Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Review Page 2

The player’s Setup Menu options are extensive, filling 16 of the owner’s manual’s 91 pages. I’ll give just a sampling here. You can take sub- titles recorded in the black bars of widescreen films and shift them into the picture area, which could be useful if you have an equal-height projection setup with a wide (2.35:1) screen. For HDR material, you can select Auto (only sends HDR if the display can do it; otherwise downconverts the source to SDR), On (sends the source HDR whether or not the display is capable of it—which might not always work well), or Off (which strips the HDR down to SDR). You can also select a wide range of resolutions and frame rates and choose the color space (Auto, RGB Video level, RGB PC level, YCbCr 4:4:4, YCbCr 4:2:2, and YCbCr 4:2:0).

As with past Oppos, there’s a selection of picture adjustments, though I recommend relying primarily on the adjustments on your display. There’s also an A/V Sync adjustment that offers several negative settings. Apparently, the player automatically adds a small audio delay in the background to account for its known processing lag; by using these negative settings, you can dial out this default lag if your display works better without it.

417oppodp.rem.jpgThe player can, like most, perform all speaker setup functions (distance, size, level) if you use its analog outputs. It also offers a selectable Dynamic Range Compression control that works with both Dolby Digital and DTS material on DVD and Blu- ray from its analog or video outputs (HDMI, optical, coaxial), even if that material hasn’t been specifically coded for it. To use this control, you must set the audio format to PCM, not Bitstream.

Lastly, a Parental Control option lets you set the maximum MPAA movie rating (G, PG, PG-13, R, etc.) you’ll allow for playback without a user-set password.

UHD with HDR
All my viewing and testing was done with a 65-inch LG B6 OLED display. And my go-to movie on Ultra HD Blu-ray was Deepwater Horizon, an exceptional film (though perhaps just a bit over the top). While the photography isn’t “pretty,” and the expanded color of UHD doesn’t call attention to itself, the transfer is remarkably clean, clear, and crisp overall, even in the ugliest scenes. The HDR doesn’t jump out at you, but it does present all of the bright highlights and deep shadows in a way that SDR never can.

The Oppo performed without a hitch throughout, capturing everything the movie required (as far as I could tell). While OLED can’t match the peak brightness that LCD can produce on highlights, I was never conscious that this limited the Oppo’s efforts in any way, even in the display’s HDR Standard mode (rather than HDR Bright, which I found unrealistically punchy in the dark- ened room I prefer for watching films). Even though I’m not yet set up for the Atmos enhancement that this and other discs offer, the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was impeccable. (As an aside, the bass on Deepwater Horizon is stunning and will rearrange your room.) The Oppo didn’t give short shrift to the audio or video in any respect.

Two other movies I spent the most time with were critical flops, and deservedly so. But at least they were diverting to watch and, more importantly for a review, good fodder for judging the performance of the Oppo. Independence Day: Resurgence may be overloaded with CGI effects, but it’s also an HDR feast (as is, surprisingly, the original and far less bloated, and better for it, Independence Day). From bright highlights to deep-shadow details (and Resurgence is loaded with them), the film’s HDR is outstanding. The sequence of human pilots trapped inside the alien ship is just one example of the fine HDR visuals. Neither the disc itself nor the Oppo missed a beat in either video or audio.

Using Resurgence, I briefly com- pared the Oppo with Samsung’s UBD-K8500. In one or two scenes, I noticed a slightly pronounced crispness on the Samsung that might have been edge enhancement. This was absent on the Oppo, which never looked either soft or unnaturally sharp. In fairness to the Samsung, however, I’ve never been conscious of it demonstrating unnatural edge enhancement in many months of use. I’m speculating, but this might have been a case of enhancement in the source combined with a hair of otherwise unnoticeable enhancement in the Samsung.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War, unlike the other movies, offers endless eye candy, with gorgeous color, detailed resolution, and relatively subdued (but impressive when employed and totally filmlike) HDR. The Oppo didn’t disappoint here either, and despite a story that begins intriguingly but jumps the shark well before the final act, I couldn’t stop watching.

1080p Blu-ray
With standard 1080p Blu-rays, the Oppo performed every bit as well. Even allowing for the less ambitious technical capability of 1080p, I was never disappointed. I cued up many of my favorite discs, and all were pristine, from Oblivion and Prometheus to Shrek 2 (the best of that franchise) and Cinderella (the recent live-action version—inherently a little soft compared with the others but featuring spectacular color and production values).

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It’s important to note, however, that while none of these discs has looked or sounded better on any other player I’ve used, the nature of digital disc playback—particularly the video—means that there are more than a few Blu-ray players out there that can offer equivalent A/V performance from their HDMI outputs. What, then, are you paying for in the Oppo? Superior, heavy-duty build quality that should last longer than that of many of its cheaper rivals, for one thing. Flexibility in the wide variety of disc formats it can play, as well. And an unrivaled range of user control over its audio and video outputs.

