Let’s cut to the chase: Sharp isn’t the first name you think of when someone talks about disc players. It might have a fine reputation for flatscreen TVs, but the Japanese giant has always struggled to compete with the likes of Denon, Pioneer and Sony with DVD. Can it do any better with Blu-ray?
The answer, surprisingly, is yes. While the BD-HP20 doesn’t necessarily pull up any trees, it’s a perfectly serviceable piece of kit, elegant enough to look at and screwed together with reasonable zeal, and it delivers performance that’s a broad match for anything Sony, in particular, can serve up in this price class.
Arcane menus, slow performance
If ever there was a triumph of form over function, it’s the Sharp’s slim, glossy fascia. It might look the business, but it houses a display so pointlessly small it’s almost impossible to see, never mind understand, from any respectable viewing distance.
And while we’re carping: the remote control is mundane, the on-screen graphics look old and some of the language used in both the manual and said graphics is plain confusing.
It also takes an age to fire up and load discs, although that’s true of almost every high-def disc player we’ve tested. In other words, we’ve encountered more user-friendly kit.
But all is forgiven once the lights dim and the movie starts. Thanks to 24fps support for 1080p hi-def, the little Sharp delivers smooth, stable motion-panning, and is free of the judder that so plagues Panasonic’s pricier DMP-BD10A (£700).
It’s got plenty of punch to its pictures, too, highlighting the crisp, white backgrounds to Ice Age 2 as ably as it defines the animated action in the foreground. Perhaps, being picky, it could deliver more insight into the very darkest night-time action but overall, at the price, there’s not much to find fault with here.
Mixed audio bag
Audio performance is more of a mixed bag. The Sharp’s onboard decoding is adequate, so it captures the fearsome dynamics of Spiderman 3 well.
However, the BD-HP20 can’t decode DTS-HD audio onboard (the best it can manage is regular old DTS) so you’ll have to forgo the best available sound option found on many action Blu-ray movies (particularly Fox titles, oddly).
And as for high-definition audio via HDMI? Forget it: PCM is your lot, and while that’s definitely great to listen to, it’s still ultimately not that satisfying being denied access to three new sound formats solely because a socket won’t do what it really ought to.