However, the player isn’t quite as clever when it comes to loading discs. It took 43 seconds to fire up Terminator Salvation, which is slightly slower than last year’s BDP-S570 took with the same disc. Less Java-clogged platters, like Inception and Watchmen, took less time to load – 40 and 30 seconds respectively.
Thankfully, it makes up for it with scintillating high-definition pictures, with super-sharp, insightful detail reproduction and a gloriously vibrant colour palette. It manages to make even the finest textures look clear and visible, plus it takes visual banana skins like dark scenes, pale skin tones and quick camera pans in its stride.
These virtues are demonstrated by old favourite I Am Legend. The terrific test scene at the start showing Will Smith zooming round Manhattan is smoothly rendered, with no judder as the camera follows the car and beautifully composed CG detail on the background billboards and CG lions. The zombies’ pasty skin is perfectly judged too.
It's equally assured with 3D pictures. Adding layers doesn’t phase the S480 at all, making the stereoscopic images look clean, clear and immersive. Panasonic may bring a little more nuance and depth to its 3D images but this is still a great performance from such an affordably-priced deck.
The good news continues when we spin the Silicon Optix HQV disc. It aces all of the tests, even the tricky Film Resolution test pattern and camera pan across the football stadium, both of which look crisp and steady.
Next we dusted off the SACD collection, comprising such sonic stalwarts as The Police, Roxy Music and Marvin Gaye, and all of them sound fantastic. Say what you like about SACD but when music sounds as clean, sharp and absorbing as this, you can’t help but wish everything was released on the format.
If you were considering buying the BDP-S380, it really is worth scraping together the extra cash for this deck instead. Not only do you get appetising features like BRAVIA Internet Video, smartphone control and decent (if not all-encompassing) media support, but it also throws 3D support and DLNA media streaming into the bargain – even if neither appeals now, it’s a small price to pay to futureproof yourself. It’s topped off by excellent picture performance, plus SACD playback is a bonus.