Sharp’s HP20H is attractively designed, and is one of the more affordable Blu-ray players in this group. However, it’s a year old now and already starting to show its age.
The player is well designed and constructed – much slimmer than rivals such as the bulky Pioneer player – and the smoothness with which the disc tray slides in and out attests to some high quality engineering. Image quality when playing Blu-ray Discs is also very impressive, although there’s a slight loss of definition on really fast-moving scenes. We also felt that the player was a little slow when skipping forwards and backwards between chapters.
And, as we mentioned, the HP20H is a year old, and while it has an HDMI 1.3 interface it only supports Blu-ray Profile 1.0. We’re not too bothered about losing the interactive features of Profile 2.0, but it’d be nice to have the picture-in-picture option of Profile 1.1. Fortunately, Sharp has announced a new Profile 1.1 model called the HP21H, so we'd only go for the HP20H if you can pick it up as a cheap entry-level player when the inevitable discounting kicks in.
Pioneer’s BDP-LX71 isn’t cheap, and it’s not exactly the most elegant Blu-ray player we’ve ever seen, either. It measures 12.4cm high, 42cm wide and 36cm deep, which makes it one of the bulkier BD players in this group - it’s about twice the size of our Sky+ box. However, we can’t complain about the playback quality, which is as crisp and clear as we could ask for on both audio and video. It does a good job of upscaling ordinary DVDs too, and there’s a handy button on the remote control that allows you to quickly adjust the video resolution so you can easily experiment with the settings in order to get everything just right.
There’s a full complement of audio and video connectors tucked away at the back of the unit, including HDMI 1.3a and 7.1 analogue audio, and it also has a built-in decoder for Dolby TrueHD audio - but not for DTS HD Master Audio. The only minor disappointment is that it supports the picture-in-picture option of Blu-ray Profile 1.1, but not the online interactive features of Profile 2.0. And with no Ethernet interface for a network connection you don’t have the option to upgrade to 2.0 either.
Next page: Samsung BD-P1500
I assume you havn't checked out the latest 80GB PS3. 90w power consumption (nominal), 110W (under load). That's pretty darn low. The latest units are what I would call silent (from normal viewing distances).
Consider the 360 draws twice that...
It's also worth pointing out that CNN gave the PS3 a A Rating for it's Blu-ray abilities, beating every standalone on test. (not like the audiophile snob test that they did here).
PS3 not getting highest marks
There is one flaw with the PS3 playing films.
Because of the sheer power, size and activity of the machine it generates quite a few watts on heat, all of which need to be removed. Now, when I was working at EA the PS3s were all actually rather loud, now while this doesn't really affect gaming, I can imagine hearing that whine of the fan while watching, for instance a quiet crime thriller, maybe off putting. However, the development PS3 kits we had would also "spin down" when they weren't actually being used much, which I hope is a feature of the retail boxes (as I'll be ordering one very soon).
With standalone BD-players I see the need for a wifi connection as more important than with the PS3... afterall the people who are happy to have cables running the building (or already have cables running the building) are more likely to want a games console.
With myself retiring from high-end PC gaming (what with the rebranding of games as HD, as if my 1600x1200 PC wasn't high enough definition) and the (what I think) disaster of Vista, the PS3 is one hell of a bargain.
@Tezfair and a few other luddites
"I read that in the US all this DVD technology is being ditched in favour of Broadband HD content. Seems that HD style DVDs will end up the same way as the minidisc. Glad I didn't rush out to get one!"
Dewd....get real, we're gonna be waiting a very very long time before the UK's broadband infrastructure can cope with HD downloads that the whole country can realistically use. It's pie in the sky that one. I agree with AC, these so-called HD downloads aren't much better than DVD quality, if at all.
To the rest of you luddites moaning about DRM and this and that (and you haven't even got any HD kit evidently!), sorry guys you have no clue. I got my PS3 hooked up to my Onkyo TX605, a 40" Samsung 1080p with 5.1 sounds delivered by my B&W 620 series, a matching HTM-62 centre unit and a Rel Quake. It's utterly awesome. Hell I don't even go to the cinema any more because this is way better, I can sit in the comfort of my own house with some mates get pished and enjoy some hi-def action all for the cost of a £3.75 rental HD-BR.
Paris....because she probably enjoys some 5.1 action as well.
Hmm, many misconceptions...
Firstly there are some great features not mentioned in the article.
The Samsung BD-P1500 has a fantastic (and unique to the P1500 and P2500) that if you connect the device via optical to a legacy amp that doesn't have HDMI it will re-encode ALL of the higher end HD Audio into maximum bitrate DTS audio (1.5MBps) this is a massive upgrade over standard DD or DTS and great if you want a "cheaper" system but still excellent sound.
Similarly the Panasonic BD35 and BD55 will re-encode all HD Audio to LPCM and bounce that over to the amp - handy if your amp can't decode DTS HD MA etc...
The Sony and Panasonic models can be converted to multi region for SD DVD using a "One For All" remote... and with a hardware mod can do multi region for Blu Ray too.
As for many people querying the quality of the internal decoders, using Profile 1.1/2.0 and the PiP functionality you actually need the player to do the decoding otherwise you'll only get a single channel of audio - namely the film. This isn't an issue for me at all, but may be for many people.
Buying a computer device is great if you want that as part of your home cinema system, but there are only a couple of sound cards that have HDMI audio on them and actually work properly... not ideal if you really appreciate the high end stuff.
For those querying an amp, a cheaper player (such as the excellent Sony S350 - very cheap at Amazon at £163 http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B001DN1SP4/202-3314281-8268652?ie=UTF8&tag=spoavetstu-21&linkCode=xm2&camp=1634&creativeASIN=B001DN1SP4 and worth noting that the Blockbuster deal doesn't start until December 1) the Sony DG-R820 is £261 delivered and whoops the Onkyo - http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B001EWE98C?ie=UTF8&tag=spoavetstu-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B001EWE98C
Cracking system there for very little outlay (relatively speaking!)
@Mad Hacker @Tezfair
You don't need to spend mega-bucks on a HDMI amp. There is a decent range of Sony HDMI amps, as well as Onkyo for less than £300. Both very good buys.
@Tezfair, clearly you havn't seen how bad "HD" downloads are. Compared to DVD they look a little better, but take ages to download. Compared to proper HD, Blu-ray, they look shit. Still consumers like crap products, i mean iPods sell...