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Sony BDV-E870 Review

Pros

  • Easy installation
  • Gorgeous sound quality
  • Excellent range of content

Cons

  • No HDMI inputs
  • Sound lacks power
  • Chunky box

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £389.99
  • Two digital audio inputs
  • 3D-ready
  • HDMI v1.4 output
  • Two tallboy speakers
  • Supports Dolby TrueHD

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Sony’s BDV-E370 is one of the best all-in-one systems on the market, offering a tempting range of features and solid performance, so it’s with great anticipation that we check out its bigger brother, the BDV-E870. This system is virtually identical to the E370 except that the front speakers are 610mm high towers, which are more visually striking than the satellites that accompany the E370. These add a premium of around £50 to the price.


The main Blu-ray/receiver unit is the same one that accompanies the E370 and opts for tasteful understatement over Samsung-style exuberance. The low button count on the fascia gives it a surprisingly stark and minimal appearance, plus the gentle white light in the centre is a stylish touch – although at 430(w) x 85(h) x 335(d)mm it’s a chunky box. Jutting out from the bottom is a plinth that houses a few buttons and there’s a USB port on the front that can be used to play music from an iPod or USB storage device.


The rear panel houses a disappointing array of connections. The first thing that jumps out is the lack of HDMI inputs, which means you can’t route other kit through the system and use it as a switcher. Instead, you get two digital audio inputs (one optical, one coaxial) and an analogue stereo input for listening to external sources. Completing the socket selection are component and composite outputs, an FM aerial input and an Ethernet port for the system’s extensive networking functionality.


Like the BDV-E370, the E870 is 3D-ready (although it may require a software upgrade) and as such, the HDMI v1.4 output can carry Full HD 3D signals. All of the speaker terminals on the back are colour-coded plugs as opposed to clumsy springclips, which makes installation a cinch.


If you want to make the rear speakers wireless, then there’s a dedicated slot on the back for Sony’s optional S-Air transmitter (EZW-T100). This transmitter is included in Sony’s wireless speaker upgrade kit (WHAT-SBP2), which also provides an extra pair of speakers to upgrade to a 7.1-channel system.


At 75mm wide, the tower speakers are some of the slimmest around, plus they’re robustly built and coated in a sassy gloss-black finish. They come in two parts that have to be screwed together, and each one sits on a circular base. To minimise clutter the cables can be hidden inside the speaker columns, and the upper section can be wall mounted if need be.


The rest of the system comprises a pair of compact rear satellites, each standing 225mm high and dressed in the same tasteful gloss-black finish as the towers, plus a remarkably slim centre speaker and a subwoofer. This is a passive (non-powered) model, and has a pleasant all-black finish and compact dimensions.

The BDV-E870 boasts a stellar line-up of features. We’ve touched upon 3D (which of course requires a compatible TV and shutter glasses) but the real star of the show is Sony’s BRAVIA Internet Video, which brings an unbeatable range of movie, music and catch-up TV services to your TV screen. It may be an increasingly common feature, but Sony’s wide range of content makes it the one to beat. You get services like Demand Five, YouTube, BBC iPlayer and the new Qriocity Video-on-demand service.


The system can also access BD Live content and streaming music, video and photos from PCs on your home network, although this may also require a software update. You can stream content over the Ethernet connection, or wirelessly if you connect Sony’s optional Wi-Fi dongle (UWA-BR100) into either of the USB ports. The system supports DivX, MKV, WMV and AVCHD, as well as MP3, AAC, WMA and JPEG.


There are a couple of other tasty features on board, the most unusual of which is Super Audio CD playback. This hi-res music format might not have much of a following anymore, but it’s a welcome addition to the spec sheet given the gorgeous sound quality it offers. Also useful is the online Gracenote database, which looks up information for any disc.


Naturally, there are plenty of audio enhancements on board. The A.F.D. (Auto Format Direct Multi) mode plays the sound exactly as it is on the disc, while DTS Neo:6 and Dolby Pro Logic II processing allow you to expand stereo sources to multichannel. You also get a range of Sound Modes designed for different types of content – Music, Movie, Game Rock, News, Sports – as well as a bass-boosting mode (D.Bass).


The D.C.A.C. calibration system makes configuration a breeze. It uses the supplied microphone to measure the sound output and tweak the volume/distance settings automatically.


General operation is simplicity itself. Sony’s ever-reliable Xross Media Bar is again at the helm, and deploys its innovative dual-axis layout to great effect. Navigation feels intuitive, and the cursor glides from option to option quickly. This superb layout also makes it easy to find all your content and make changes in setup menu. If only all menus were as slick and attractive as this. It’s controlled by a similarly user-friendly remote, which boasts helpfully positioned menu and playback controls, although it does pack a lot of buttons into a small space.

As we noted on the BDV-E870, disc loading is ultra quick (”Terminator Salvation” took just 35 seconds) and picture performance is superb. Insightful and incisive, it produces meticulously detailed pictures with our ”Dark Knight” Blu-ray, even during the movie’s frequent gloomy scenes. Images boast wonderful clarity and complete freedom from noise, plus bright colours like the Joker’s purple jacket and yellow school buses are vibrant yet natural. Top marks too for the system’s DVD upscaling, which is clean and sharp enough to breath new life into your SD discs.


These top-drawer pictures are backed up by exciting, dynamic 5.1 sound quality. Like most cost-conscious all-in-one systems, the quality is inevitably compromised in places and lacks the power and poise of separates. But there’s a lot to like – ”The Dark Knight’s” jaw-dropping Batpod chase scene is conveyed with plenty of enthusiasm, pinging effects around the expansive soundstage with verve.


Roaring engines are suitably meaty and sensitive high-frequency handling results in a detailed sound. Those tower speakers deliver a more mature sound than the price would suggest, and show Pioneer’s BCS-707 package how it’s done.


We’re also impressed by the way it conveys loud effects without excessive hardness, an unusual feat for a one-box system. The sound of colliding cars at loud volumes is bracing but won’t make you wince.


If there’s a downside it’s the subwoofer, which dominates the other speakers when it should be underpinning them and lending cohesion, and as a result the sound is slightly unbalanced. It also lacks the tautness and control needed to give explosions the requisite punch. It’s not a deal-breaker but if you’re a serious bass junkie you might want to consider splashing out a little more on separates with a powered sub.


However, SACD playback is fantastic, thanks to the system’s way with detail, and it also does a stand-up job with CDs.

Verdict


The BDV-E870 continues the great work of its cheaper sibling with respectable sound quality, excellent pictures and a feature list that puts most of its rivals to shame. Sure there are flaws and some HDMI inputs would have been nice, but in most respects the BDV-E870 represents excellent value for money.

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Performance 8
  • Features 8
  • Value 8
  • Design 7

Features

Number of Speakers 5.1

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