Sony frees Blu-ray

In this age of tablets and video streaming is there still room for a portable Blu-ray player? Sony thinks so. Steve May takes some BDs on the road

If you’ve been building a collection of Blu-ray discs you may well be wondering how you’re going to watch your movies on the move. Ripping BDs is impractical and, despite a great deal of puff, digital lockers have yet to open for business. Enter the BDP-SX1, Sony’s first stab at a transportable.

Double-jointed

The BDP-SX1 may well seem chunky, but it’s not without flexibility. The non-reflective 10in screen swivels 360˚ and can lie flush against its own lid. Panel resolution is a decent 1024 x 600.

The BDP-SX1 can also be plugged into a home system, just like any regular Blu-ray deck. A regular size remote control is also supplied. As an HDMI-connected source, the player behaves much like any regular Sony Blu-ray player, although it’s not compatible with SACDs.

You can output at 1080/24p as well as 1080/60p and 1080/50p, and audio can be bitstreamed (as DTS HD MA, Dolby TrueHD etc) or taken as LPCM. However, not many would choose to use the BDP-SX1 over a conventional deck. The unit has no IPTV functionality and it’s unrelentingly noisy, grinding horribly when asked to find chapters or access special features.

The player has no persistent memory for BD Live applications either, but this is unlikely to prove an issue for travellers. If you do need memory, provide your own with a 1GB USB thumb drive.

Portable picture quality is Walkers crisp, although WSVGA resolution on a screen of this size make Blu-rays appear only moderately sharper than they do on DVD. The motion picture resolution of the panel itself is limited to around 400 lines. There’s no high-powered image processing tech onboard, although you will find the usual backlight, contrast, hue and colour variables in the picture menu. Video is overscanned as standard – and there’s no viewing mode to put this right.

Beware the mini-jack I/O though. While it’s useful to route video into the device, screen resolution drops to a fuzztastic 480p. And this restriction applies equally to the HDMI output. You’ll need to keep the analogue I/O clear if you want the best picture both onscreen and out.

This portable can also be used for multimedia playback, the USB reader being compatible with a wide variety of video file types and formats. The integrated speakers are ghastly, but the dual headphone outputs should keep passengers happy on long car journeys. Battery life is immense. The player can run for five hours straight, enough for two helpings of Avatar. It also has a helpful Resume Playback option.

A modern spin

Overall, the BDP-SX1 offers enough modern functionality to keep the concept of a portable disc-spinner alive. It’s reasonable to assume that if Blu-ray is to replace DVD as a mainstream format, it’ll need devices like this. Just because your hi-def discs can feed a full-blown home cinema, it shouldn’t preclude more convenient use elsewhere.


HCC VERDICT

Sony BDP-SX1
Price:
£300 Approx

Highs: Superb battery life; good USB media playback; WSVGA screen
Lows: Generally noisy; low-resolution video input; underpowered speaker system

Performance: 4/5
Design: 3/5
Features: 3/5
Overall: 3/5


Specifications

3D: no But Sony has shown a prototype
Upscaling: yes 1080p
Multiregion: no Region B BD/R2 DVD
HDMI: yes 1 x v1.2
Component: no
Multichannel analogue: no
Digital audio: no
SACD/DVD-A: no
Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD decoding: yes/yes
Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD bitstream: yes/yes
Profile 2.0: yes
Dimensions: 259 (w) x 204 (h) x 40.2(d)mm  
Weight: 1.53kg
Features: 10in TFT LCD panel with WSVGA 1024 x 600 resolution; Ethernet; USB; multimedia file support (Mpg, mpeg .m2ts, mts, AVI, .mkv,.mp4, m4v, m2ts, mts, wmv, asf, AVCHD, MP3, M4a, WMA, WAV, JPEG); mini-jack input/output; five-hour battery; twin headphone outs