Friday, 26 November 2010

Sony BDVE370.CEK 5.1 ch Blu-Ray Home Cinema System - Black - Product Review

This is a review for the Sony BDVE370.CEK 5.1 ch Blu-Ray Home Cinema System as listed on 

So, we said to ourselves... "We really need to replace our broken down surround system, what should we get?". Well, I'd wanted something that could bring together all my media needs for a while and so thought this the perfect opportunity to look in to what was new on the market! 

Almost straight away I stumbled upon this Sony BDVE370 player because, well, it had such good reviews and appeared to do everything! It had 5.1 surround, could play Blu-ray, was 3D ready, could up-sample DVDs, Stream media from the internet and your local PC, and had a wizzy interface... Could it be the perfect home cinema system? 

Well, we bought it and now I can tell you what I think. 

1) Installation - No issues here, unpack it, plug it in and off you go. For those that are interested the speaker cables are very thin, the front ones are 3m each and the rear ones are like 8 to 9m I'd say? (These were not long enough for my room, so I had to splice `em!). There is only one power cable required for the whole system which is a boon. The included sound calibration mike then helped to get everything, umm, calibrated! I did however decide to drop the subwoofer down by 2db as it sounded a little over powered compared to the satellites. 

2) Connectivity - I did not want to go down the route of buying Sony's wireless dongle, so I bought a homeplug networking kit. Was mildly worried about whether it would work, but it's just great and from the moment I plugged it in it has worked flawlessly (At £40 for a pair or reusable network points it was a no brainer). Hey also, don't forget to buy an HDMI cable ;) 

3) The Interface - The Sony interface (that scrolling bar of options) is a strange beast in that it is unlike any other interface, and as such might take some getting used to. However it really didn't pose me any threat and it looks nice :). One thing to note is that after the initial firmware upgrade, and after connecting a hard drive / USB stick, and setting up my PC for media streaming, the video menu of the Sony player is quickly filling up with options... I hope this won't get too confusing for people wanting to use my player when I am not around. 

4) The Sound - Oh, it's lovely having the surround sound working again. We've watched a couple of movies and are not disappointed. Like I said, I needed to drop the subwoofers volume by 2db as otherwise when the sound moved down from the satellites to the sub there seemed to be sudden increase in volume and this discrepancy bothered me. Once this one done however things seemed much for fluid. The high notes do not scream and everything sounds clear. Volume wise it is quite capable, but does not go stupidly loud. We find that we have the volume level sitting around the middle mark most of the time. I noted that the sub-woofer does not go down quite as low as our previous sub, but then this one is passive and so this couldn't be expected... shame, but never mind. 

5) Internet Video - Not much to say here, in a good way... It worked brilliantly and I look forward to watching much more iPlayer that I have in the past. It integrates with the remote so it feels just like watching a DVD (e.g. the pause, play, stop, rewind and fast forward buttons all function from the remote). All I want now is the channel 4 to get on the band waggon! 
6) Local Video Streaming - I was excited that windows 7 detected the Blu-ray player straight away, and I was able to open windows media player and right click an album and select "play to". In a matter of seconds the album was playing on the surround system in the other room... What's more I could pause and skip tracks by walking next door and using the remote. I was then rather disappointed to find that trying the same with photos and videos... Unsupported format it said - Cuh! Well, the happy news is that after a little research I have got all my mp4's and div-x's streaming by installing Serviio (a free DLNA media server). I tried a few alternatives with mixed results, but this one seemed to make a good backing from a number of people with the same player. The main quirks are that the Sony player does not support CD or DVD covers (a big shame as that would have helped my kiddies when browsing the lists of films & music, and would have looked nice). Also an mp4 video had to be transcoded on the fly to an mp2 video to be streamed, and yet if you put the mp4 on a memory stick or removable hard disk and plug it in directly to the player then it can be played natively... The upshot of this is that to save your PC from doing lots of extra work it would be much better just to stick all your files on an external hard disk and keep it plugged in to the back of your Blu-ray player. 

7) Conclusion - So, does it do everything? Straight out the box it does an awful lot right. The sound is good, the Blu-ray & DVD playback is crisp and smooth. The internet video works well and is very well integrated and really feels a part of the TV experience. DLNA Media streaming is a little disappointing out of the box as Sony's / Microsoft's implementations don't appear to talk very well to each other, but with a little help from a 3rd party DLNA Server (i.e. Serviio) things can at least be got to work well (even if your media requires transcoding for no real reason). Would I buy this product again if I knew what I know now? Yes I certainly would. 

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