OPPO Digital BDP-93 3D Blu-ray Player Reviewed

OPPO Digital BDP-93 3D Blu-ray Player Reviewed

OPPO has long been a staple of the home theater enthusiast, specifically the BDP-83. Now, OPPO releases the BDP-93 Blu-ray player. How does it improve upon the BDP-83? Adrienne Maxwell finds out.

Oppo_BDP-93_Bluray_Player_review_angled.gifFans of OPPO Digital's media players will tell you that the company offers the best of both worlds. In terms of product development and rollout, OPPO's approach is more like that of a high-end company: The goal is not to release a whole new product line every year and meet arbitrary deadlines; rather, the goal is to make sure that every product released meets high performance and quality standards.

Additional Resources
• Read more Blu-ray player reviews from the staff at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find an LED HDTV or plasma HDTV to get the most out of the BDP-93.

The process involves careful selection of components and a lot of testing. Once the product arrives on the market, the company pays close attention to customer issues and works quickly to resolve them with firmware updates. At the same time, OPPO prices its products in the realm of the reasonable, perhaps a bit higher than the mainstream manufacturers but generally lower (often significantly so) than high-end specialty companies. That win-win combination has earned OPPO a loyal and passionate following that has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new BDP-93, which replaces the acclaimed but now-discontinued BDP-83.

The BDP-93 is OPPO's first Blu-ray player to support 3D playback and streaming video-on-demand. Like its predecessor, the BDP-93 is a universal disc player that supports playback of the SACD, DVD-Audio, and HDCD formats, as well as AVCHD, MP4, DivX, MKV, FLAC, and WAV files. This Profile 2.0 Blu-ray player offers BD-Live Web functionality and BonusView/picture-in-picture playback, and it sports dual HDMI outputs, for compatibility with non-3D-capable AV receivers. The BDP-93 offers bitstream output and onboard decoding of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, with 7.1-channel analog audio outputs. OPPO's Web platform includes Netflix and Blockbuster OnDemand, and you can add the player to your network via a wired or wireless connection (a USB WiFi adapter is included). The BDP-93 has an MSRP of $499 and can be purchased directly via OPPO Digital's website or through authorized retailers like Amazon.

Setup
As I opened the box and gazed upon the meticulous care with which the BDP-93 was packaged, I knew I was in for something beyond the mainstream. The chassis is larger and heftier than the new designs from companies like Samsung and Sharp, but its dimensions (16 x 12.2 x 3.1) and weight (10.8 pounds) certainly aren't unwieldy, and its brushed-aluminum faceplate and stylishly minimalist front-panel design lend an air of elegance. Two LCD panels sandwich the center-aligned disc tray, while the buttons for power, eject, and transport control are flush with the unit's face, essentially disappearing into the design. The accompanying remote control is also a bit larger than average, but it boasts full backlighting and an intuitive button layout.

The BDP-93's connection panel sports dual HDMI 1.4 outputs, as well as component video, composite video, optical digital, coaxial digital, and multichannel analog audio outputs. I began with a basic setup of HDMI running directly from the player to the Samsung UN46C8000 3D TV. Upon power-up, the BDP-93 walks you through an Easy Setup Wizard in which you designate a primary HDMI output (more on this in a minute), select a video output resolution, set your aspect-ratio preference (if you have a 16:9 display, you can decide whether or not to add black bars to 4:3 content), and select the best audio setting for your display ("compatible" offers a standard-resolution signal that includes secondary audio, while "advanced" is ideal if your receiver has high-resolution audio decoding). Once the Easy Setup Wizard is complete, the BDP-93's Home Menu appears, which includes eight icons: Music, Photo, Movie, My Network, Netflix, Blockbuster, Internet, and Setup Menu. It's not the most attractive interface I've encountered on a Blu-ray player, but it's clear and easy to navigate.

The primary benefit of having two HDMI outputs is that it eliminates the need to upgrade to a 3D-ready A/V receiver. Older, non-3D-ready HDMI receivers don't understand the EDID (Extended Display Identification Data) that identifies the 3D display, and they won't pass a 3D video signal due to lack of bandwidth or video buffer. With two HDMI outputs, you can send the 3D video signal directly to your display via one output and send the audio signal directly to your receiver via the other. If this is how you plan to connect the BDP-93, then you don't have to do any special configuration in the setup menu: Some 3D Blu-ray players require you to turn off the video signal through one of the HDMI outputs, but the BDP-93 handles this automatically. If you connect HDMI 1 to a 3D-capable TV and HDMI 2 to a non-3D-capable receiver, the BDP-93 will automatically detect a 3D signal and output a 2D blank screen to the receiver, along with the audio signal.

