Do All Blu-ray Players Perform the Same?
Q I am in the market for a new 3D player and have been looking at the Oppo 103 and 103D. But the various online forums I’ve visited all say that there is hardly any picture quality difference between the Oppos and other Blu-ray players like those from Sony and Panasonic. Is that true? —Joe Montanez / via email
A It’s true that the vast majority of Blu-ray players deliver excellent baseline high-def picture quality. It’s only when you start to dive into the fine points of player performance that you’ll start to see differences between various models.
For a quick overview of those differences, check out the Video Test Bench section of Sound & Vision’s Blu-ray player reviews. We routinely run tests for video clipping (loss of information at the extreme high and low ends of the brightness range), luma resolution (black-and-white detail), and chroma resolution (color detail). Most players that have been reviewed recently sailed through those tests without a hitch. Where a few have tripped up, however, is on tests that evaluate a player’s ability to deinterlace 480i video on DVD and 1080i video on Blu-ray for 1080p output. Even if a player fails one or more of those tests, however, it still may perform perfectly fine with real-world content like movies or concert videos.
Another, equally important, point to consider when it comes to Blu-ray player picture quality is video processing features like noise reduction and detail enhancement. The bigger your display, the greater the chance you’ll notice artifacts such as compression noise or picture softness. Dealing with those PQ shortcomings is where a model like the Oppo BDP-103, which features a Marvell Qdeo video processor, has an edge over the competition. And the Darbee processor in the BDP-103D is a unique picture-enhancement feature that’s not found in any other player. (Read Kris Deering’s review of the BDP-103D to learn more about the benefits of Darbee processing.)
Lastly, certain Blu-ray players, the Oppo BDP-103 and 103D included, offer 4K upconversion. If you own, or plan to own, a 4K TV, this feature could also be a deciding factor since the player might do a better job of scaling Blu-ray and DVDs to 4K resolution than the TV itself. So to circle back, the answer is yes, there is little difference to be seen when comparing most Blu-ray players—but only when they are playing high-quality movie transfers on Blu-ray disc. However, other performance-related features do exist that can set certain models apart from the pack.