Take a trip round the back and you’ll find a comprehensive array of sockets. Audio inputs are generous and include two optical digital ports, a coaxial input and three analogue inputs. They’re joined by optical digital output and a decent selection of video outputs, including HDMI, SCART, component, composite and S-video.
A decent selection indeed, but it’s not all good news – the player’s built-in upscaler only goes up to 1080i, so if you plonk a Full HD set on top and want to feed it 1080p pictures, you’ll have to find space for another DVD player underneath which would completely defeat the object. Also disappointing is that there’s no provision for rear speakers should you want to upgrade to a full 5.1 system.
Elsewhere, the USB port is a nice inclusion, as it enables you to plug in a memory device containing MP3, WMA and JPEG files and play them through the system. It also plays the above formats and DivX (v6 and VOD) from CD-R and CD-RW discs.
The system happily plays back Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks, and to compensate for the lack of rear speakers Sharp has included Dolby Virtual Speaker, which attempts to replicate the effect of a true 5.1 system. There are two DVS settings – Wide and Reference – while Dolby’s Audistry technology adds four more modes: Sound Space, which widens the soundstage, Natural Bass, Intelligent Volume (which limits loud sounds and boosts quiet ones) and Mono to Stereo, which does what it says on the tin.
As if that wasn’t enough, there are five other EQ modes (Cinema, News, Music, Sport and Night), while the Bass and Treble levels can be individually adjusted and there’s a separate volume for the subwoofer from -5 up to +5. We’re also impressed to find a range of picture adjustments in the setup menu, enabling you to alter brightness, contrast, hue and saturation.
The system’s onscreen menu is one of those ugly generic jobs found on countless cheap DVD decks, but it functions adequately and puts all of the options within easy reach. However, the remote is horrible, hindered by worse overcrowding than the Tube at rush hour. Tiny buttons and poor placement compound the problem but the final insult is that you have to hold down the shift key to access some functions. Yuck.