You can also output a full AV signal from both HDMI outs (yes, that includes 3D), allowing you to use the BDP-93 with two different systems. The catch is, only HDMI 1 uses the high-end Marvell QDEO DE2750 video processor; HDMI 2 uses a more basic processing chip. As I mentioned above, you must dictate which HDMI output you want to be the primary one. If you select HDMI 1, then that port will use the Marvell chip to upconvert signals to 1080p, while HDMI 2 puts out all signals at their native resolution. If you designate HDMI 2 as the primary, then you can get 1080p/60 through both HDMI outputs simultaneously, but again HDMI 2 uses a more basic processing chip, not the Marvell chip. (We'll compare performance in the next section.)

Like all newer Blu-ray players, the BDP-93 can be configured to output Blu-ray films at either 1080p/60 or 1080p/24, and this player also has a Source Direct mode that allows you to output all signals at their native resolution--which is ideal if you already own a high-quality external video processor. Other setup options include the ability to choose between multiple HDMI color spaces (auto, RGB video level, RGB PC level, YCbCr 4:4:4, and YCbCr 4:2:2), enable Deep Color up to 36 bits, and designate NTSC or PAL. A Picture Adjustment menu includes controls for brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, sharpness, and noise reduction (the Marvell chip adds color enhancement and contrast enhancement for HDMI 1). Using these controls, you can configure three different picture modes--for instance, one for DVD, one for Blu-ray, and one for VOD. The BDP-93 also offers multiple zoom modes, including a stretch mode that vertically stretches the image for use with a projection system and anamorphic lens.

As for 3D setup, the BDP-93 is configured to automatically detect and output a 3D Blu-ray signal, but you can disable this if you don't have a 3D TV. The only other 3D setup tool is the ability to enter your TV's screen size so that the player can optimize output, particularly menus and graphics, for your screen size. The BDP-93 does not let you change the type of 3D output signal--for instance, you can't get checkerboard output for compatibility with older 3D TVs. (Panasonic players are currently the only ones I'm aware of that let you change the 3D output signal.)

On the audio side, the player has Dolby True-HD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoders, and it can pass these formats in bitstream form over HDMI for your receiver to decode. In my case, my HDMI-equipped receiver died right before this player showed up for review, so those multichannel analog audio outputs came in quite handy. Within the setup menu, I turned off the HDMI audio and set the speaker size, level, and distance for the analog outputs. The menu also allows you to select a crossover point between 40 and 250 Hz and to downmix the analog signal from 7.1 to 5.1, LT/RT, or stereo. I went with 5.1. Other audio setup options include the ability to set an LPCM rate limit for the coaxial/optical outputs (48, 96, or 192), select DSD or PCM output for SACDs, and enable HDCD decoding. The BDP-93 sports a Pure Audio mode that allows you to turn off the video processing and video output to reduce possible interference and improve audio performance.

The BDP-93's back panel includes an Ethernet port for network connectivity, and the package also includes a USB WiFi adapter for a wireless connection. This adapter can connect to a back-panel or front-panel USB port, both of which also support the addition of a USB drive for media playback or BD-Live storage. The BDP-93 does have 1 GB of internal memory to store BD-Live content. The player also offers an eSATA port to connect an external hard drive and access a complete media library; however, it doesn't officially support DLNA media streaming from a networked media server. Interestingly, the Home Menu does include a My Network section that the owner's manual calls an "experimental feature" for streaming networked media content; the company directs people to the OPPO Wiki for information on how to configure and use this feature. I don't have a DLNA-capable server, so I did not test this function.

Finally, the BDP-93 offers both an RS-232 port and an IR input for integration into a more-advanced control system.

