Group Test: Blu-ray Disc players
Fuel for your HD TV
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.