Colour reproduction is out of this world, too, with the BD-HP20H proving itself to be equally at home with radiant primary colours like Spider-Man’s red suit and subtle, delicate hues like Kirsten Dunst’s skin – the latter being perfectly judged and utterly convincing.
Another string to the Sharp’s bow is its top-notch contrast level, which really helps convey detail in dark scenes. During the battle between bad Spidey and Sandman in the subway, it’s possible to make out shadows and fine detail on backgrounds. On the downside, the excellent picture quality draws attention to some of the movie’s dodgier effects like the unconvincing CG Spider-Man and shots of Sandman dissolving in water.
You can really feel the benefit of the 24fps output, with smooth-moving objects and judder-free camera pans – but remember that you’ll need a 24fps capable display to take advantage of this, and the deck must be set to ‘Auto’ in the HDMI video output menu.
Now for the bad news – DVD playback is decidedly disappointing when upscaled to 1080p. Images seem softer and noisier than we’re used to from a hi-def player, with an oddly over-cooked colour balance and some motion judder.
Onto audio, and Dolby True HD movie soundtracks sound gutsy and dynamic when you channel the signal through the 5.1-channel analogue outputs. For those with AV receivers equipped with HDMI 1.3 input and 7.1-channel audio support, you can let your amp do the decoding donkey work. Standard Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks carried digitally also sound superb, provided your system is up to scratch, and CD playback is enjoyable.
While Sharp’s first Blu-ray effort is far from perfect, the pros certainly outweigh the cons. On the positive side, Blu-ray picture quality is phenomenal, delivering the sort of razor-sharp images that hi-def home cinephiles crave. It’s also equipped with a decent array of features, such as HDMI 1.3 with 1080/24p and 7.1 bitstream support, while Quick Start and a well-designed operating system make it easy to use.
But on the downside, the lack of support for digital media files, DTS HD soundtracks and Profile 1.1 features is a real shame – though we guess at this sort of price sacrifices were inevitable. Less forgivable is the lacklustre DVD upscaling, which prevents this deck achieving that ‘must-buy’ status.
Score in detail