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Examples of the Sharp's excellent detail handling is everywhere. The stubble and creases on Harrison Ford's craggy face, the tiny writing scrawled on Oxley's notes, the texture of clothing, the dust and leaves on the floor of the tomb - it's all conveyed with a pin-sharp crispness that almost makes it worth the price tag alone.
But there's so much more to admire about its hi-def pictures, particularly the image clarity during dark scenes. It helps when you're using a plasma screen as proficient with blacks and shadow detail as the 600A, but the Sharp gives it some strong source material to play with. The scene in which Jones and Mutt explore Orellana's tomb is an absolute master class - the shadows look truly deep and solid but the spider webs, skeletons and fine detail on the walls remain clearly defined at all times. It lends the image a depth and three-dimensionality that really suck you into the scene.
Colours look vibrant too, best demonstrated during bright outdoor bits like the (frankly ridiculous) jungle and waterfall scenes. It's topped off by fluid 24Hz motion, razor sharp edges and a lack of noise. We also tried some of the test patterns on the HQV Benchmark Blu-ray disc and the Sharp handles the Film Resolution Loss test (a panning shot of an empty stadium) with pleasing stability, and keeps jaggies to a minimum on the rotating bars pattern, but neither is reproduced with the same level of assurance as the Pioneer BDP-LX71.
Upscaled DVD playback isn't much better this time round, with Gladiator looking as scruffy and soft as it did on its predecessor. Some over sharpening is evident on edges, noise fills the skies over the battlefield and it struggles to suppress jaggies on diagonal lines. It also struggles with fine detail on test patterns.
In the audio department, the Sharp is at its best playing back Indiana Jones' Dolby True HD bitstream through a suitably equipped receiver, in this case the Onkyo TX-NR906. The high-resolution sound is clean, expansive and detailed, adding a great deal of drive and vitality to the films's big action scenes. Stereo CD playback through the analogue outs lacks sophistication but it's adequate for undemanding tastes.
Reviewing the BD-HP21H leaves us with a strong sense of déjà vu, as it shares all the same strengths and flaws of its predecessor except with BonusView support thrown into the mix. There are plenty of plus points, such as the excellent Blu-ray picture quality, the frustration-free operating system and the handy Quick Start mode, but the lack of BD Live, MP3/WMA/DivX support, DTS HD Master Audio decoding and poor DVD upscaling are its undoing once again. That said, at £150 online you might be willing to make a few sacrifices…
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