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By Thomas McKinnon 23 November 2009

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Two trends are bringing home theatre systems to the average consumer. The first is the diminishing cost of systems that are in fact superior to their more costly forerunners, as happens with most consumer electronics goods. The second is the ease with which systems can be setup. With home theatre in a box solutions becoming more prevalent, a consumer can setup a balanced system within 15 minutes.

The Sony BDV-E300 is a good example. It looks sleek, offers 1000 watts of system power, comes with a built-in profile 2.0 Blu-ray player and costs R8499.

Setup

We went from unboxing the system to full setup in just 20 minutes. As a 5.1 channel surround sound system, it comes with two front, two rear and a centre channel speaker, with a 285 watt sub-woofer. The front and rear speakers look near identical, but are identifiable by colour coded stickers, which also identify the appropriate wires for each speaker. While the speakers are wired you can purchase wireless rear speakers for the unit. None of the speakers come with stands or mounts, although there are hook slots on the back of the speakers so that they can be hung on the wall.

Sony’s auto-calibration of the speakers is a very handy feature. Once all the speakers are connected and in position, you attach the included mic to the Blu-ray (BD) player and start a pre-programmed audio test. The system is then automatically calibrated, taking into account the acoustics and size of the room as well as the position of each speaker. This straightforward setup makes the system a joy to use and ensures that even basic users get the best default performance from the system.

User Interface

The BD player is very impressive and easy to use, with a Xross Media Bar very similar to the Playstation 3’s. Navigating between various media types, adjusting settings and performing basic setup tasks involves little, if any, learning curve. Only if you intend on tweaking settings or customising the setup will it be necessary to consult the manual.

The same praise for ease of use doesn’t extend to the BDV-E300’s remote. It is large, cluttered with buttons and not as responsive as we would have liked.

Connections

The system comes with a single component video output, a composite video output, a HDMI upscaling output, an Ethernet port and a DM port you can plug a USB flash drive into. These interfaces prove more than adequate in terms of number and prove useful in configuring various setups for the device.

The DM port proved a bit of a frustration. It is located awkwardly at the back of the player. What\'s more, it can only be used for connecting one of four Sony proprietary accessories and a USB drive for downloading BDLive content to. This cuts out the potential for plugging in your external hard drive or USB stick to playback other media. The accessories that can be attached include an iPod dock, a Wi-Fi music streamer, a Bluetooth adaptor and a Sony Walkman MP3 adaptor. While the iPod dock comes packaged with the system, the review unit we looked at didn’t come with one, so we can’t provide any feedback on its integration.

Sound

Bearing in mind the price of the system and the ease with which it can be setup, the BDV-E300 performs admirably. The sound is crisp, clear and balanced. The bass is where the system most obviously falls short. As its sub-woofer isn’t externally powered it lacks power in terms of sound output. This isn’t a problem though, as the default settings of the system are aimed at balancing the bass, mid-range and high sounds. We found it’s channel separation to be excellent as well.

Conclusion

The Sony BDV-E300 is an altogether decent system. It offers an easy entry into the Blu-ray home theatre market for first time buyers, especially for consumers who already own a Sony Bravia TV. The DM port is a major frustration because it prevents you from being able to playback DivX or AVI media and even JPEGs directly from the player. So don’t expect to disconnect your home theatre PC just yet.

PROS
Auto-calibration of the system is brilliant. It offers a balanced surround sound experience.
CONS
Its sub-woofer is a little under powered and the DM port is locked to proprietary accessories.
USER COMMENTS

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