The BDP-S380 is able to stream video and audio content from the Internet via Sony's Bravia Internet Video gateway, which provides access to such services as Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and Pandora, among others. Out of the box however, the BDP-S380 can only access these services through a wired Ethernet connection. To connect to the Internet wirelessly with this Blu-ray player, you'll need to purchase Sony's optional UWA-BR100 wireless adapter.
While the BDP-S380 comes with a remote control, Sony also offers a free, downloadable "Media Remote" app that lets an iPhone, Android Phone or an iPad work as a powerful remote controller for this Blu-ray player, as well as a typing keyboard for web-based content and services. For this feature to work, you will also need the Sony wireless adapter.
2. The BDP-S380 can upscale standard DVDs to match the resolution of a 720p, 1080i or 1080p high-definition TV through an HDMI connection.
3. The BDP-S380 is compatible with most major pre-recorded and recordable BD, DVD and CD disc formats, including the super high-fidelity SACD music discs.
4. Standard audio-video connections include HDMI, component video (red, green, blue), coaxial digital audio, and composite video with analog stereo audio (yellow, red, white).
5. Connections for non-disc content such as digital photos or MP3 music from your flash drive are provided by a front-panel USB 2.0 port. There's a second USB port in the rear of the unit that provides the memory to store BD-Live content from the Internet; the BDP-S380 has no internal memory capabilities.
6. Connection to the Internet is via a standard Ethernet jack and an Ethernet cable from your home network, unless you're using Sony's optional wireless adapter.
7. A downloadable Media Control app is available to control the BDP-S380 from an iPhone, iPad or compatible Android phone. This app requires the optional wireless adapter and also lets the user enter searches, comments and Tweets.
8. A graphical user interface allows menu selections and key setting adjustments even when a BD disc or streamed content is running.
9. A "Quick Start" feature shortens the wait time between disc loading and disc playback.
10. Suggested Price: $149
Ease Of Setup And Operation
To speed up disc load times, which are often leisurely in BD players, the BDP-S380 offers a Quick Start feature that can open the tray in less than 3 seconds and start (or resume) a Blu-ray movie in about 12 seconds. This feature more or less leaves the unit "on" all the time, though in a low-energy state. Without this feature engaged, it takes around 30 seconds for the BDP-S380 to start the movie, which is slightly faster than most current BD players.
One unusual feature here is the inclusion of SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc) compatibility. While this high-resolution audio format never took off with the mass market, it is still arguably the best possible sound source available to consumers, and there are thousands of titles available, particularly if you're a fan of jazz or classical music. If the rest of your audio system is very high quality and you don't mind buying music online, this feature alone is a great upgrade. These discs go past CD sound to a new level of resolution and clarity, much the same as the improvement from DVD pictures to Blu-ray.
Blacks are deep and the picture contrast reveals plenty of subtlety, even in dark scenes. The candlelit basement shootout sequence in Inglorious Basterds showed a tremendous range of shades even through the director's deliberately monochrome look. Classic "eye candy" Technicolor movies were similarly enjoyable through the BDP-S380, with the rich palette of Quo Vadis popping on the screen but never becoming exaggerated or oversaturated.
The BDP-S380's ability to upscale conventional DVD content for high definition output was quite good for a player at this price point. With high-quality upscaling, an existing DVD library becomes much more fun to watch and surprisingly close to a true high-definition experience. The BDP-S380's DVD upconversion is so effective that you may find yourself perfectly happy renting or buying DVDs, and not worrying about why your favorite titles haven't shown up on Blu-ray yet.
There are several enhancements available on the BDP-S380 that are designed to compensate for the imperfections in picture quality you often find with YouTube and other less robust video sources. One, called BNR (Block Noise Removal) helps remedy the blocky, pixelated look that comes from poor source material or Internet streams. Another more subtle enhancement called MNR (Mosquito Noise Reduction) minimizes the buzzy artifacts that sometimes show up in the edges of shapes and in big areas of solid color. An additional picture setting can balance the overall brightness and contrast for your specific room lighting (Daylight, Theater). For my review, I left all of these disengaged.