Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on January 16th, 2017
The young Ultra High Definition Blu-ray market has pretty much been a limited competition between a couple of players. Upcomingdiscs obtained an early version of the Samsung player in order to get UHD 4K reviews to our readers. The player allowed me to do that but had so many limitations that those reviews certainly suffered. The most obvious was an inability to provide codec bitrates. All of that changes now that Oppo has entered the UHD market. Oppo is no stranger to 4K. Previous models that we’ve reviewed here already provided rather sweet 4K upconvert options to early adopters of 4K televisions. We received our unit during the holidays, and I have been putting it through some serious paces. Needless to say this will be our go-to unit going forward. However long you think the UHD market has been out there, it truly begins with the release of the Oppo UDP-203.
Again, you get the most impressive packaging in the business. That may not seem so important to some, but I like the comfort of knowing that there was little chance my unit was damaged during the shipping process. Instead of cheap styrofoam, the unit is protected by pressure-formed solid foam. Forget that silly tissue plastic that usually covers a unit in the box. This baby comes nestled inside a canvas bag. Of course, it’s also a great advertising idea. You’ll have the handy bag to tote stuff around later. Your unit isn’t going to be scratched in transport, that’s for certain. The accessories come in a solid hard shell box. Inside you get: a remote + batteries and a solid HDMI cable. What does this really tell me? It tells me the company just doesn’t cut corners.
After spending time with the Samsung miniature remote control, I’m happy to see that the Oppo remote remains essentially the same. The remote is sturdy and feels solid in your hands. I’m getting a little tired of these fragile razor-thin remotes that are intended to appear sleek and trendy, but don’t hold up worth crap. You get a pretty forgiving angle of operation. The buttons are all arranged logically and are a good size. This is a good old-school remote with new-school reliability. There are a couple of button changes added to the traditional layout. There is an HDR button that allows you to control the HDR content from on/off to auto-detect. Gone are the Netflix and Vudu buttons, because the streaming services are not included here. I never used them. This unit isn’t really designed for that kind of operation. There is also sensor that makes the buttons light up with the slightest vibration. I actually like this feature a lot. I will say it’s a touch too sensitive. Just putting a drink glass on the same countertop makes the thing light up. All in all, I would rather have the feature than not. Previous versions had a button to turn the light on that’s where the more useful HDR button is now.
The unit comes out of the box ready to perform. There is an HDMI output for both sound and video along with a secondary HDMI output that is strictly for audio. I enjoy sending my video signal direct to my monitor and still allowing my receiver to handle all of the modern codec work. The split allows for seamless use for me. I had only one disc offer any sync issues, and there are options to tweak those problems. Otherwise, the unit processes both signals with perfection.
The Oppo has superior image adjustments. It has as many fine-tuning options as most monitors. You can play with brightness, color, black levels, sharpness, noise reduction, and edge enhancement. I would rather keep things close to neutral on my unit and let the monitor handle the fine adjustments. It’s nice to have the option, however. You can also tweak the dynamics of the sound somewhat. Again, I’d rather leave that to my amp. There is a speaker calibration tool that helps you to optimize your sound performance. You also have some options to tweak your 3D performance.
The biggest upgrade that you will immediately see is the improved menu screen. Now Oppo has given you awesome UHD images to go along with each menu page. These are quite a bit more attractive than the black background of earlier models. It tells you from the start that you’re in for a new experience with an old friend.
There is a comprehensive 90-page user manual that will help you through anything and everything you need to know about the unit. I’m very tired of the simple user guides that basically tell you how to turn the unit on. If you’re lucky there’s an online document with just a little more help. That’s the modern trend in electronics. Oppo has you covered with old-school support.
In The Rack
Dimensions: 16.9 x 12.2 x 3.1 inches (430mm x 311mm x 79mm) 9.5 lbs (4.3kg).
This unit continues the rather minimalist look of previous Oppo units. It has a clean, sleek look with an oversized display which I continue to applaud. The hefty size allows for better cooling and air circulation. This thing runs surprisingly cool. In the back you get the HDMI connections along with 7.1 analog direct RCA connections. You get two USB 3.0 connections. You get both optical and coaxial audio outputs. This is something most players now neglect. There’s an HDMI input that allows you to pass another source through the machine. That includes other players, media hubs, and game systems. This way you can use the unit’s processing abilities and save an input when necessary. You also get a LAN connection, but the unit has a reliable wireless connection ability. Finally there’s a RS-232C serial port. The front provides another USB port.
