One of the main criticisms levelled at early Blu-ray decks is that they took an age to boot up from standby. Well, Sharp has obviously paid attention and built a special Quick Start mode into the HP20, which slashes the time it takes to start watching a movie. But on the negative side, the unit consumes a lot more power in standby with Quick Start activated, which is bad for your electricity bill and the environment.
Other useful features include Aquos Link, Sharp’s name for HDMI CEC technology, which lets you control this deck and a compatible TV from the same remote.
The limited digital media support is a massive let down. The HP20 won’t play DivX, MP3, WMA or JPEGs from CD or DVD, which means you’ll need to hang on to that cheapie DVD player you probably would have thrown out when you upgraded to Blu-ray. It will, however, play commercial Region 2 DVDs (and upscale them to 1080p) plus home-made DVD-RW/-R, DVD+RW/+R and DVD-R Dual Layer discs.
Also on board is a range of sound adjustments, which allow you to punch in the distance, levels and size of your speakers when using the 5.1-channel outputs or PCM via HDMI.
In general the BD-HP20H is easy to use, thanks to a top-class remote with terrific button arrangement and helpfully large menu display screens. It can be a bit sluggish to respond but not slow enough to raise the blood pressure. Slightly more annoying is the lack of resume playback for Blu-ray discs.
Rigged up to a Toshiba 46XF355D Full HD LCD TV, the BD-HP20H delivers astounding Blu-ray picture quality, best demonstrated by ”Spider-Man 3” – the sort of movie that high-definition was invented for. Right from the opening credits, the deck’s 1080/24p images make an immediate and powerful impact, thanks largely to the vast amount of razor-sharp detail on display. Yes it’s a cliché, but the picture is so clear and crisp that it feels like you’re stood in a New York skyscraper watching Spidey do his thing through a window, and a freshly cleaned one at that. The scene with Spider-Man and Sandman fighting on a moving security van looks particularly stunning.
But it’s not just grandstanding, effects-heavy scenes that benefit from this dense detail – simple shots of everyday things like Peter’s jumper, the Central Park scenery and facial close-ups also look stunningly life-like.