We slipped Warner’s superb I Am Legend disc into the tray and right from the off the Sony dazzles – the eerie shots of post-disaster New York look deep and three-dimensional, and are packed from edge to edge with crisp detail.
The wide contrast range and punchy blacks lend a convincing sense of perspective to the rows of skyscrapers, while small text, distant windows and weeds bursting through the roads all look razor sharp. Colours are also beautifully judged, from Will Smith’s deftly shaded brown skin to the bright flashing police lights during the evacuation scene.
We’re also impressed by the player’s consistently fluid 24p motion handling. Camera pans don’t judder at all and Will Smith’s red car is tracked with effortless stability and focus.
Good though it is, the Sony certainly isn’t the last word in Blu-ray picture quality. More expensive players like the Panasonic DMP-BD80 or the Denon DVD-3800BD increase the wow factor further with even better detail retrieval, more effective noise reduction and punchier blacks, but in this price range there aren’t many better.
This deck certainly punches above its weight with the Silicon Optix HQV Blu-ray disc – apart from some strobing in the corners of the Video Resolution test, it doesn’t put a foot wrong. Diagonal edges on the Jaggies tests are smooth as a baby’s bum and rotate without judder, while the HD colour bars are bleed-free and the panning shot across the empty stadium looks sharp and composed.
The deck also turns in a strong performance with DVDs. The bamboo fight scene in House of Flying Daggers (chapter 11) is masterfully reproduced, with no jaggies on the long bamboo poles, gorgeous organic-looking greens, smooth motion tracking and plenty of depth. DVD torture tests are also ably handled, particularly when it comes to jaggie suppression and detail rendering.
These top-drawer pictures are backed up by crisp, punchy sound quality from any source. I Am Legend’s Dolby True HD track is conveyed with relentless energy and bags of detail, while music playback over the HDMI or analogue connection is well balanced but can’t match the control or transparency of a Pioneer or Denon deck.
The BDP-S360 is a fine budget Blu-ray player for the money, particularly if you’re looking for your first high-definition deck. Compared to rival players from the likes of Philips, Samsung and Panasonic, the spec is basic – there’s no Wi-Fi support, built-in memory, multichannel analogue outputs or USB digital media playback – but that’s reflected in the bargain basement price tag. Blu-ray newbies will probably be more interested in the impressive hi-def picture quality and user-friendly operating system, two key reasons why we’ve warmed to this deck despite its limitations.
Score in detail