If you like real life, then you'll almost certainly want 3D capability in your home-cinema system. After all, life is shown in 3D, so why shouldn't your favourite movies be too?
Okay, we all know that 3D is a mix of utter hype and an innovation no-one asked for. But it's also genuinely impressive technology, and, for all our scepticism, we can't help but be impressed by it from time to time.
The company's BDP-S470 is one of the cheapest 3D Blu-ray players on the market, at about £180. Cheap can be good, but it's still expensive if the product isn't any good. We took a look to find out if the BDP-S470 is another of Sony's recent Blu-ray player triumphs.
Cheap as chips, for 3D
Like any other new technology, Sony has treated 3D as a very easy way to bump prices up. It's done this with its 3D TVs, and we've had a proper moan about it. But the good news is that this Blu-ray player is actually very sensibly priced. While you are paying a premium for the 3D technology, it's not an outrageous one.
If 3D isn't your bag, then don't get this player. The BDP-S370, which won our coveted Editors' Choice award, is now about £50 cheaper than the BDP-S470, and does pretty much the same job.
The BDP-S470 is a very svelte and visually appealing machine. We love the way Blu-ray players have slimmed down from being the size of a house in a very short period of time.
Its size doesn't affect the amount of outputs on offer either. You get a HDMI 1.4a output, which carries 3D video and lossless digital audio. You also get both optical and coaxial digital outputs for conveying 5.1-channel Dolby Digital and DTS audio to an older AV receiver.
Also provided is component out, but we can't honestly see the point of this now -- the output generally isn't very good because of restrictions placed on Blu-ray players by the Blu-ray Disc Association. As you'd expect on a Profile 2.0 player, there's an Ethernet socket for network connectivity, and the machine is Wi-Fi ready too.
It doesn't surprise us that the BDP-S470's picture quality is every bit as excellent as that of the BDP-S370. We noticed no problems due to the move to 3D, and we thoroughly loved the picture this player produced. As a company, Sony might have some problems, but delivering great picture and audio quality aren't among them.
The quality of 3D images is largely governed by the TV you're watching them on. In our case, that was the Sony Bravia KDL-46HX903. The player did everything we expected it to. With the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs disc, we were offered the opportunity to play either the 2D or 3D version. The 3D copy of the film worked a treat, and the TV automatically switched to accept the 3D video.
In the most important areas, then, we really have no complaints about this machine's performance.
Audio outputs grumble
While the HDMI output delivers all the audio most people will ever need, we did notice one little problem. With 3D content, it becomes very important that you have an AV receiver that supports HDMI 1.4a, or the 3D information can get stripped out, and the TV won't know it needs to automatically switch to 3D mode.
Panasonic caters for older, non-3D-aware AV equipment by providing a second audio-only HDMI output. Sony doesn't do this, nor does it provide analogue 7.1 outputs, which means, if you want 3D and have an old surround-sound system, you'll either have to drop back to 5.1 Dolby Digital or DTS, or lose the 3D.
It's fair to say that Sony has made a cost-saving decision here, and we're not going to criticise the company too heavily for it. After all, we want cheap Blu-ray players, so, at some point, a compromise has to be made.
Superb Internet video
Sony has got the BDP-S470's Internet connectivity just right. Through the Bravia Internet Video service, you can access BBC iPlayer, Demand Five and stream films from LoveFilm to boot. This superb online functionality is a particularly awesome cherry on the cake.
Like the BDP-S370, this machine can also play back video stored in a number of popular formats. It's capable of handling MKV files too, which makes it ideal for viewing high-definition video with surround sound from online sources.
Sony is ahead of the curve with its Blu-ray players. The BDP-S470 is not only a superb player, but also offers support for online content, media playback and networking. Sony has listened to its customers and is producing sensibly priced products that perform brilliantly.
We wish Sony would do the same with its televisions. In that market, it's still taxing people for the silver Sony badge, and not providing performance that matches its prices. But that's a rant for another day. The BDP-S470 is one of our favourite Blu-ray players, and earns a well deserved Editors' Choice award.
Edited by Charles Kloet