We can understand people resisting Blu-ray during its early days when prices were high, technology was evolving and the format war was still raging. But nowadays there's no excuse for sitting on the sidelines, as there are loads of budget players on the market offering all the key features at affordable prices.
One such player is the Sharp BD-HP22H, which sees the company step back into the Blu-ray arena for the first time since last year's BD-HP21H, a player that delivered a decent performance but fell down on features and user-friendliness. For this updated version, Sharp has naturally upgraded the spec to Profile 2.0, providing access to BD Live downloads.
Sharp has also tweaked the design of the old BD-HP21H to create a slightly more fashionable unit, with slimmer bodywork and an eye-catching ring of light in the centre of the fascia. The discreetly placed playback buttons on the left keeps the whole thing looking nice and minimal, although the tiny display panel makes the elapsed time hard to read. All in all the BD-HP22H is a pleasant looking player but it won't turn heads like some of its rivals.
Being a budget deck, the rear panel is run-of-the-mill. Joining the crucial HDMI v1.3 port are component, composite, optical digital and stereo audio outputs, but no multichannel audio outputs. There's also an Ethernet port for hooking up to the web, which is an inconvenient connection but getting built-in Wi-Fi on a sub-£200 player is as unlikely as a Labour victory at the next General Election.
You'll also find a USB port on the rear, which is provided solely for storing BD Live downloads because the necessary 1GB of memory isn't built in. That means you can't play music, video or photos loaded onto USB sticks, which might not be crucial if you only want to play Blu-ray, but it's nice to have the option - particularly when so many other budget players offer it.
Also hugely disappointing is the deck's limited list of supported media formats. In fact, it's not so much a list as a single word - JPEG. And to make matters worse, you can only play your photos from CD-R or CD-RW and not DVD. So if you want to listen to MP3 or WMA files in the living room, or watch movies encoded in DivX, you should look elsewhere.
Thankfully the BD-HP22H offers most of the other essentials, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio bitstream output and decoding. When decoded, the signals are sent from the HDMI port as multichannel LPCM, and you'll need to select this option to hear secondary BonusView audio tracks. It can output 1080p Blu-ray pictures at 24Hz or 50Hz and upscales DVDs to 1080p, while Aquos Link theoretically makes it easy to control connected Sharp components using a single remote.