Sony BDP-S480 Review
- Top-drawer picture quality
- DLNA, 3D and BRAVIA Internet Video support
- Easy to use
- No built-in Wi-Fi
- Slower disc loading than previous models
- Web browsing
- Review Price: £119.00
- 3D support
- DLNA media streaming
- Wi-Fi ready (with LAN adapter)
- Entertainment Database Browser
- SACD playback
The key upgrade from the S380 is 3D compatibility. Provided you’re lucky enough to own a 3D TV and glasses, this deck will allow you to view Full HD 3D movies in all their glory thanks to the inclusion of an HDMI v1.4 output.
In terms of design the BDP-S480 is attractive enough with its ‘Monolithic’ black finish and 36mm height, but it’s nowhere near as glamorous or sturdy as the Philips BDP7600, for example. The little curved lip at the bottom of the fascia houses a few playback buttons, while one of two USB ports can be found on the right hand side. There is a small display panel that provides basic running time information and other choice messages.
The BDP-S480 offers the same line-up of sockets as the S380. Joining the crucial HDMI port on the back panel is a set of component video outputs, alongside the usual composite video, stereo audio and coaxial digital outputs. An Ethernet port is provided for your BD Live and networking needs, but if you’d rather go down the wireless route there’s a second USB port designed to house Sony’s UWA-BR100 wireless LAN adapter – that £20 premium doesn’t quite stretch to built-in Wi-Fi we’re afraid. Still the provision of a dedicated USB for the adapter means you don’t have to unplug it every time you want to view some media content on a USB stick.
Despite the lack of built-in Wi-Fi, Sony makes it worth your while investing in the wireless adapter (or plugging in a LAN cable) with a decent array of networking features. We’ve said it many times before, but its BRAVIA Internet Video service is worth the money alone. There’s an unrivalled selection of applications, ranging from video services like YouTube, LoveFilm, BBC iPlayer, Demand Five, Sky News, Eurosport and Qriocity, plus music and radio sites.
As well as enjoying these prescribed sites you can also surf the internet at large using the built-in browser, but be warned that it’s a cumbersome, time-consuming process due to the time it takes to enter text and to its intolerance of Flash (the deck does support a USB keyboard, however).
Unlike the BDP-S380, which doesn’t support DLNA media streaming in any form, the S480 allows you to stream content from other DLNA-compatible devices on your home network, including MKV and AVCHD. Not bad for such an affordable player. But if you prefer your media playback to be a little more local, then the deck also supports a range of formats from USB devices – we loaded our flash drive and were able to play MP4, AVI, WMV HD, XviD, MP3, WMA, WAV and AAC. But like the BDP-S380 there’s no support for DivX, which is sure to put off some potential buyers.
Elsewhere on the features front you’ll find the Gracenote-powered Entertainment Database Browser, which allows you to look up details about the movie you’re watching. It’s a neat feature that could help settle a few armchair arguments. Also appealing is the player’s support for SACD – looks like Sony isn’t ready to give up the ghost on its cherished hi-res audio format just yet.
Also on-board is smartphone control – the deck acts as a media renderer and can be controlled using an iPod Touch, iPhone or Android phone. You’ll find similar features on Philips’ and Panasonic’s latest players. It also supports the Party Streaming function, whereby the S480 works in conjunction with other compatible Sony products to send and receive music (as a ‘Party Host’ and ‘Party Guest’ respectively).
Aside from that the S480 performs all the tricks you’d expect, such as support for HD audio formats (decoding and bitstream output), 1080/24p output and 1080p DVD upscaling.
Using the BDP-S480 is a blissfully simple experience, thanks to Sony’s slick operating system. The Xross Media Bar is as cooperative as ever, skating from option to option without hesitation, plus the BIV, setup and network icons are laid out in a logical cross-axis fashion. That said, anyone keen to experience the delights of niche sites like Golf Link or Tagesschau will need to scroll quite far down the vertical ‘Video’ menu to reach them, given the vast array of sites further up the list.
On the compact remote – which features a neat arrangement of nicely-sized and well-labelled buttons – you’ll find an Options button. Press it during playback and you can access a modest range of video settings, which include noise reduction and three picture presets. The Options menu also provides quick access to a useful range of often used playback features. In general the onscreen design is excellent, which means you won’t have any trouble whether you’re streaming files, playing Blu-rays or making tweaks in the setup menu.
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.
Score in detail
|Dolby Digital 5.1||Yes|
|Digital Audio Out||1|
|WiFi||With USB adapter|
|DivX / DivX HD||Yes|