- Solid picture quality
- USB port
- Easy to use
- No 3D or DLNA
- No built-in BD Live memory
- No MKV support
- Review Price: £149.99
- BD Live
- USB port
- DivX HD, MP3, WMA, JPEG, AVCHD playback
- Dolby True HD & DTS HD Master Audio
- 1080/24p support
With no DLNA networking, 3D support or access to web content, the BD-SP308 is cut from a different cloth to its bigger-name rivals above, but Onkyo’s players have always been about delivering good, solid home cinema pictures and sound and that’s what this deck is all about, with a couple of tasty features thrown into the mix.
Looks wise, the BD-SP308 is a class act. Available in black or silver, the deck measures a slinky 53mm high and has a flat and relatively uncluttered fascia, with a few buttons for up-close playback control. Apart from the plasticky fascia plate, build quality is decent thanks to the robust aluminium casing.
On the front you’ll find a USB port for multimedia playback from flash drives up to 16GB. You’ll also need to keep a USB device connected if you plan to download BD Live content, as there’s no built-in memory for that purpose. On the back, connectivity is pretty much what you expect from an entry-level player. An HDMI v1.3 output pipes hi-def pictures to your TV and HD audio bitstreams to your amp, while the component outputs provide a high-quality back-up for non-HDMI TVs and projectors. Analogue stereo and coaxial digital audio outputs offer alternative means of hooking the deck up to your AV amp, while the Ethernet port is the only way to hook up the player to your home network for BD Live downloads – there’s no Wi-Fi support here.
As mentioned, the BD-SP308 is a Profile 2.0 player so you can access BD Live downloads and other content from the internet when it’s hooked up to your router. It can also output Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio from the HDMI output for your receiver to decode – if it can’t, then the player can also decode the formats into multichannel PCM before outputting them.
The deck’s digital media format support is pretty good. It plays DivX HD, MP3, WMA, JPEG, PNG and MPEG-1/2/4 from USB sticks, as well as AVCHD from DVDs, though MKV files aren’t supported. There’s no network streaming so CD, DVD and USB devices are your only means of playing digital media.
Delve into the setup menu and you’ll find all the crucial settings, such as HDMI output resolution (from 1080p down to 576i), 24Hz display mode for compatible TVs, aspect ratio and audio output settings – these include PCM stereo and DTS Re-Encode settings, as well as the Primary Pass-Thru (bitstream) and multichannel PCM.
The onscreen menus are attractively presented, with a design that’s identical to LG’s Blu-ray players from a few years back. The Home menu, for example, uses a brushed metallic background effect with just four icons set into it – Movie, Photo, Music and Setup – making it easy to find content on USB sticks or discs. The setup menu is a straightforward box, with submenus down the left and options on the right, which works smoothly.
And when you hit the Display button during playback, an eye-catching menu appears offering details about the disc being played, as well as a range of picture presets (Vivid, Movie, Standard) and a User setting that lets you alter contrast, colour, brightness, noise reduction and sharpness.
We didn’t have any major issues with the remote control. The multi-directional keypad is perfectly placed for the thumb, with Enter bang in the middle and Home, Return, Menu and Top Menu surrounding it within easy reach. Helpfully, the playback keys are a different colour than the rest, and if you’re pairing the deck with an Onkyo amp then the dedicated input and volume controls will come in handy. Many of the buttons towards the top and bottom are too small though.
Disc loading speeds vary according to the amount of Java content they contain. A bog-standard Blu-ray disc like Hulk took 20 seconds to load, while the trickier Terminator Salvation took 55 seconds, which isn’t bad.
The BD-SP308 delivers beautifully crisp high-definition pictures, the sort you can show to your mates and stun them into silence. With the Hulk disc, the abundant detail that Ang Lee packs into every frame is reproduced with wonderful clarity, but that detail is anchored by punchy blacks and wide contrast that allow objects to retain their visibility during dark scenes.
The movie’s comic-book colours are designed to jump from the screen and this deck makes them do just that, but without looking garish or over-egged. You can play about with the picture settings if you want to tone it down a touch, but it’s actually fairly satisfying out of the box. Scenes like Hulk bounding across the desert are stunning, bursting with sharply-rendered geological texture and clean edges. With 24fps mode engaged, the green fella leaps across the screen without any visible judder or tracking issues.
Next up we played the Silicon Optix HQV Blu-ray disc and the BS-SP308 fares well. The Video Resolution Loss test is flawlessly resolved without any strobing or judder and it gets a clean bill of health with both Jaggies test patterns, resolving the white bars without stepping. Some flickering can be seen in the vertically striped boxes of the Film Resolution Loss test pattern, but the pan across Raymond James stadium is smooth and generally noise-free.
One of the biggest differences between Blu-ray players is audio playback given the varying quality of components used, and the Onkyo is no slouch in that department. CDs sound clean and well-balanced, but the deck doesn’t reach the sonic heights of players from the likes of Arcam or Denon.
It lacks 3D and network streaming, but the BD-SP308 makes up for its dearth of appetising features with excellent picture performance. It’s also very easy to use and makes a good CD player. So if you’re looking for a basic player at a decent price then it’s worth considering, but remember you can get a lot more for your money from the likes of Panasonic, Philips and Samsung.
Score in detail