Over the past four years, Sony’s budget Blu-ray players have won their category at the What Hi-Fi? Awards three times, which is an astounding achievement. As such, any new player that comes into our testing room has a lot to live up to.
Step forward the BDP-S3700, the company’s latest low-cost Blu-ray player. We’re hoping this one hits the high standards we’ve come to expect from Sony.
Starting at the extremes, the Sony handles a film’s blacks and whites well. During the climax of Monsters University, where Mike and Sulley have to escape the human world by scaring a group of adult camp rangers, the BDP-S3700 reveals the notches and scratches in the wood even in the dark corners of the log cabin.
When the monsters do break back into their world, this player shows how the bright explosion that follows has tints of yellow and red in the white blast, providing a sophisticated and satisfying image.
There’s an enjoyable crispness to the marks left in the walls by Sulley’s claws, and his fur is textured and layered; this player is refined enough to handle the distinction between foreground and background too.
And as Mike quickly moves around the cabin, running from the left to the right of the screen before being lifted back into the rafters, this player handles the motion smoothly and without complaint.
The BDP-S3700 also has a good handle on upscaling video so you can feel safe in the knowledge that your DVD collection will still be watchable. Revisiting The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and the scene where the Uruk-hai army arrives at Helm’s Deep near the end of the film, this Blu-ray player retains the detail in Théoden and Aragorn’s impressive costumes and facial hair.
Sony’s players have always erred on sharpness over colour, but the difference between this and the Panasonic DMP-BDT180EB is more a matter of taste rather than absolute quality.
If you’re looking for clarity, the BDP-S3700 won’t let you down. We slide in a CD of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, and the midrange vocals are conveyed cleanly and with a solid amount of detail.
On Get Lucky, the BDP-S3700 even hints at the proximity between singer and microphone, offering a surprisingly nice sound.
Testing the player’s chops when it comes to bass beats, we switch to The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army. In the hands of the BDP-S3700, there’s a distinctly earthy texture to the low guitar.
It’s a spacious sound, and one that’s kept well organised. As instruments move from around the sound field, played through our reference 5.1 channel setup, they’re easy to pick out and the sense of direction is clear.
But it’s not quite as authoritative a performance as we’d like; this Blu-ray player just shies away from a really dynamic sound, unable to quite convey the force and energy in the tracks.
Putting it next to the Panasonic DMP-BDT180EB, the Panasonic has a more energetic sonic character and just pips the Sony on timing by its more solid and consistent delivery.
The BDP-S3700 puts up a tough fight when it comes to features. On its back is a HDMI output, an ethernet port, and a coaxial output to connect a sound system. There’s a USB port on the front, too, for memory sticks and similar devices.
Like most players, it comes with built-in streaming apps, so you can watch Netflix, Amazon Video, BBC iPlayer, YouTube and Demand 5. For dedicated PlayStation Video users, the app is automatically installed on the box too.
Unique to Sony’s players is PlayStation Now, which lets subscribers stream PlayStation 3 and older games to your television. While it’s never going to be as good as your dedicated console, and you’re likely to experience some lag, the option is there.
You can also mirror your smartphone screen to your TV via the player’s Miracast function, so you can play music and video from an Android device directly to the BDP-S3700.
Since this function is absent on competing devices from Panasonic and LG, it gives the Sony an edge if you watch a lot of content from your phone. For fine-tuning your image, there are settings to reduce video noise, for ‘mosquito noise’ around the edges, and broadband noise reduction to remove ‘mosaic-like block noise’.
Although we never feel the need to use them with our DVDs, it’s nice to have the choice in case you’re watching lower-quality home videos shot on a smartphone.
There are very few things to fault about this Blu-ray player. The combination of an impressive picture, smart functions, and pretty decent sound makes the BDP-S3700 a good spend of anyone’s money.