I recently purchased this player from sonystyle.com. Sony's web site sometimes gives you a discount when you sign up for their credit card.
Recommend this product?
Home theatre is a hobby for me, so it was easy for me to hook up. But even for the novice, you should only have one cable to hook up to your HDTV: HDMI cable (affordable place to get one is monoprice.com). This one cable carries the video and audio signal to your TV!
As for the picture, current movies look GREAT! There are some movies that can be grainy (e.g., Predator, Robocop). This can be caused by an older film movie. Also, the conversion process (or mastering process) might not have been optimal. Any CG/CGI (Computer Generated) movie looks the best.
To fully enjoy the HD sound (Dobly Digital HD or DTS Master Audio), you'll need an HDMI cable connected to your receiver. You'll need a receiver that was purchased in the 2nd half of 2007 or in 2008. These newer receivers are capable of decoding these HD sound formats. Some older receivers might have an HDMI input, but no decoding for these HD sound formats. In this case, you can have the Sony player decode the HD sound (Dolby Digital HD only), and send the resulting uncompressed PCM signal to your receiver.
If your receiver doesn't have HDMI input, you can also connect the Optical/COAX digital signal (via a corresponding optical/coax cable) to your receiver. This will give you standard Dolby Digital/DTS (like on a regular DVD player). You will not be hearing the HD versions of Dolby Digital or DTS, only the standard version. If your receiver doesn't have this, then you can connect it via a stereo patch (RCA) cable.
Since Bluray was rushed to market, there were different versions of players/firmware that were available, depending on how old your player was. There was Profile:
Version 1.0 (an early [Pre-Release really], first standard that only allowed playback and basic interactivity).
Version 1.1 (the first players that allowed BonusView [Allows you to watch director commentary in a window, while the movie plays]).
Version 2.0 (the current revision, includes the previous version's feaures and allows more interactivity [utilizing Sony's BD-Java OS) and online access for additional movie content and downloading the latest firmware for your player). BTW, you might need to update your player to the latest firmware and connect a 1 GB or larger USB thumb drive, which allows the player to be fully version 2.0 compatible.
As for the upconvert ability for standard DVDs, I think it depends. On older material, it can be somewhat grainy. On newer movies, it upconverts better. But I think the upconvert could be a little better. I say this because I previously used a Denon upconverting DVD player (1930ci). I think it did a little better job in upconverting standard DVDs (your milage may vary).
One small thing that I didn't like was the fast forward/rewind. It works, but its not smooth like my previous player (choppy)
I use a univeral remote (Harmony One). This seems to control all my components (Samsung 61" DLP TV, Onkyo receiver, Cable box [FIOS], Sony tapedeck, JVC VCR) quite well (consider a logitech remote!).
Since Bluray has significantly more information, it does take a little longer for Bluray discs to load. Again, it depends on the features the disc utilizes. Older discs might load faster because they don't have the interactivity or online access of newer discs (6-20 secs).
There is a Quickstart feature, but that's for the Sony player to turn ON faster, not load Bluray discs faster. Still, this is a newer player, which is faster than previous generations of Bluray players. Player power ON for Quickstart was around 5 secs. Without Qucikstart, its around 15 secs.
The fastest Bluray player is still the PS3. Since it's such a powerful gaming system, it easily handles playing Bluray discs (and standard DVDs). So its still the standard of reference for all Bluray players.
To take full advantage of the high resolution video of Bluray (1080P), you'll need a 1080P HD set. But, if you have a 1080i (actually a 720P) HDTV, the Sony player will downconvert to 720P. BTW, you can also connect via Component video or S-Video (if you don't have HDMI).
Hope this helps you to decide!