Sony’s Blu-ray players floated our boat last year thanks to their outstanding performance and cut-throat pricing.
The BDP-S480 is our first taste of its 2011 offerings, and it seems the designers have picked up where they left off.
Slim and slightly bland-looking, with a sawn-off remote control and a badly overworked XrossMediaBar on-screen menu (time for a rethink, we reckon), the Sony still has many a spec highlight.
Its 3D playback, and online and DLNA functionality (wirelessly via a cost-option dongle) are suddenly par for the course, but the ’S480 also has Sony’s Qriocity on-demand service and the ability to play SACDs, too.
This last might not appeal to everyone, but for some it’ll be decisive.
Convincing 3D images
By the standards of its price rivals, the S480 is an accomplished DVD upscaler.
It isn’t immune to picture noise or shimmer, but it keeps these to a minimum and does good work with contrasts and textures.
It’s far better as a Blu-ray player, of course. Up In The Air is lustrously presented, with detail to burn from the darkest scenes to the most glaring whites.
Edges are stable, as is motion, and the ’S480 demonstrates a fine facility with natural skin-tones.
Overwhelmingly good with 3D
Switch to 3D Blu-ray and the news is overwhelmingly good.
The Sony gets tripped up occasionally by rapid motion in the extreme foreground, but images are bright, detailed and convincingly 3D – although the ’S480 must, like its rivals, bow to the Panasonic DMP-BDT110 when it comes to avoiding that diorama/terrace effect.
Online picture quality is acceptable, although something really information-hungry like iPlayer can stutter from time to time (Qriocity, though, seems set fair to become an important USP for Sony).
From any source, sound is detailed and distinct, though by the standards of its best competitors the Sony lacks a bit of dynamism, sounding a trifle inhibited.
The evolution of the BDP-S470 into the ’S480 has gone pretty well, then.