Of course, none of the other bells and whistles matter if the unit doesn’t perform. I’m convinced that the two P’s in the company name both stand for performance. It’s almost ridiculous just how good these players continue to be. I spent weeks throwing everything I have at this unit just waiting for it to stumble. It never happened once. I fed it scratched DVD’s that won’t play in many units. While I did get a stutter or two, the discs played where they merely froze in every other player. This is an improvement even over older Oppo Blu-ray models. Blu-rays upconvert to 4K, squeezing the best image possible out of the HD format. Look, I know that upconvert can’t make an HD signal UHD completely. You can’t provide what isn’t there. But this unit will give you the absolute best any disc might have to offer. As a reviewer, that’s a deal-maker for me. I need to know I’m seeing this material at the best it can be. This machine provides me with that kind of confidence. I used the USB port to run some video files. They looked better than on my HD computer monitor.
OK, it handles all of those formats: Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, AVCHD, SACD, CD, Kodak Picture CD, CD-R/RW, DVD±R/RW, DVD±R DL, BD-R/RE. But how does it handle the new UHD Blu-ray 4K titles? That’s the million dollar question. So I tried out several discs. I worked particularly with Deadpool, In The Heart Of The Sea, Star Trek: Beyond and a few of the really nice IMAX titles from Shout Factory. This way I could compare my experience with something I had already viewed on the Samsung. There’s a lot to tell you here, but you can skip to the end right now. Spoiler alert: the Oppo UDP-203 is the next generation of home entertainment technology hands down. Your home theatre has never looked or sounded better. Now, of course, the weight is also carried by your monitor, speakers and receiver. Still. you can be confident that you’re getting the best out of the rest of your setup. The player completely supports both HDR and Wide Color Gamut. The unit is also capable of conversion to SDR if you don’t have an HDR monitor. This is huge. Many folks have ended up disappointed to discover their players would not play on their 4K televisions because they did not support HDR. The conversion allows for a pretty accurate image on non-HDR sets. It supports the current 4K codecs: HEVC, H.264, VP9-4K, Hi10P along with the traditional SD & HD formats. Most video file formats are supported so that you can play non-disc content that you have created or downloaded through the USB ports.
One of the biggest problems with the new 4K HDR technology is the temptation by studios and equipment manufacturers to go crazy with color saturation. The new color ability can be staggering to even jaded reviewers like myself. The Oppo unit doesn’t use all of that power and processing to overthink your presentation. It all works to deliver the most natural color and picture while at the same time bringing out all of that potential of color and sharpness. You get such an experience that there is often almost a 3D quality to the image. I love that the format gives us a deeper image in pretty much every respect. So how does the Oppo UDP-203 do this?
It all starts with a new video processing technology developed in conjunction with MediaTek. The technology here is so advanced that this unit is the first of its kind. That’s what I mean when I toss around phrases like next generation stuff here. It’s part of MediaTek’s System on a Chip technology. I suspect that it will set the standard for future player quality. It’s a fast loader as well. That’s thanks to a custom 4K loader with an optimized laser mechanism. That’s likely why it plays damaged discs so well. This thing can get me to a menu in literally half the time of the Samsung. When you watch as many discs as I do, you appreciate fast and accurate loads.
The discs I tested all gave me some noticeable improvement when going head to head with my Samsung. The most dramatic improvement has to be motion. I mentioned in my review for the UHD of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back that I was blown away by the detail I suddenly saw during fast scenes. What was once merely a blur as a runner streaked down a street is now something much more identifiable and detailed. In my opinion this is where the unit moves away from the small field of other UHD players. It literally has to be seen to be believed, and I still don’t completely understand how it works. This unit appears to have eliminated any kind of judder. I’ve always been impressed with the Oppo’s reproduction of black levels. If you read my disc reviews you know how much I look for that. I don’t believe you can do better in this category. Blacks are deep and inky with plenty of shadow detail and definition. Of course, the disc itself plays a key role in that assessment, but I go forward confident that any flaws in those rich black levels are entirely the fault of a particular transfer. Head to head with my Samsung there was no contest.
