Pros: Excellent image quality
Cons: Slow, slow, slow clunky operation. Not ready for market by a mile!
My reference system(S) for this test:
Mitsubishi HC1500 home theater projector
120 inch Elite Cinegrey Screen
Denon/SVS/Nad/Magnepan sound systems
Sony and Blu-Ray claim that they were forced to market too quickly by Toshiba and HD-DVD. What a joke. Did HD-DVD have a gun to their head? Perhaps it was a marketing gun.
Make no mistake about it. Whether you have a PS3 or this very funny and slow player, Blu-Ray is not quite ready for prime time.
The S300 works like any DVD player. Except that when you turn it on it requires some time to boot up. After that CD's and standard DVDs work pretty much as always. The S300 will upconvert standard DVD's to a higher resolution, but keep in mind that this process is not true hi-def. Standard DVD's do look good though. You'll need to use HDMI for it as the signal won't be converted via component cables.
Now...on to Blu-ray. Load a Blu-Ray disc and WAIT....and wait...and wait...and WAIT some more. The screen may even stay blank for 2-3 minutes! Wait for it...Ahhhh, finally a title screen! But, now wait again as the movie loads! Are they kidding with this? Not all movies do it. Some load right away and some (happily) start the movie right away. But overall this player is hilariously slow. Sony should be ashamed and even the higher end Blu-ray players do this. I've had good success playing all types of discs after updating the firmware. Only one disc wouldn't play because Netflix sent me a wrong region disc. I also got a bad copy of Sunshine, but the replacement copy played perfectly. About half of the discs loaded slooowwly! The Sony Playstation 3 is faster, but read on.
Well, here I must give credit. Projected on my giant home theater system with 120" screen, the presentation from the Sony-Blu-Ray is great. Color, sharpness and edge detail is excellent. The S300 allows some very gross and minimal tweaking via the player, but they work well enough. Once the movie begins WOW is what you get if you've got a higher end theater set up. It's 100% movie-like even with a 720P projector.
While missing some of the latest decoding formats, I doubt most people will have an issue with the sound of the S300. It's quite good, even for 2 channel music playback.
What about the Playstation 3?
For the same price, I think a lot of people get more value out of the PS3. But I did compare playback of the PS3 and S300 using Resident Evil (Blu-Ray) on a good Sony XBR set and there WAS a difference in IQ. The S300 had a slightly snappier picture and colors appeared more natural. There was also better detail in shadows. The differences were SMALL and the PS3 is a very good player. The S300 is better, but you'll wait a LOT longer for discs to load. The PS3 is far easier to update firmware with. The S300 requires disc downloads or even updates mailed by Sony!
I have a Toshiba HD-DVD and Sony S300 Blu-Ray. There's no doubt at all that the HD-DVD format is far more "ready for prime time." The Blu-Ray format may win the war, but there is no reference quality blu-ray player available that really works well. The PS3 gives up some image quality, but works a bit smoother and it plays games. If you're putting together a home theater in any kind of serious manner, no current offering is going to last you very long. Getting the S300 for 299.00 during Xmas sales made it a better pick over the PS3. I don't want a game console in my theater! Call me a snob! So in the end, all of the choices are transient at best. The next generation will be better, but I'll probably wait for the 4th gen before mothballing the S300 completely.
Hope this helped!