Sony BDV-E370 review
The E370 offers a staggering amount considering its low price. It's a Blu-ray 3D player, 5.1 surround speaker system and media-streaming device with support for iPlayer, Lovefilm and lots more besides.
Sony's Blu-ray players use its tried-and-tested XrossMediaBar (XMB) interface to great effect, and navigating its many functions is a breeze. The Video section is packed with 19 online services including YouTube and video podcasts. Logging into our YouTube account made it easy to locate our own videos (albeit only the publicly listed ones) and manage favourites, playlists and subscriptions.
YouTube is all well and good, but the living room is better suited to longer programmes and films rather than short clips. This is where Sony's online services really stand out from its rivals. BBC iPlayer needs no introduction. The friendly interface closely resembles the website and is far better than Virgin Media's lethargic iPlayer controls. Searching for programmes was quick, with results appearing instantly as we typed using an on-screen keyboard. HD video content and radio programmes are both included too. Demand Five streams content from Channel Five, but sadly, Channel 4 and ITV aren't represented.
Sony also provides access to Lovefilm's rental service, where £9.99 a month gives unlimited access to 4,000 films currently listed – not as many as the 65,000 DVDs in Lovefilm's library but more than its 2,400 Blu-ray titles. However, while virtually all new films are released on Blu-ray, a quick straw poll suggests that only about 20 per cent are currently available for streaming. The main advantage is no waiting for discs to turn up. The entire catalogue is just a few clicks away, so unlimited really does mean unlimited. However, the 800Kbit/s bit rate means videos are a little worse than DVD quality. If you want HD movies, you'll have to stick with Blu-ray.
The Photos section of the XMB interface was completely empty, with no online photo sharing available. This section became populated when a USB storage device was connected, or after connecting to a DLNA server on the home network. The latter had to be activated in the Connection Server Settings, which is buried deep within the Setup options, but once that was done, new icons appeared in the Photo, Video and Music categories. Slideshows were handled well, except for a small animated icon that appeared in the top-right corner to show that the next photo was loading. Music over DLNA worked well too, with a responsive interface that makes light work of browsing large music collections. We couldn't listen to a track while browsing for others, though.
The one thing the BDV-E370 lacks compared to its competitors is an iPod dock. However, plug an iPod into one of the two USB ports (front and back) and music will appear from the speakers. Thankfully, the controls on the iPod remain active rather than being hijacked by the Sony remote control. The rear USB port can also accommodate the optional UWA-BR100 WiFi adaptor, although it's not cheap at around £70. There are no HDMI inputs, but coaxial and optical S/P-DIF inputs plus stereo phono should take care of most other equipment.
The main unit is a little taller than most Blu-ray players but it still manages to look sleek and sophisticated. We don't like the volume buttons on the front panel, though, as they're not the easiest to locate in the event of an accidental burst of loud volume. The satellites are reasonably discrete, and we particularly appreciate the slim centre speaker that tucks unobtrusively at the foot of the TV.
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