The unit doesn’t slouch on the audio, either. It can decode all of the current audio formats. This baby will still play your SACD collection. It appears to be a passion with the Oppo techs and I suspect a bit of an element of pride. It’s all contained in a high-quality 32-bit AKM DAC. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing older Dolby Digital or DTS-HD or the most recent Dolby: Atmos and DTS:X. These latter formats are currently the most commonly used in UHD discs. It will play all of the current audio formats from discs, flash drives, and HDD’s, and it will even stream them from wi-fi or the Ethernet connection. I tend to throw on a flash drive and let that sucker play on. The blue button will shuffle the music for some variety.
There is one promising aspect of this unit that I have not been able to test but appears quite promising to me. It’s the first UHD player that appears to be compatible with the Dolby Vision HDR. Obviously, I don’t have that format, but there’s a ton of buzz about the impact on the dynamic color that will be offered soon. That would put Oppo as the only player set up to handle the upgrade. That’s the kind of future-tech assurance that adds value to any piece of technology. I say appears because this is not a claim made by the folks at Oppo. This is a result of my own research on the subject. The unit does not carry any kind of certification or endorsement on the format.
There is a promise of a firmware upgrade that could bring the unit into certification compliance.
Finally, let’s talk about dependability. My machines sometimes put in 13-16 hour days. During television series release season I’m watching several seasons of television in a single week. So far all of my players have held up perfectly. I had one go down because I accidentally damaged the loader tray. You are not only paying for quality here, but you’re paying for longevity. When I sit down in my theatre to review something, I know when I push that power button, the Oppo is going to light up.
I have to watch this stuff for a living. Yes, it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. That means I’m watching with a critical eye. I’ve mentioned several times here that there are other factors that go into the kind of image and sound you will get in your own home theatre. It matters how you have the monitor or receiver tweaked. It matters how well those units perform and even the viewing environment of your theatre. I certainly can’t predict the exact experience you might have with the Oppo-203. I can only tell you that I believe it will deliver the best possible image and audio that your setup can produce. There’s a reason why Oppo has been my official player for over seven years. I have a reputation to defend each time I give a discourse on a disc’s quality. Oppo gives me the confidence to do just that. Upcomingdiscs was one of the first, if not the first review site to review a UHD disc. One of the studios invited me to deliver a talk at a media conference with other studios about the young 4K situation. I had a conflicting schedule and could not go. But I’m telling you exactly what I would have told the studio heads: “Want to know what you’ve really got in the UHD format? Wait until Oppo releases their first player. Things will change dramatically.” Now you don’t have to wait. In my opinion the Oppo UDP-203 is the only UHD player on the market. I’ve written over 3300 disc reviews in the last 20 years. The Oppo UDP-203 is the only UHD player I will rely on for every review I write. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
For more information visit: Oppo Digital.
These are the specs provided by Oppo:
|Disc Types*||4K UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, AVCHD, SACD, CD, Kodak Picture CD, CD-R/RW, DVD±R/RW, DVD±R DL, BD-R/RE|
|BD Profile||BD-ROM Version 3.1 Profile 6 (also compatible with BD-ROM Version 2.5 Profile 5)|
|Output||Analog Audio: 7.1ch, 5.1ch, stereo.
Coaxial/Optical Audio: up to 2ch/192kHz PCM, Dolby Digital, DTS.
HDMI Audio: up to 7.1ch/192kHz PCM, up to 5.1ch DSD, Bitstream.
HDMI Video: UHD/1080p24/1080p/1080i/720p/576p/576i/480p/480i, 3D frame-packing 720p/1080p24.
|Input||HDMI Audio: up to 7.1ch/192kHz PCM, up to 5.1ch DSD, Bitstream.
HDMI Video: UHD/1080p24/1080p/1080i/720p/576p/576i/480p/480i, 3D frame-packing 720p/1080p24.
|Audio Characteristics**||Frequency: 20Hz – 48kHz (±0.2dB), 20Hz – 96kHz (-4dB ˜ +0.05dB)
Signal-to-Noise Ratio: >112dB (A-weighted, Unmute)
THD+N: < 0.001% (1kHz at 0dBFS, 20kHz LPF)
Crosstalk: < -103dB (A-weighted)
|General Specification||Power Supply: 100V – 240V˜, 50/60Hz AC
Power Consumption: 40W (Standby: 0.5W in Energy Efficient Mode)
Dimensions: 16.9 x 12.2 x 3.1 inches (430mm x 311mm x 79mm)
Mass: 9.5lbs (4.3kg)
|Operating Temperature||41°F – 95°F, 5°C – 35°C|
|Operating Humidity||15% – 75%, no condensation|