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Sony BDP-S1 Blu-ray Disc Player - Product Profile

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Sony BDP-S1 Blu-ray Disc Player - Front View

Sony BDP-S1 Blu-ray Disc Player - Front View

Photo (c) Sony Corporation

Introduction - The Blu-ray Format:

The Blu-ray format is one of two competing high-definition DVD formats that is available to consumers (HD-DVD is the other format, which is backed by Toshiba). Sony is the main backer of Blu-ray, with pioneerbeing one of the partners. Both systems utilize new Blue Laser and video compression technology to achieve high definition video playback on the same size disc as a standard DVD.

The Sony BDP-S1 Blu-ray Disc Player:

The Sony BDP-S1 is the first Blu-ray player from Sony to reach the U.S. market. Utilizing the Blu-ray format allows for true high-definition (720p, 1080i. 1080p) playback of new Blu-ray discs. In addition, the Sony BDP-S1 can play back standard DVDs in an upscaled setting. To find out more about the Sony BDP-S1, check out the rest of this Product Preview.

Video Playback Compatibility:

The Sony BDP-S1 plays back Blu-ray discs, standard DVD-Video, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and DVD-RW discs. In addition, via the Sony BDP-S1's HDMI output, standard DVDs can be upscaled to match the 720p, 1080i, or 1080p native resolution of HDTV's, providing an excellent viewing experience from both Blu-ray and standard DVDs.

Standard DVD playback is limited to the DVD region where the unit is purchased (Region 1 for Canada and U.S.) and Blu-ray Disc playback is limited to Blu-ray Region Code A.

Audio Playback Capability:

Surround Sound Playback Options

The Sony BDP-S1 features the new surround sound and two-channel audio processing formats: Dolby® Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD lossless (2-ch.), DTS® and DTS-HD lossless as well as uncompressed multi-channel PCM, standard Dolby Digital, and DTS 5.1.

NOTE: UNLIKE MOST OTHER BLU-RAY AND HD-DVD PLAYERS AVAILABLE SO FAR, THE SONY BDP-S1 (along with the Pioneer BDP-HD1 ) DOES NOT PLAY ANY TYPE OF AUDIO CD.

Video Connection Options:

High definition outputs: One HDMI (hi-def video and uncompressed digital audio), DVI-HDCP video output compatibility with adapter.

NOTE: 1080p resolution can be accessed via the HDMI outputs. 720p and 1080i resolutions for Blu-ray discs can also be accessed via Component video outputs. For more on accessing 1080p resolution on your TV, check out my article 1080p and You

Standard definition video outputs: Component Video (progressive or interlaced), S-Video, and standard composite video.

Audio Connections Options:

Audio outputs include: 5.1 channel analog (for access to the Sony BDP-S1's built-in surround decoders), two channel analog, digital optical, and digital coaxial outputs.

Control Options:

The Sony BDP-S1 has easy control, via wireless remote control and onscreen menus, of the following parameters: Aspect ratio, 720p/1080i/1080p output selection, Resume Play, and any Disc navigation functions that are present - such as subtitles, audio preferences, interactive menu selections, etc...

Accessing High Definition Content:

Depending on disc encoding, high definition output may only be accessible via the HDMI output.

However, if the disc does not contain the complete copy-protection scheme, it may allow output at 720p or 1080i resolution to be accessible via the component video outputs as well. 1080p resolution can only be accessed via the HDMI output.

Access to high-definition output from a Blu-ray player via both the HDMI and Component Video outputs is determined by each studio on a case-by-case basis.

Availability and Pricing for Sony BDP-S1:

Availability - Pricing: The Sony BDP-S1 has a listed MSRP of $999. COMPARE PRICES

Final Take:

Similarities and Differences with Other Blu-ray and HD-DVD Players

Like the Toshiba HD-A1 and HD-XA1 HD-DVD players, and the Samsung BDP-1000 Blu-ray Disc player, the Sony BDP-S1 is backwards compatible with standard DVDs.

However, unlike the Toshiba, Samsung, and most other announced Blu-ray and HD-DVD players, the BDP-S1 has no provision for playback of standard Audio CDs, SACDs, or DVD-Audio Discs. I consider this a major drawback in terms of value per dollar spent.

Another drawback of the BDP-S1 is, at least initially, it will not have the ability to playback home-recorded BD-R/BD-RE discs. It is interesting to note that the Samsung BD-P1000 DOES have the ability to playback these discs. Sony has indicated that will have a firmware upgrade to address this issue.

One added beneficial feature Sony BDP-S1 does have is that it can output standard 1080p, or also 1080p at 24 frames-per-second. In order to display 1080p/24, your HDTV has to have 1080p/24 signal input capability.

The Sony BDP-S1 also incorporates the high resolution audio formats: Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD, and DTS-HD, which expands the audio portion of the home theater experience, in addition to the Blu-ray video experience.

Despite the benefits of Blu-ray and the capabilities of the Sony BDP-S1, the decision as to whether to jump in now or wait and see what happens as the Blu-ray/HD-DVD war plays itself out, presents a challenge to the average consumer, especially with the first crop of Blu-ray players selling for $999 or more ($999 in the case of the Sony BDP-S1).

Questions, such as software availability and format viability over the long term, is a concern. On the positive side, both Blu-ray and HD-DVD players are compatible with the standard DVD format, as well as most recordable DVD formats, and most are compatible with standard CDs (except where noted).

However, if, down the road, your Blu-ray or HD-DVD player is no longer useful and the rival format is the only one left, you will not be able to play your Blu-ray or HD-DVD discs on the rival format's machine.

If you are willing to take the plunge into high definition DVD, despite future uncertainty, then consider the Sony BDP-S1 as a possible choice. Instead of waiting, possibly, for several years for a format shakeout, you can be enjoying true hi-definition DVD right how with the Sony BDP-S1 or other Blu-ray Disc or HD-DVD player, especially if you have a large screen HDTV or HD-Compatible video projector.

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