My tests of the Oppo’s 3D capabilities were limited to confirming that it would successfully play a 3D disc. It did. The major issues with 3D, including a dim picture and ghosting, are display-related concerns, not player problems.

Audio
While I spent most of my review time with audio/video source material, I did give the Oppo a chance to show its stuff on two-channel audio without video. I limited this to its coaxial and HDMI outputs (which I used for CDs and SACDs, respectively), since most A/V receivers and preamp/processors tend to convert any analog inputs to digital immediately upon entry for routine audio processing such as application of tone controls, room compensation, and subwoofer crossovers. In modern electronics, all of these are nearly always performed in the digital domain. Using the analog outputs in such a situation will often result in unneeded digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital conversions.

Used as a digital transport from its coaxial digital output with the signal sent to my Marantz AV8802A pre/pro, the Oppo performed very well, with clear, detailed highs, powerful bass, and fine imaging and depth. If it couldn’t quite match the performance of my Marantz UD7007 universal disc player, it came exceptionally close at roughly half the price of that player when it was still available. It also includes features that the Marantz, limited to 1080p performance, does not.

As mentioned, the player can pass SACD only through its HDMI or analog outputs. I used the HDMI connection to sample two-channel SACD. (The Oppo is perfectly capable of multichannel SACD with the same quality in each channel, but when I’m testing a player, it’s easier to get a handle on basic sound quality by listening to two channels only.) It performed beautifully, even with a generic HDMI cable linking it to the Marantz processor. I can’t say definitively that the SACD cuts I sampled via HDMI sounded better than the CD tracks I played via coaxial digital; that’s a subject for a different discussion, as it involves complexities like variations in recording quality from song to song and from source to source. But the Oppo’s SACD playback didn’t disappoint me in any way.

Measurements
To this point, whenever I measured the video processing of an HDTV or Ultra HDTV, my main criterion for a passing grade is simply this: Will it match the performance of my Oppo player? It was therefore no surprise that the new UDP-203 passed all of our standard video tests. Its upconversion of 1080p and lesser material to 4K was also outstanding. But I always feel the need to point out, for newcomers, that upconversion of sub-UHD material to 4K does not give it true 4K resolution. It merely interpolates the original 2K/1080p video data file to fill the 4K/UHD “bucket” of a UHD display. But it’s vital that a player does this well (without producing artifacts), and the Oppo did.

My measurements of the Oppo’s output into the LG OLED display produced odd results with regard to the bit-depth output of the player with UHD material. But Murideo, the maker of the analyzer we used for the test (the Fresco Six-A, together with an AVProConnect UHD splitter), told us that their independent tests showed that the player does indeed output 12 bits when it is set to 4:2:2 subsampling. (All UHD discs are mastered at 4:2:0 and 10 bits, but players generally upconvert this for reasons too complex to address here.) The Oppo’s own extensive Info screen feature discussed earlier also confirmed that the player outputs 4:2:2 and 12 bits when its Custom Resolution control is set to UHD Auto, its Color Space to Auto (the default setting), and its Color Depth to Auto (also the default). Although the techie in me loves the fact that the Oppo player offers far more setup flexibility and control than any other player we know of, I definitely recommend that you use these Auto settings for day-to-day viewing—as I did during the review.

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Another issue I encountered involved the player’s audio output. When I positioned the Audio Output Setup control to either Auto or LPCM, my Marantz pre/pro’s front-panel window read simply “Multi Ch In.” And when I set that control to Bitstream, the Marantz read either “Dolby D” or “DTS Surround” (depending on the source), suggesting that the player was outputting the lossy “core” Dolby Digital or DTS bitstream rather than the lossless DTS-HD Master or Dolby True HD bitstreams that are usually indicated on the Marantz’s display. Or, that the player was sending the lossless signals but somehow causing the pre/pro’s readout to display inaccurate information. The only lossless audio format my pre/pro gave a positive indication of was Dolby Atmos, when present. After puzzling through this for the better part of a day, I consulted with my fellow Sound & Vision reviewer David Vaughn, who also uses this Oppo player with the same Marantz pre/pro. Following his advice, I did a system reset on the Oppo using the Reset Factory Default option in the menu. That corrected the problem and the Marantz then indicated that it was receiving the correct format from the player (DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby TrueHD, or Dolby Atmos). Still, this oddity I encountered out of the box should never have happened. If you do as well, now you know how to fix it.

Conclusions
You can buy an Ultra HD Blu-ray player for less. But here in early 2017, I can’t imagine you’ll find one that offers better performance, flexibility, and build quality than the Oppo UDP-203.

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COMMENTS
markymo32's picture

Would having a better DAC off set not having HDCD decoding? I really wish Oppo would have put this in the player.
Why do you prefer digital coax over an optical connection for CD's and why not always use the analog outputs so you can you the players DAC ?

