It’s also disappointing to discover that the USB port is only used for BD Live storage and not for digital media playback, which wouldn’t be such a problem had it not been commonplace among its rivals. The Sony’s ability to play only MP3 and JPEG files from CD, DVD and Blu-ray discs rubs salt in the wound.
However, the BDP-S360 ticks most other boxes. 1080/24p output? Check. DVD upscaling to 720p, 1080i and 1080p? Check. BRAVIA Sync? Check. And if your discs have seen better days, they can still be played thanks to Sony’s Precision Drive, which detects and stabilises playback of bent or scratched platters.
The BDP-S360’s operating system is one of the best we’ve encountered. It’s based on the same Xross Media Bar used by the PS3 and as the name suggests the main page displays the content categories in a horizontal bar. Select one, and a vertical bar lists the corresponding options. Its large, funky icons and jazzy backgrounds make it a treat for the eyes, plus it glides around with rare responsiveness.
There are some equally nifty touches elsewhere – hit Display during playback and the onscreen menu gives you every piece of info about the disc, including the video format and bitrate.
Press Options and a list zooms in from the right of the screen, offering a few playback options and access to the video and audio adjustments. On the video side, there’s a choice of Picture Quality Modes for different viewing environments (Standard, Brighter Room or Theatre Room) as well as three noise reduction modes. For audio, you get AV sync and analogue Audio Filter settings.
Topping off this exemplary operating system is an intuitive remote, which boasts nicely sized and sensibly placed buttons. All the playback keys are grouped together and the central direction keys make menu navigation a cinch. And when you need to return to the main menu, the Home button is unmissable.
The inclusion of a Quick Start mode means the Sony takes just six seconds to boot up. Standby power consumption is higher with this mode activated, but who cares about the environment when you can start watching hi-def movies quicker? We joke of course, but eco-warriors can rest assured that it only takes 22 seconds to boot up without it.
Sadly it’s not quite as quick at loading Blu-ray platters – with our benchmark Spider-Man 3 disc, the intro video appeared 53 seconds after pressing close on the disc tray, twice as long as the Samsung BD-P3600 and LG BD370.
Thankfully the BDP-S360 makes up for it with tremendous pictures, demonstrating that you don’t necessarily need to pay through the nose to get yourself a decent Blu-ray performer.