Home Theater Review

 

Oppo BDP-103 Universal Network, 3D Blu-ray Player Reviewed

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Performance
5 Stars
Value
5 Stars
Overall
5 Stars

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For those with large DVD collections still hanging around, the BDP-103 should provide them a lengthy stay of execution in our ever-changing HD and soon-to-be UltraHD world. A note on UltraHD, because I do not own an UltraHD set: I was unable to test the BDP-103's up-sampling of DVD, as well as Blu-ray material, to the UltraHD resolution of 3,840 x 2,160. My assumption would be that DVD up-sampled to UltraHD isn't going to look as good as true HD up-sampled to UltraHD, as I've seen it done in other demos, but I'm hazarding a guess, for the BDP-103 could prove to be an exception to the rule.

Moving to Blu-ray, the image produced via the BDP-103 looked notably sharper without appearing artificial when compared to the same content being played back via my Dune-HD Max, which lacks the Oppo's video processing. Could either image be enjoyed? Yes, of course, but the Oppo did prove to have a better grasp of the content's low-light information, resulting in more textural blacks and smoother, noise-free gradations in the film's darker scenes. Colors did appear a touch richer, but not artificially so, though highlights and/or white-level detail seemed unchanged, save maybe a hint of grain reduction via the BDP-103. Skin tones with HD content via the BDP-103 looked positively true to life and very organic. I especially appreciated the clarity and focus the BDP-103 seemed to portray when it came to fine textures such as hair, fabric weave and liquids. The semi-translucent strands of genetic webbing (I believe this is how the film referred to them) were rendered very nicely, possessing true three-dimensionality, as you could clearly see through the strands and the distortion they imparted upon the objects behind them. This was very cool, and another showcase of the BDP-103's detail prowess. Contrast was impressive, though at times I felt the film transfer let the BDP-103 down rather than the other way round; I was able to confirm this when viewing The Island on Blu-ray (Warner Bros.). Another good test that showcased the BDP-103's contrast prowess was Battleship on Blu-ray (Universal), with the whitecaps of waves rendered in fine, smooth detail against the cold steel of the alien and naval ships.

Getting back to The Amazing Spider-Man, I re-watched portions of the film, this time being pulled from my NAS drive, and again, just as with the Blu-ray disc, the quality of the image was phenomenal and I could detect no discernable difference between the copy and the disc. Furthermore, the BDP-103 played the .MKV file without so much as a hiccup, though I would've liked to have a better onscreen GUI when browsing network-attached storage, but that's what the Dune is for. Even watching the trailer streaming via VUDU over my high-speed connection through the Oppo proved to be enjoyable, though more in line with the quality you'd expect from DVD upsampled to HD than true high-bit-rate HD via a Blu-ray disc. Still, for you streaming fans out there, the BDP-103 does give one hope.

In terms of sound quality, regardless of the format, the BDP-103 dished out a hell of a dynamic, textural and engaging sound experience. High frequencies were very nicely detailed and true to the source, as evident in the sound engineer's attempts to remove sibilance and mic hiss from the outdoor scenes in Battleship. Vocals were rich and natural in their timbre, as was the BDP-103's entire midrange for that matter - also evident in my demo of Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds Live at Radio City Music Hall on Blu-ray (Sony BMG). Bass was taut and very nicely defined throughout and the soundstage, whether it two-channel or multi, possessed solid width and depth with natural definition and space throughout. As a transport into a preamp, there is little I can find fault with in terms of the BDP-103's sound quality. Relying on the BDP-103's internal DACs provided similar but not identical results. There was a bit of smoothing throughout, but not much. Both setups proved the 103 to be largely (or near as makes no difference) neutral. I even enjoyed listening to Internet radio and lower-quality MP3s via the BDP-103. This should tell you everything you need to know about its sound prowess: true to the source but not overly critical of it, the way a modern player should be.

The Downside
I'm not going to beat around the bush: the BDP-103 is about as flawless a product as I believe I've ever encountered. It does what it does exceptionally well, so its downsides are not that of fault but rather omissions. For instance, those with large user-ripped media libraries may be left out in the cold over Oppo's decision to fold to industry pressure and thus remove ISO compatibility from the players. This isn't entirely Oppo's fault, for I've heard that any connected device that supports the ISO file format is not granted Netflix streaming compatibility, so it makes sense that Oppo would risk alienating a few for the betterment of the masses, i.e., Netflix customers. Also, in terms of accessing network-stored media, the library or list view format that Oppo employs is a bit clunky although, again, this is not entirely the company's fault. If there was a way that Oppo could adapt or include support for third-party software, such as Zappiti, then it really could do everything.

Lastly, and this only happened once, by accidently hitting the 4K button on the remote, I locked up the player forcing me to have to do a hard restart by pulling the power cord from the back in order to shut it down. Again, it only happened once and. in subsequent tests. pressing the 4K button merely resulted in a blank screen that returned to normal once the 4K button was pushed again. Outside of those very minor issues or requests, there is little, if anything, to find fault with in terms of the BDP-103's overall performance.

Competition and Comparisons
Prior to the BDP-103's arrival on the scene, I would've said yes, yes, the Oppo universal players do have some competition in the space. I would've offered up Cambridge Audio's Azur 751BD universal Blu-ray player as an example of another player that could go toe-to-toe with the Oppo. However, the Oppo player the 751BD can hang with is the BDP-95, not the BDP-103. The BDP-103 is simply in a class all its own, thanks to its new feature sets and functionality. At present, it has no competitors, though I'm confident that it will as time goes on. However, as of this writing, it is currently the best universal player on the market. For more on other universal players like the Oppo BDP-103, please check out Home Theater Review's Blu-ray player page.

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Conclusion
What's left to say about the Oppo's new BDP-103 universal Blu-ray player, except that it is currently the universal disc spinner to have and the one to beat and the fact that it doesn't cost you an arm, leg and kidney is just icing on the cake. There isn't anything this mighty player can't really do outside of a few missing formats, mainly ISO, and true UltraHD compatibility. Beyond that, the BDP-103 is all the player you need and then some. It's even an AV preamp, if you wish to get technical. So rather than hype it up more than I already have, let me just say that if you're in the market for a new state-of-the-art universal and network-connected Blu-ray player, then the only option worth considering at this time is the $499 Oppo BDP-103. It's simply amazing.

Additional Resources
Read more Blu-ray and universal player reviews from Home Theater Review's writers.
See more reviews in our HDTV Review section.
Explore pairing options in our AV Receiver and AV Preamp review section.

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