Sony HTP-BD3IS £678.99

12th Jun 2009 | 11:00

Sony HTP-BD3IS

Recession causing you to rethink your cinema outlay, or just want a small-room system?

TechRadar rating:

3 stars

A small and interestingly styled home cinema system that struggles when things get a little full on but still offers good Blu-ray performance

Like:

Blu-ray performance and sub-sat integration

Dislike:

Struggles when the action gets full-on and complicated; The subwoofer looks like a dog; BD slow

Things are looking up for the all-in-one market, with Blu-ray providing an injection of desirability (and price). There's a fair number to choose from, including Sony's HTP-BD3IS tested here; and I suspect the market will grow as the economic pinch means people eschew the pricier separates option.

Saying that, the BD3IS is actually a bundle of two existing Sony products. The BDP-S350 can now be snaffled for as little as £150, while the HT-IS100 sub/sat system sells for around £400 on its own. It may be a case, then, that you could build your own version of this system for less than it costs as an all-in-one!

The speaker package features satellites about the size of a golf ball. To compensate, the woofer has to have punch. But my God, did 200W necessitate it weighing a backbreaking 14.5kg? It's pretty horrible, too, being covered in black vinyl.

Underneath, the solid inputs/outputs are at odds with the cheap design values elsewhere. They're up there with the better soundbars, and include three HDMI inputs.

The satellites, unlike the sub, are seriously cute. Reassuringly heavy (75g) and pre-wired with generous lengths of cable, they will go unnoticed until powered up – which I guess is the point. And, once everything is hooked up, the Quick start mode gets you going in under six seconds, with help from Sony's DCAC auto-calibration system.

Despite being 2008 vintage, the BD player is reasonably specified, with upscaling, MPEG block noise and mosquito NR – as well as a useful audio delay circuit. It produces a crisp, textured image, with realistic and well-saturated colours.

Hellboy 2 (no slouch in the colour stakes) looks fabulous, and the deck had no problems with the high-detail, high-action sequences. The upscaler is also decent at breathing new life into SD discs; even my dodgy Chinese Frasier box-set has the impression of being near-HD, rather than the sub-DVD, VHS-impersonator it was previously.

Audio is a real surprise. I had expected the tiny satellites to struggle to dovetail with the huge sub, but Sony seems to have got the crossover about right. The woofer gives a good account for itself, and I wasn't disappointed during Hellboy 2's noisier moments – although it can lose its way a little when the lower frequencies get more complicated, and be a tad obtrusive at times.

The satellites are very controlled, and steer the sound in a way that belies their size. They lack the depth of those on some rival one-box systems, but their integration with the sub is such that they do a much better job than you'd expect.

Value offering

The BD3IS isn't premium home cinema, but it's good value, and gives soundbar systems and rival one-boxers a run for their money. And, if you see it bundled free with a new Sony LCD as I have, I'd suggest you take a serious look at the deal...

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