With most standalone Blu-ray players still costing an arm and a leg, it's a very pleasant surprise indeed to find Sharp's debut player, the BD-HP20H, selling for just £300. Perhaps rather less surprising, though, is the fact that Sharp appears to have had to cut a corner or two to make such an attractive price possible.
With most Blu-ray players taking an absolute eternity to load their discs, a definite highlight of the BD-HP20H's features list has to be its 'Quick Start' function, which can have a Blu-ray disc loaded from standby in literally just a couple of seconds. Hallelujah.
The deck's connectivity contains a couple of goodies too. The HDMI, for instance, is built to the latest v1.3a specification, meaning it can output Deep Colour (should this picture-boosting format actually ever appear on a disc) and Dolby TrueHD 7.1-channel HD audio. There's also a component video output capable of progressive and upscaled HD video feeds, and a service port for, potentially, upgrading the HP20H's firmware.
If, like the majority of people, your AV audio receiver doesn't have a 1.3 HDMI input, you'll also be pleased to note that 5.1 analogue audio line outs on the HP20H allow you to enjoy Dolby TrueHD audio decoded by the player. Though obviously this route means you can only enjoy Dolby TrueHD in a maximum 5.1 channels rather than 7.1.
Finally on the features front, the HP20H includes 1080p HD upscaling of your old DVDs, plus 1080p/24 output of Blu-rays for the purest signal transfer possible -- provided you've got a TV able to handle the format.
Accessing all the HP20H's features, meanwhile, is made really straightforward by an excellently thought-through remote control and some clear, unfussy onscreen menus.
In terms of performance, using the 1080p/24 output mode yields very impressive results. During a run-through of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, for instance, the amount of fine detail and sharpness on show is little short of stunning.