The Sony BDP-S550 Blu-ray player is good but slightly overpriced.
- Excellent Blu-ray image quality, 7.1-channel analog output, BD-Live ready
- USB port can't be used for playing media, DVD upscaling makes edges fuzzy
The Sony BDP-S550 is a good product but its relatively high cost means that unless you need the 7.1-channel analog output the competition offers better value.
Price$ 649.00 (AUD)
The Sony BDP-S550 is a fully featured Blu-ray player with a wide array of ports and good image quality when playing Blu-ray discs and upscaled DVDs. Its main point of difference with sub-$500 Blu-ray players is its 7.1-channel analog outputs — you will need to decide if you think that this is worth the extra $150 you will pay to get the BDP-S550. However, for a limited time it's possible to pick up a free BDP-S550 Blu-ray player when you purchase select Bravia LCD TVs from Sony.
Stylistically speaking, the Sony BDP-S550 looks slightly dull. A mostly plastic fascia and top-plate have a dull-blue hue, with the middle of the face-plate opening up to reveal the drive tray. The rest of the unit is black and constructed of aluminium.
After we popped in The Guardian on Blu-ray it took 25sec before we could watch the movie. Throughout our tests the player remained quiet and relatively cool, despite hours of continuous operation.
When playing Blu-ray movies, the picture was excellent. Blacks were given plenty of depth, and image clarity, sharpness and detail were all of a high calibre. Close-ups of faces showed up every wrinkle, and skin tones were natural.
Upscaled DVD movies played relatively well, but edges were fuzzy and the blacks occasionally resembled deep navy blues. We've seen better upscaling on devices like the Samsung BD-P1500, but the picture quality produced is still much better than what you'd expect from a standard DVD player when plugged into a large-screen television. The player is configured to play Region 4 DVDs.
The Sony BDP-S550 has an Ethernet port, which offers access to BD-Live content (also known as Blu-ray Profile 2.0) when the player connected to the Internet and a compatible disc is played. Other ports include a HDMI 1.3 output for 1080p visuals and 7.1-channel sound, a digital optical audio connection, a coaxial audio output, an S-Video out port as well as separate composite and component video out ports.
A USB port is provided; this only serves as external storage for BD-Live content and can't be used to play media from external USB storage devices, which is disappointing given the price of this player. One welcome feature is the inclusion of 7.1-channel analog outputs, which will allow users wanting to connect their 7.1 speakers directly to the Blu-ray player to do so.
Audio formats supported include DTS bitstream, DTS-HD, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby True HD.
So while the Sony BDP-S550 is a solid performer, sub-$500 Blu-ray players are capable of producing similar image and sound quality. You'll need to decide if you need 7.1-channel analog outputs and whether or not you are willing to fork out the extra $150.
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GGG Evaluation Team
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