The Good The Sharp BD-HP20U's Quick Start feature loads certain discs superfast; excellent video quality using 1080p/24 output.
The Bad The Sharp BD-HP20U only supports Blu-ray profile 1.0; no onboard decoding for high-resolution DTS soundtracks or bit-stream output; poor 1080i deinterlacing on Blu-ray movies; no Ethernet port for firmware updates; poor performance with video-based DVDs; Quick Start feature guzzles power even when the player is off.
The Bottom Line The Sharp BD-HP20U is a decent Blu-ray player that can load some discs superfast, but there are better options out there.
Editors' note June 9, 2008: The rating of this player has been changed since its initial publication to reflect changes in the marketplace.
Blu-ray may have a sizable lead against HD DVD in the format war, but it still has a long way to go in persuading current DVD viewers to go high-definition. It's not going to be easy. As we've mentioned elsewhere, despite excellent audio and video quality, there are still plenty of reasons to stay out of the Blu-ray game for a while longer. Those reasons include: the confusing Blu-ray Profiles, inconsistent high-resolution soundtrack support, small movie selection, and the fact that prices are going to continue to fall.
Unfortunately, the Sharp BD-HP20U ($400 list) is part of this confused state of Blu-ray. It only supports Blu-ray Profile 1.0, which means it can't display picture-in-picture commentary tracks available on some new discs. Its high-resolution audio support is subpar, offering no ability to listen to the high-resolution DTS soundtracks, which are available on many Blu-ray movies. The standout feature of the BD-HP20U is its Quick Start functionality, but it works by essentially leaving the player "on" all the time and doesn't shorten load times with all discs. Don't get us wrong, the Sharp BD-HP20U does a solid job of simply playing back movies, and the image quality in 1080p/24 mode is excellent if your HDTV supports it. But for the same amount of money, most buyers would be much better served by purchasing a Sony PlayStation 3 or waiting a few months for newer players that support Profile 1.1, and all of the new high resolution soundtrack formats.
Sharp to release Blu-ray recorders with storage
Sharp is about to unleash some of the world's first Blu-ray recorders for HD television with four new models slated for release in Japan from next month.