The brand Soniq tends to bring one word to mind; cheap. Fortunately, the word cheap isn't partnered with the word nasty as over the years we've seen electronic prices come down thanks to the creation of a lot of new brands.
Today we're looking at the QPB302B from Soniq which is a Blu-ray player that comes with a very attractive $99 price tag. At that price tag it's not much of a surprise that once we open the box we're only greeted with the player itself, remote, composite cables and some paperwork.
Looking at the player; considering the price tag, it looks quite nice. While a little plain, it's nice that Soniq haven't plastered it with tacky labels and stickers all over the front which is something we quite often see from cheaper players.
The front has only a few buttons. The bottom left is a standby one, moving across we've got the tray, eject, skip back, skip forward and play/pause. We've also got a USB port on the front which we'll talk about soon and next to that we've got the screen which shows basic information like the timer.
Around the back we've got a power cable that's embedded into the player and our connectivity. While HDMI, coaxial, component and composite might seem a little light, it's ultimately all most people will need. We've also got a network port in the event you want to take advantage of BD Live support.
Feature wise the QPB302B is packing standard features like Blu-ray, DVD (Up scaled), MP3, WMA, CD Playback, BD Live, Dolby Digital, Digital Plus and TrueHD which are all present.
What is also included that we wouldn't expect on such a cheap player is Dolby and DTS HD Master Audio, DivX support and DivX Plus HD which are H.264 and MKV packaged files.
With the player on a whole looking fairly good for the price tag, it was time to fire up the device and see how it ran. With everything plugged in and the player connected via HDMI, it was time to pick up the remote and see what we could do. First we've got to cover the remote and to be honest, at this price point the remote isn't going to be anything fancy. From first glance that holds truth.
Picking the remote up, though, the quality is there and the response time when ejecting the tray and navigating Blu-rays was very good; something that's quite problematic with cheaper devices. Not here, though, the QPB302B while looking a little cheap does perform very well.
Having a look around the setup menu of the QPB302B, it's easy to use and gives us all the options you would expect from a Blu-ray player like Output resolution, Audio type you want to use, screen size, 24Hz on / off and more. You probably won't find yourself here very much once you've setup the device, but at least it's fast and easy to use.
In went a Blu-ray disc and we were greeted with a quick "BUDA Checking" screen. BUDA refers to Blu-ray live. After a few seconds our disc loaded up and we started to see a picture quickly. Once we got past the copyright talk and into the menu, navigation was fast. Starting the movie and skipping through chapters was also on the snappy side; not the fastest, but very reasonable.
GO TO TOP OF THE NEXT COLUMN ^
Throwing in a DVD and the upscaling quality is average. It'll look better than a normal DVD player that lacks upscaling, but not as good as a DVD or Blu-ray player that carries a great one.
Checking out .MKV and .AVI support, I plugged my Kingston USB drive into the front. While .AVI support works fine on a lot of devices, ones that do support .MKV can be troublesome. The good news is that we didn't run into any problems playing either format off our USB drive. All we did was plug the USB drive into the front, hit MC, which stands for Media Centre, and from there we navigate our USB drive.
There are some flaws in the QPB302B when we compare it to other units; no HDMI cable in the box, connectivity on the back is a little lacking, there's no WiFi, the remote looks a little cheap and DVD upscaling is only average. But the player is under $100.
What it does do great is offer quick load times,.AVI and .MKV support and offer the highest audio standard, albeit only in 2 channel form. The QPB302B is a great player for people who want support for those standard computer formats and want to get in to Blu-ray on the cheap. It would go great in a bedroom or a lounge room with it probably only being passed over in a more serious home theatre environment.
The $99 price tag makes it an awesome gift for your parents. Throw in Gone with the Wind on Blu-ray for Mum and Top Gear for Dad and you've got a ripper Christmas present, or buy it yourself and get hooked on the drug that is High Definition. Plus there's nothing saying you can't twist your local JB Hi-Fi sales reps arm a little to save a further few dollars.