Thank You

boe's picture

I have vigorously recommended all the previous Oppos to my friend's and family in the past. I don't think I'd recommend the 203 at this time. I'm not sure I ever would. The firmware is still plagued by many playback issues. It doesn't stream as well as the previous model although it does support 4K streaming which the other didn't (provided you can find 4K media to stream - not that there isn't any). Part of the issue is the lawyers got their teeth into this thing - gimping it before it was even released. The Oppo 203 in its current form is like a a wonderful steak that the waiter sneezed on right before handing it to you.

JJV59's picture

Have you actually used it? It appears not because the 203 offers no dedicated streaming, you can either stream locally through your network(which I've tested and it has worked flawlessly) or you hook up your own streaming player through the hdmi input. The playback plagues are next to non existent considering this is still technically a beta product. I've had my 203 for a few months now and have only had one hiccup, otherwise it has preformed flawlessly. I would like to know if you have even used the 203, by your hogwash comment it appears not.

boe's picture

I've had it for 4 months and I haven't taken it out of the box yet. I just like posting nonsense. Seriously though - I have 66TB of movies and videos I stream through my computer to my Oppos. I suggest you try READING comments before jumping to ASSUmptions.

JJV59's picture

Oh I your comment, you must have a reading comprehension issue. Did you read my comment? It was directly in reply to your comment. Can't handle constructive criticism? Considering a couple responses to my comment back up my response. Jumping to assumptions? You posted hogwash. You must be a real joy to be around.

boe's picture

The word hogwash eludes the realm of constructive. Furthermore you clearly are the one with the comprehension issues as I posted about the streaming issues of the 203. I have 66TB of files I stream to my Oppo which the 103 does not have issues with so your post has no value.

David Vaughn's picture
Like the other poster (JJV), the 203 has been great for me as well. Its first firmware was obviously rushed, but since then the player has been rock solid, and I watch 4-6 movies per week on it. As for no streaming capabilities, I'm sure you have other devices that stream just fine, if not better, than what the Oppo could possibly do. Even the old 103D, I found that streaming through my Tivo was much easier to do.
SkinnyPanda's picture

Purchased mine in January and have had no issues. Plays all my 4k Blu Rays without issues. Awesome unit, build quality second to none. Just eager to get the Dolby Vision firmware update.

masterklee's picture

Hello, thank you for the great review. A question I have regarding the dedicated HDMI audio only output port. Panasonic's UB900 which competes with this player also has a dedicated HDMI audio only output port for backward compatibility with receivers that don't have HDMI 2.0 inputs. I read in some forums where some members stated Panasonic recommends using the HDMI audio only connection even if your receiver accepts HDMI 2.0 inputs to separate the video output (from the main HDMI output which should connect directly to the TV) and the audio output (HDMI audio only port connected to the receiver) for better audio and video performance. In your experience is this true and does it apply to this Oppo player as well? Thanks.

tommyb3's picture

Hey all, I need to buy a new Blu-Ray player as my existing player really has problems with any little imperfection in the media. I don't have a UHD set yet, as I still love my Pioneer plasma and the Epson projector in the theater room. But, I want to buy a great 4k player now in preparation for an eventual upgrade. How does the Oppo do on discs? Does it do a good job tolerating imperfections? How about outputting to a 1080P device, will I notice any benefit there? Thanks for your help all!!!

HMB's picture

I have an OPPO BDP103D, not so sure I would get an OPPO again - knowing what I know about electronics design( I am an engineer) - I doubt this problem has been addressed. No one certainly talks about it.
The player allows an operating failure that can blow out your speakers.
I run the discrete audio output (ANALOG) of the OPPO into my Marantz, so that I get the latest decoding. I also have my cable box going through the OPPO, with direct connect of the video to my TV.
Certain conditions can trigger DIGITAL CONTENT (rather than analog) to go directly to my receiver. It will be FULL SCALE, AND have very high frequencies.
One condition I know of is if you accidently turn off the TV power with the OPPO still on, you can trigger this fault condition. THe best OPPO can do is tell me to make sure all sources are turned on before turning on the OPPO. That has NOT prevented this from happening about 5 times since I have owned the unit. Things happen, you know. This fault condition should be fixed.
WHAT GOOD IS "SOUND QUALITY" if your player can blow up your speakers?

Tingeli's picture

OPPO and Cambridge Audio were the last ones to support HDCD. Unfortunately they seem to have stopped now. I have many HDCDs and they sound great but I could not say whether there is a real sound improvement versus normal CD and I could not find any comparison. Maybe somebody knows where to find.

laguna_b's picture

I was at a demo and tried playing a .iso image on an OPPO using a USB stick and we could not see it in the menu. Have anyone tried playing .iso or .mkv blue ray movies over network connection?

laguna_b's picture

So can one play .mkvs over network?

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