Performance
I was fortunate to have four other 3D Blu-ray players in-house when the BDP-93 arrived, so I began my evaluation by doing some speed comparisons. Going up against models from Samsung, Panasonic, Sharp, and Toshiba (all priced under $300, but none with dual HDMI outputs or universal playback), the OPPO was actually one of the slower players to go from power-on to the "No disc" message. It took about 28 seconds, whereas the Panasonic and Toshiba models did it in about 10 seconds. However, when it came to loading discs, the OPPO was consistently the fastest. With DVDs, the load times were similar amongst most of the players, with the BDP-93 having an advantage of just a few seconds. The discrepancy grew with Blu-ray discs, particularly Blu-ray 3D discs and discs like Iron Man (Paramount Home Video) that sport Java-heavy menus. The BDP-93 loaded the Monster House Blu-ray 3D disc (Sony Pictures) 13 seconds faster than the closest competitor.

Read more about the Oppo BDP-93's performance on Page 2.

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The OPPO was the clear winner in build quality and quiet operation.
Its chassis and especially its disc tray felt much more sturdy, and the
BDP-93 was impressively quiet when loading and navigating discs. (Some
of the other players sounded like they were really manhandling the
discs.) Beyond hearing the faintest hum in a totally silent room, I was
seldom aware of the BDP-93's operation. Furthermore, the OPPO responds
to remote commands in a quick, timely manner. Some of the players were
sluggish in menu navigation and response, while others actually
responded too quickly, causing me to jump past desired menu options.
The BDP-93 struck that proverbial "just right" that made it easy to
navigate menus. It also performed reliably with all the disc types I
tried, with no freezes or hiccups.

Regarding the BDP-93's upconversion of standard 480i DVDs, the
Marvell chip (HDMI 1) was the better all-around performer, but the
basic processing chip (HDMI 2) also proved itself worthy with
film-based sources. The Marvell chip did an excellent job in the
scaling department, producing a well-detailed image on both a 46-inch
TV and a 75-inch projection screen. It passed the film and video tests
on the HQV Benchmark DVD (Silicon Optix), and it passed my real-world
Gladiator (DreamWorks) DVD test: The Coliseum flyover in chapter 12 was
generally clean, with minimal jaggies and no blatant moiré in rooftops.
However, the Marvell chip failed my torture-test scene from chapter
four of the Bourne Identity DVD (Universal Home Video), where two men
sit in a cafeteria, surrounded by closed window blinds. The processor
was never able to lock on to the 3:2 cadence, producing moiré
throughout the scene. Interestingly, the basic processor on HDMI 2
passed this test, cleanly rendering the blinds, and was actually a bit
quicker in detecting 3:2 with many of the film-based tests. The basic
processor did a solid job in the scaling department, but the image
didn't appear to have quite as much detail as the Marvell chip. Beyond
scaling, the Marvell chip also distinguished itself with video-based
signals. I use a pilates workout DVD to test for jaggies, and the
Marvell chip did an excellent job keeping all of those diagonals clean,
whereas the HDMI 2 chip performed below average in this area. So, for
the most consistent performance with all DVD content, HDMI 1 is the way
to go, but HDMI 2 is still a good choice for DVD movies. In its HD
processing, the BDP-93 passed the 1080i tests on the HD HQV Benchmark
BD through both HDMI outputs, and it cleanly converted 1080p/24 to
1080p/60 in demo scenes from the Mission Impossible 3 (chapter eight,
Paramount Home Video) and Ghost Rider (chapter six, Sony Pictures)
Blu-ray discs.

In the 3D realm, the BDP-93 performed as desired. It automatically
detected the Blu-ray 3D signal on the Monster House, Ice Age: Dawn of
the Dinosaurs (20th Century Fox), and Monsters vs. Aliens (DreamWorks)
discs, and I saw no issues with signal quality (in my experience thus
far, the TV is the where you're likely to find issues with 3D
performance). With VOD content, the BDP-93 had the newer version of the
Netflix interface that allows you to browse and select titles without
having to add them to your online queue. OPPO's Netflix interface has a
slightly different layout than that of the other 3D Blu-ray players:
The menu runs horizontally, rather than vertically, and it includes
more genres/tabs to aid in the search process (with options like "top
picks," "imaginative animation," "witty sitcoms," etc.). The BDP-93 was
quicker to enter, exit, and maneuver the Netflix app than some of the
other players. Unlike Netflix's subscription service, Blockbuster
onDemand
is a pay-per-use service, and its pricing and selection are
comparable to what you get with Amazon or VUDU (more big-ticket
releases than you get with Netflix). With both of these streaming
services, the picture quality is dictated primarily by your broadband
speed; unfortunately, my 1.5Mbps DSL connection makes for a compressed
image and often-choppy playback.

