New machines add BD-Live capability, and improved transport, upscaling and HD audio decoding

Sony has officially announced its new Blu-ray Disc players, the BDP-S350 and BDP-S550. On sale immediately, the new models are designed to take full advantage of BD-Live and BD-Java content, and feature a new transport mechanism designed for enhanced disc stability.

The flagship BDP-S550 (above) comes complete with BD-Live/BD-Java firmware, and also has 1GB of exchangeable USB storage to save downloaded BD-Live content. The less expensive BDP-S350 is described as 'BD-Live ready': a firmware update will be available by October to activate the extra features. It also has a USB port to allow storage to be added for downloaded content.

Both machines have Ethernet connections for internet access, and BonusView to enable two streams from a single disc to be viewed simultaneously, for example for picture-in-picture director's commentaries.

The new players use Sony's Precision Drive HD mechanism, which detects and corrects disc wobbles in three dimensions, and they also have a quick start-up mode, enabling them to be up and running in just six seconds.

More after the break

Other facilities include Sony's 24p True Cinema and new Precision Cinema HD upscaling, which works up to 1080p.

The BDP-S550 also has DTS-HD Master Audio decoding and a 7.1-channel analogue output, while both players will output Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio as bitstream to a suitable amplifier.

They also have Sony's XrossMediaBar menu system, Bravia Synch and support for AVCHD discs with X.V.Color.

Watch this space later today for our exclusive online review of the BDP-S350, which we'll be uploading to the website this afternoon.

UPDATED: Review now online here