Sony ready to drop Blu-ray entry-level player to $600

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

New York (NY) - There is a good chance that Blu-ray will be shedding its image to be the more expensive option among the two high-definition media formats. According to media reports, Sony will release a new Blu-ray player that will cost only half as much as the current BDP-S1, while offering an improved feature set.

The BDP-S300 will be available this summer for a suggested retail price of $600. The device will be able to play Blu-ray movies with a resolution of up to 1080p (1920x1080 progressive), currently the highest resolution provided by HD discs. In contrast to the $1000 BDP-S1, which went on sale just days before Christmas 2006, the S300 will also be able to play regular CDs.

Sony did not provide images of the device, but, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, the case will be smaller than that of the S1 and more in line with current DVD players. The least expensive option to play Blu-ray movies is currently the 20 GB PS3 game console, which is priced at $500 - but does not include a scaler to upscale the resolution of DVD movies and does not integrate an IR port and therefore does not support a common remote control. Users will have to use the PS3 controller instead - or a special PS3 remote control that is currently offered by Sony as an option.

The least expensive standalone Blu-ray player at this time is Samsung's BD-P1000 which sells for about $800. By the end of the year, analysts expect that Blu-ray players could match the $500 price tag of today's entry-level HD DVD players. There is not much choice when it comes to products that play both HD DVDs and Blu-ray discs. The only player that supports both formats is LG's Super Multi Blue Player - it is about the size of a mid-80s VCR and carries a whopping price tag of $1200.

Sony and Toshiba are still very much engaged in pushing their own formats. But not all hope is lost that there will be more dual-format HD players to choose from in the near future. In the end, even Sony has access to HD DVD technology through its joint venture with NEC and Toshiba would be able to build Blu-ray players through a joint venture with Samsung.