Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray Player Comparisons & Conclusion
Feature-wise, the Sony BDP-S350 is exactly like the Samsung BD-P1500. The Sony performed better on all the jaggies test patterns, but in a real-world comparison, they seem to be on par with each other.
David Vaughn reviewed the Panasonic DMP-BD50, the first player to be shipped with BD-Live capabilities. It decodes both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA, and it can pass the bitstreams to an AVR or pre/pro. It also provides 5.1-channel outputs to play lossless multichannel analog audio.
At the time of David's review, the Panasonic listed for $700, but that price has since dropped by $100. If the cost difference for the extra features doesn't make any sense to you, the Sony BDP-S350 is a good buy at $400, which seems to be the entry-level price for Blu-ray players at the moment.
I have not had a chance to view the Panasonic, but I'm curious to see how well it plays standard DVDs. If it's better than either the Sony or Samsung, this might be a good reason to spend the extra money. Upconverted DVDs look okay on the Samsung and Sony—and my reference PS3—but not exceptional.
If I had to choose between the Sony and the Samsung, I would go with the Sony because it tested a bit better and I like the XMB, the shallower chassis, and the blue faceplate. As you can see, the differences between the two are mostly personal and have less to do with performance. Either one would be a good choice for the money.
That said, since the Samsung and Sony have the same omissions, the PS3 is probably still the best overall value for a Blu-ray player. What the BDP-S350 offers that the PS3 can't is the ability to pass bitstream audio, which is the biggest plus for me. If you're looking for an entry-level dedicated Blu-ray player, the BDP-S350 is a fine choice.
Bitstream output of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA
High-quality decoding of Dolby TrueHD
Attractive price for standalone Blu-ray player
Requires firmware update for BD Live (Profile 2.0)
Limited internal memory, requires external flash drive for Profile 2.0 upgrade
No internal decoding of DTS-HD MA
Mediocre upconversion of DVDs