Luckily for it -- and our thinning patience -- the BDP-S500 performs very well. Popping a standard DVD in the disc tray yielded a swift response, and it wasn't very many seconds before we had our classic Bond movie on the TV. Once we got to the actual film, we were impressed by the upscaling abilities of the S500. Even though From Russia with Love is getting on in years, the picture was very compelling with decent amounts of detail and minimal MPEG-2 noise.
Audio quality from both HD and SD discs was also impressive. The downmix from 7.1 or 5.1 surround sound to two-channel stereo is handled well. We found dialogue was very clear and generally wasn't overwhelmed with loud effects or unnecessarily loud bass. It goes without saying that the HD formats offer some spectacular sound quality, but even DVD sounded great.
HD material was beautiful, too. Our Blu-ray copy of Casino Royale put a sorely missed, great big grin on our faces. The sharpness was exquisite and there was strong colour. Spider-man was also a joy to behold, with some rich greens in the grass early on in the film. All-in-all, it was an impressive result for this player.
There's plenty of room to improve on performance speed. Press the eject button when the player is off and it takes 50 seconds for the player to come on, lower its front panel and open the disc tray. Not exactly an action we'd label 'zippy'. We'd really like to see this wait reduced.
We did find some love for the menu system. Sony has managed to create an attractive and intuitive interface for the player. Setup can only be accessed in stop mode, but as the player allows you to stop the disc without exiting the menu system, that's not a problem.
Discs also resume once you've finished fiddling, which is a welcome feature. If you need to change the resolution you're outputting over HDMI you can do this from a button on the remote. This is slick; although the screen goes blank for a few seconds, it beats stopping the disc, going into the menu, making the change then hitting play again.
The BDP-S500 is a great performer. The picture quality is fantastic and the sound is amazing, too. It's almost downright funny that Sony has missed the boat on all of the cool Blu-ray interactivity, despite the company spearheading the development of this functionality in the first place. Not funny ha-ha, though, considering you won't be laughing when you get your credit card statement.
Your hard-earned £500 gets you a well-styled, sturdy machine, that's true. It doesn't get you support for lots of Blu-ray features, however. If you really needed another slap in the face, the BDP-S500 doesn't even come with an HDMI cable. A player this expensive that doesn't have an HDMI cable is totally unacceptable, in our opinion. Toshiba managed to bundle free cables with its £180 HD-E1, so we're pretty sure Sony could make the effort.
It's your money. Like Phil and Julie Neville, you can spend it as extravagantly as you want. It's just our opinion that as good as this player is, you really shouldn't buy one. You should get a PS3, a Panasonic DMP-BD30 or wait until the Sony BDP-S550 arrives.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday