons and a limited LED display. It looks great, but this upward-facing info display will be hard to spot when the sub's tucked in the corner of the room. If you do want to hide it away, then the centre speaker has an integrated IR receiver that passes remote control commands to the sub.
On the bottom of the sub is an impressive array of connections, which lets you use it as a switchbox for the BDP-S350 and your other kit. Crucially, there are three HDMI inputs (capable of passing through 1080/24p signals from the S350) and one output that links to your display, plus there are two component inputs and one out. For external audio sources there are three optical digital inputs and one assignable coaxial port, and analogue stereo input for good measure. These are joined by a composite video input, an IR control input, two IR outputs and FM/AM antenna inputs for the respective radio tuners.
It's also pleasing to see a set of colour-coded speaker plugs instead of springclip terminals, which is a sign of the Sony's superiority over cheaper all-in-one systems. The Digital Media Port (or DM Port) allows you to connect an optional base and wirelessly stream music (MP3, WMA, AAC or ATRAC) to the system using any Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as laptops, MP3 players and mobile phones - and there's a Portable Audio Enhancer feature to improve the quality of these formats.
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