On the audio side, I really enjoyed the opportunity to dust off some
SACDs and DVD-Audio discs--including Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon
(Capitol Records), Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (Sony Music), Cassandra
Wilson's Traveling Miles (Capitol Records), and Queen's A Night at the
Opera (DTS Entertainment)--as well as some of my standard CD demos.
These music tracks were tight, crisp, and clean, and both the stereo
and multichannel soundstages were big and balanced. The BDP-93 did not
do anything to hinder the performance of my RGB speaker system and
Pioneer VSX-55TXi receiver, which is what I ask of a source component.
With movie soundtracks, the subwoofer volume was just a little low, so
I manually turned it up to help flesh out the rumble of explosions and
other LFE information. Otherwise, I was perfectly pleased with the
performance of the multichannel outs with DVD/BD soundtracks.

Just as the BDP-83 had an audiophile complement (the BDP-83SE), OPPO
will soon release a higher-end 3D Blu-ray player aimed at the
audiophile crowd. The BDP-95 ($999) will feature a toroidal power
supply custom designed by Rotel and two SABRE32 Reference ES9018 32-bit
DACs from ESS Technology: one for the 7.1-channel output and one for
the dedicated two-channel output that uses balanced XLR connectors.

Oppo_BDP-93_Bluray_player_review_back.gif

Low Points
Compared with players from Samsung, LG, and Panasonic, OPPO's Web
platform is currently limited. The company's decision to go with
Blockbuster's VOD app may be a boon to Blockbuster, but I'm not sure
it's the best fit for OPPO--primarily because the service doesn't
support HD streaming. VUDU offers 1080p video, and Amazon at least
offers 720p. Right now, Blockbuster is SD-only, although that could
certainly change. If OPPO chooses to make a deal with VUDU and goes
with the VUDU Apps package, then you could also get apps like Facebook,
Twitter, and Flickr that are currently lacking. Near the end of my
review session, OPPO released a firmware update (v. BDP9x-38-0126) that
added Picasa to its Web package, and I have no doubt we'll see more
upgrades in this area.

As I mentioned above, the BDP-93 uses a USB WiFi adapter for
wireless network connectivity, as opposed to an integrated WiFi system.
I personally have no qualms with the add-on adapter; however, if your
rack space is tight or you're more concerned about your system's
appearance, you may object to this approach. In explaining the decision
to use an adapter, my OPPO rep said that the player's heavy-gauge steel
chassis and aluminum front panel would interfere with reception for an
integrated solution. They have considered an integrated solution in
which the antenna is mounted behind the glossy part of the front panel,
but they still worry that users with steel equipment racks would
experience reception issues. So, for now, OPPO feels the add-on adapter
is the most reliable option.

Finally, a true nitpick. I was very impressed with the overall
quality of the owner's manual. It is thorough, logically organized, and
written in a manner that should be easy to understand for the average
user. However, I would've liked to have seen a clear explanation of how
the dual-HDMI setup should be handled with a non-3D-ready HDMI
receiver. I had to email my OPPO rep to confirm exactly what the player
does to ensure compatibility.

Competition and Comparison
Compare the OPPO Digital BDP-93 with its competition by reading the
reviews for the Denon DBP-1611UD,
Cambridge Audio Azur 650BD,
Samsung BD-C7900,
and Panasonic DMP-BDT350.
Learn more about 3D-capable Blu-ray Players by visiting our Blu-ray
Players
section
.

Conclusion
OPPO Digital has done it again. In both performance and design, the new
BDP-93 is a rousing success. It supports the two hottest new trends--3D
and VOD--yet it's also built to accommodate most any system and play
most any disc in your back catalog. At $499, the BDP-93 is a good value
for a player that combines 3D, dual HDMI outputs, universal playback,
and multichannel analog output. Of course, if you don't need or want
those features, then there are plenty of lower-priced models from which
to choose. As far as I'm concerned, when it comes to having the
complete package, the BDP-93 is the player to beat on the current
Blu-ray landscape.

Additional Resources
• Read more Blu-ray player reviews from the staff at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find an LED HDTV or plasma HDTV to get the most out of the BDP-93.

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