The Sharp BD-HP21U packs lots of metal - literally. It's a large and heavy Blu-ray Disc player, so much so that you could mistake it for an old Laserdisc player.
The Sharp BD-HP21U carries a moderate price, but that gets you only a Blu-ray player with hit-and-miss image quality.
When you grab a disc off the shelf to play on the Sharp BD-HP21U, grab a book, as well. It takes an agonizing 2.5 minutes to load a typical Blu-ray disc - more than twice as long as any other player we've ever tested. On the other hand, once you have the disc playing, the player responds to the remote control as well as any.
And what do you see during playback? Our Test Centre judges found extremes of good and bad in viewing our suite of test discs. On our tests of both The Phantom of the Opera and The Searchers in Blu-ray, we noted that the Sharp BD-HP21U wasn't, well, sharp. The Phantom DVD didn't look too good, either - one judge noted that its images appeared dull and flat. She also found the faces too red in The Searchers.
On the other hand, the Sharp BD-HP21U did very well on our Mission: Impossible III and Good Night and Good Luck tests. The latter showed notably good contrast, according to one judge.
Although we found the Sharp BD-HP21U easy to use, it does have some drawbacks that caught our attention. The small, programmable remote control fit comfortably in my hand, and the important buttons were all easy to get to (one of the advantages of a small remote). Unfortunately, though, the remote lacks a backlight.
The on-screen setup menu is logically designed and displays useful explanations of the options. But the icons look low-resolution and kind of amateurish. The 48-page manual is reasonably well designed, but Sharp doesn't put a PDF version on its website as other companies do.
As you'd expect for its price, the Sharp BD-HP21U isn't heavy on extra features. The player supports Blu-ray Profile 1.1 (which all players at this point must support, at minimum), but not the fancier features contained in Profile 2.0 (specifically, BD-Live for accessing supplemental content via the Internet). Notably, it natively supports Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, converting those high-end soundtracks to standard PCM for amplifiers that don't support them.
Sharp's second-generation Blu-ray Disc player just doesn't impress. The Sharp BD-HP21U does the job without frills, and without oomph.