Sharp's first Blu-ray Disc player, the BD-HP20U (US$550 as of 4/24/08), is a winner on all counts.
Turn on the BD-HP20U and the unit is powered up and ready to receive a disc in under 6 seconds. That's less than a third of the time that any other player I tested took for that chore.
True, once on, it's slower than many others at starting to play, but the combined startup time of 41 seconds was still faster than any other player, and almost twice as fast as the Pioneer Elite BDP-95FD.
But it's what you see (and hear) when you have it going that counts. The Sharp simply surpassed every other player on almost all criteria. Our jury rated it number one in our tests of detail, color quality, brightness and contrast, and audio.
Aside from a great picture, great sound, and a fast response time, the BD-HP20U doesn't offer much. It lacks an ethernet port, Divx support (common on competing Blu-ray Disc players), and picture-in-picture BonusView support. Even the included USB port is limited--it can be used only for firmware updates, not for running images or media files.
This model does have an on-board capability to decode Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus audio--a boon for titles that come with those sound-track formats.
One downside to the player's design: If you lose the remote, you're in trouble. The sole buttons on the front panel are Power and Open/Close.
The unit's chassis design isn't the only flaw in the BD-HP20U. The on-screen menus lack consistency: At times they're easy to read, with large type and icons, and at other times they're text-heavy with a font that looks like a typewriter with worn-out ribbon. On the positive side, they explain the options.
But that's complaining about small stuff. Where it really counts, this is one great Blu-ray Disc player.