Cheaper Blu-ray player to counter HD DVD

Delve deep into the Sony keynote at IFA today and you'll see that Sony unveiled two new Blu-ray players to help drive its HD format forward.

The BDP-S300 is, according to Sony, "priced for wide appeal" (£399), while the BDP-S500 is a higher-spec model (£599).

Of the two, the BDP-S300 is particularly interesting, because a sub-£400 price tag puts in right into the mix with discounted HD DVD players from the likes of Toshiba. HD DVD manufacturers will be looking to cut prices again to retain their high street advantage.

It makes the recent announcement of a $199 HD DVD player even more critical.

Blu-ray and 1080p

Of course, the devil's in the details. Both the BDP-S300 and the BDP S500 can output 1080p via HDMI and they support 7.1 channel Linear PCM and Dolby Digital Plus Surround Sound. Both models also support 1080p upscaling to enhance the picture quality of existing DVD titles.

"Blu-ray is taking off, and the BDP-S300 player is designed to give many more people a way of joining the party in style," said Rachel Banin, Product Manager for Home Video at Sony UK.

As for the higher-priced BDP-S500, this eclipses the cheaper S300 with Dolby TrueHD decoding and Bit Stream Output for DTS-HD1, Dolby TrueHD audio signals via HDMI ver 1.3. The S500 also features a sleeker design and will eventually support BD-R/RE discs.

24p True Cinema

"Whether you opt for the BDP-S300 or the high-end BDP-S500," adds Sony's Rachel Banin, "you will be able to appreciate the unique fidelity to the cinematic original offered by 24p True Cinema technology, something not currently available from all manufacturers."

Because PAL DVDs run at 25 frames per second, you're actually not seeing the movie on DVD exactly as you saw it at the cinema. The action will be around 4% faster; the pitch of the actor's voices 4% higher. 24p True Cinema technology effectively runs Blu-ray titles at the original cinematic speed of 24 frames per second. You see the movie as it was originally shot.

Rounding off Sony's announcement, the BDP-S300 and BDP-S500 will also get support for x.v.Colour space. This means that it conforms to xvYCC, an international standard for colour space that's approximately twice as nice as RGB.

Finally, and as an added incentive, anyone who buys the BDP-S300 or BDP-S500 will get a complimentary copy of the Spider-Man High Definition Trilogy on Blu-ray disc.

The BDP-S300 will be available mid September and the BDP-S500 from the end of October.