iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






SONY BDZ-S77 Recorder Review

Most news sites have recently posted that SONY Japan Corp is going to start sales of first household blu-ray DVD recorder, 23 GB, in Japan on April 10, 2003. The manufacturer-recommended price runs into US $3800. 

Let's make it out what entailed such a significant event and who might need this gadget if recorders working with conventional rewritable DVDs are priced about $600. 

The limitation of the DVD format is getting more discernible as the DVD industry develops. Potential capabilities of large TV sets, plasma panels and projectors remain unused because of frame size limitations of the DVD-Video format. In its turn, frame size of a DVD disc is limited by a bitrate and capacity of a DVD-Video disc (~4.7 GB). Although the MPEG2 compression format used allow for better results, the specs of PAL and NTSC standards (developed over 50 years ago) make the developers think of various runabout ways. 

DVD players are often equipped with a powerful DSP for video data processing to achieve better image quality of DVD-Video media. Here are some of the today's ways to retrieve as higher quality as possible from a DVD image: deinterlacing (forced image conversion into progressive scanning), digital filtering (artifacts calculation and filtering on intermediate frames for image stabilization), image interpolation for more lines with noise reduction and precision enhancing, color dymanic range compresson and color correction for adjusting to a certain video device (CRT TV set, LCD TV set, projection set, projector, plasma panel). 

SONY BDZ-S77 DVD recorder based on blu-ray media is probably positioned for the Japanese and US consumer markets with their digital satellite broadcasting bringing high-definition TV to a growing number of houses. 

SONY BDZ-S77 has a built-in digital BS (broadcasting satellite) tuner for digital satellite television. In addition to 2 hours of high-quality video you can record MPEG-2 AAC 5.1 sound from digital satellite boadcasting. One-layer one-side optical blu-ray disc can contain 23 GB. 

In contrast to the conventional DVD-Video media (red laser), the new-generation discs work with a blue laser with the wavelength of 405 nm. It corresponds to blue color on the color spectrum. The maximum capacity of a one-side one-layer blu-ray disc makes 27 GB against 4.7 GB of DVD-ROM. The lens aperture is 0.85. The bitrate including service data is 36 Mbit/s. The disc diameter remains equal to CD and DVD, i.e. 120 mm. The disc is 1.2 mm thick with the protective layer being 0.1 mm. Recording method is phase transition. Groove technology is used to form tracks. Video format: MPEG2. Audio format: DolbyDigital AC3, MPEG2 Audio etc. 

High capacity, read speed and processing provided by the standard make possible to lift the data rate up to 36 Mbit/s even on a one-layer one-side disc at 1x read speed! A typical bitrate for DVD-Video for video image makes 3-4 and 8-9 Mbit/s (one and two layers, respectively). In case of satellite television signal recording in HDTV standard it's possible to store approximately 2 hours of high-quality video (1024i). At lower bitrates and without multichannel sound one disc can house 6 or 12 hours in SR and LR modes (their quality correspond to two-layer and one-layer DVD-Video).

Recording mode Recording time Bitrate
BS multiple view
2 hours 24 mbps
480p 4 hours 12 mbps
480i 4,4 hours 11 mbps
HR (high picture quality mode) 3 hours 16 mbps
SR (standard mode) 6 hours 8 mbps
LR (long time mode) 12 hours 4 mbps

The drive can record only blu-ray media, but it supports reading of blue-ray, DVD-Video, DVD-RW, DVD-R, CD, CD-R and CD-RW discs. 

High image quality can be obtained with Frame & Block Noise Excellent Reduction technology. It analyses image and dynamically adjusts to it. So, if image is good enough, the system has little work to do.

The DMAIPC technology (Dual Motion Adaptive Interlaced Picture Convertor) integrated into this recorder automatically detects interlacing both in recording and from the analog BS input and, if necessary, enables conversion into progressive scanning.

The recorder's front panel smoothely goes down revealing the tray and controls. 

Take a look at the back panel and connectors: 

Finally, here is the specifications summary table.

Model name SONY BDZ-S77 
Disc types for reading Blu-ray discs, DVD-Video, DVD-R, DVD-RW (video mode /VR mode)
Recording types Video: MPEG-2; Sound: Dolby Digital and MPEG-2 AAC 
Color system NTSC and BS digital systems
Received TV channels VHF: 1 - 12 channels
UHF: 13 - 62 channels
BS digital television ? BS radio
CATV: C13 - C38ch
Antenna-in/out VHF/UHF 75 Ohm antenna connector, BS-IF 75 Ohm antenna connector
Digital connectors
DV connector 4 pin S100 1 system
I-Link connector 4 pin S200 (Blu-ray Disc exclusive use) 2 system 
Video and audio inputs
S-Video 2
Composite 2
Sound stereo-in
Component 1 (D4/D3/D1)
S-Video 2
Composite 2
Optical digital  1
Coaxial digital  1
Analog (L/R)  3 (L/R)
Telephone line jack 2400bps modem
AC power supply 100V 50/60 Hz
Power consumption 65 W, 9 W standby
Dimensions 430x135x398 mm
Weight ~ 14 kg

It's too early to bring in a final verdict. The blu-ray recording has just started its way on the market. The manufacturers are now creaming off the sales through enthusiasts. Then they will throw out several mid-level poducts and in half a year or so the companies will roll out mainstream solutions (priced at about $500). That will be the right time to judge the technology and compare it with competiting solutions.

Hope the competitor won't hang around for a long time and soon launch similar models on this advnaced and promising blu-ray technology. The competition will draw the drive makers into the fight leading a consumer to the victory. 

In our turn, we will keep informing you, our dear readers, about all major events in DVD industry. Stay with us and keep your eye on the announcements!

Maxim Liadov (maxim@ixbt.com)

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