Sharp BD-HP90S £300
21st Mar 2011 | 10:00
Steve May looks for substance behind the style of Sharp's first 3D spinner
Sharp's first 3D player elicits gasps when you unpack it. The wafer-thin design, with black top-plate and gunmetal trim, is certainly dramatic. You can even choose how you want to use it: flat or vertical (a plastic stand is included).
To flatten it even more, the power supply has been relegated to an external 12V brick. There's no disc loading tray, just a slot mechanism that sucks your platters in. And the HDMI output, optical digital audio out and power lead have been inventively recessed in the base.
The player is one of the first to emerge from the joint venture company created by Sharp and Pioneer. But, while the unit is a cutting-edge piece of manufacturing, it lacks some of the operational niceties we've seen from rivals.
The UI is stuck in the past, with its flat, terse menus, while there's a lack of apps and IPTV access. More significantly, it lacks the ability to stream media across a network. This is a missed opportunity, given that the unit has integrated 802.11n Wi-Fi.
Networking is provided for firmware updates and to support BD-Live. However, there is no local storage onboard; you need to provide your own memory stick.
Of course, having a thumb drive sprouting from the front panel rather spoils the sleek aesthetic. It's a pity there's no second USB port hidden within the connection well.
The player does offer USB media playback, although codec support is a little light. Music only holds truck with MP3 and video plays AVIs (with subtitles) but not MKV. Sharp's TVs tend to offer better compatibility. Music playback is sans album art.
Loading speeds on the HP90 are rather slow, with our Tech Labs commenting that it's one of the slowest decks it's ever come across.
Power up to player menu: 27 seconds
Disc in to main BD menu: 122 seconds
Idle: 8 Watts
Powered: 13 Watts
The deck has some picture issues, too, mainly with DVD playback – it struggled with the standard HQV jaggies tests. Sweeping bars on the test pattern are far from smooth, and the classic fluttering flag reveals staircase deinterlacing problems.
Blu-ray is more forgiving than DVD and video quality here looks fine. It's no better or worse than most of the players in this class. Take care if you visit the video input settings menu, though. Select 1080p or 1080i (which may seem a perfectly reasonable thing to do), and the resulting image will most likely be subject to ruinous judder.
The only HDMI video option you should use is Auto. It would seem that when you select a 1080-line HDMI specific video output, the player is forced into a 1080/50 mode. Given that most Blu-ray software is 1080/60, the result is a horrible mess.
As a 3D disc spinner the HP90 performs well enough, although there are no specific 3D tuning tools available. Overall, Sharp's BD-HP90 is a splendid piece of CE design, albeit one saddled with rather ordinary performance and a high ticket price.
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