Serial #: VD0803702169
Summary: Good Videophile performance with all content
Since 2006, OPPO has been providing a DVD performance envelope covering the main feature, the movie, at roughly the $200 mark directly competing with other players and external scalers costing $1000 plus. They have been earning my recommendation since then along with a full model line review last year. When it was announced that OPPO was releasing a flag ship DVD player at nearly double the price, I requested a review sample to find out how OPPO has raised the bar on an already very successful product line.
As with past models, you will need an HDMI input on your display to receive the full video benefits of the product. While OPPO decided to include analog component video outputs with this model, it is limited to 480p with most discs and while those discs that aren't flagged can be output up to 1080i, the Anchor Bay video processing is not used at all in that application. As with the DV-981HD, the flag ship player supports SACD and DVD Audio.
On the surface the DV-983H doesn't appear to offer anything different from last year's DV-981HD, yet those differences are there, buried in the details. Along with links to the very well documented OPPO website are the following differences between the DV-981HD and the new DV-983H.
Not-So-Common Features for the DV-983H
Opening the Box
Like past products the DV-983H was well packed with the player in a nice bag, a nice black OPPO box containing all the accessories along with a full sized manual and Anchor Bay Technologies test disc. The remote looks identical to past versions but for this model it is in black. While appearing identical, some of the buttons have different functions. Either way, do not expect much here. While certainly not hailing from the land of cheese, the remote is not back-lit and the button layout veers more towards a tabled layout with button shape similarity adding to the confusion. While it has glow-in-the-dark keys that won't help much once the glow has extinguished itself in your darkened room. I don't place too much emphasis on remotes though, as most folks use a system (universal) remote for everyday use.
Out of Box Performance
Hooking up the player to a BenQ W10000, I found it preset for 16:9, adjusted the output for 1080p and ran the DVE test material. After watching the video performance tests and test patterns I was left scratching my head trying to figure out exactly what the improvement was. Based on all players tested thus far, the Achilles heal had always been material that was not properly captured or encoded, and more importantly 4:3 letterboxed presentations. With my fingers crossed I loaded The Poseidon Adventure (1972 4:3 letterboxed) in the tray pushed play, hit the zoom button and was greeted with a palatable presentation of this OAR, original aspect ratio 2.35 movie in 16:9 mode. On to objective testing.
Towards the very end of my time with the OPPO, the HDMI kept resetting itself going through a handshaking routine. Oddly enough this cleared up after returning to the machine a few days later.
This is one of those rare moments where I can report from direct experience. OPPO is great. I lost my DV-971HD during the warranty period. I called them up explaining I was a service center and they sent me a part! While it did not resolve the problem they deserve kudos for providing that potential convenience. I ended up having to ship it back but lo and behold they offer a prepaid service so I could simply order one and send the old one back for credit. If I was needy I could have also had them overnight one, naturally at my expense. Now that is service!
Putting It in Perspective
While the DV-983 may not be as refined and detailed as the Toshiba HD-A35, that is not its strong suit. The key to this player is how it handles all the other stuff on your disc besides the movie; special features, TV shows, anime and letterboxed titles. In essence OPPO is delivering all the capabilities of an external scaler for only $170 more than their DV-981HD and about $600-400 less than an external scaler. While not quite as refined as a $1000 plus external scaler, it provides a quality solution for DVD collectors who want that kind of capability for all the material they own and don't seek the ultimate in performance along with the ultimate performance price. Based on the viewing environments and habits of most folks, the refining difference won't be seen anyway and the DV-983H can easily be perceived as $399 worth of videophile gold! With this capability the DV-983H fills a niche that very few players (if any) can touch regardless of price.
For general everyday audio performance, using an HDMI equipped receiver accepting linear PCM or analog multichannel inputs you have access to thousands of HD audio titles. If you are an audiophile though you can do far better and this is not the right product for such a demanding application.
With Blu-ray players hitting the market that can also play your DVDs, do you really need yet another box, remote and available connection to deal with? If you want the external scaling "I can handle it all" DV-983H solution then the only answer is yes.
If the movie is your only concern, then a Blu-ray player is worthy of your attention. In my opinion, OPPO needs to get involved with the Blu-ray format or they will be left with great SD DVD players that fulfill only half a need. OPPO has been working on the BDP-83 using the same Anchor Bay video processing provided here for DVD along with Blu-ray plus DVD Audio and SACD support listed as "Coming Soon" on their site.
OPPO has given other far better-known manufacturers a great deal of competition with their past players and the DV-983H ups the ante significantly, but it is a niche player. If all you care about is the main feature, the DV-981HD performs just as well. If you are picking nits you can find a single hair improvement and save yourself $170 or even spend that difference for a Blu-ray player instead. If you want it all with every bit of content on your shiny DVD discs then the DV-983H is the bargain player of the year that will provide videophile nirvana for every single minute of that content. Along with that you get multi-channel digital support or 8 decent analog outputs for SACD and DVD Audio. This product comes highly recommended for the DVD collector and their vast library along with the variety of mastering that naturally comes with that!
Stay tuned tomorrow for the remainder of this review where we put the OPPO DV-983H "On the Test Bench".
Posted by Richard Fisher, January 7, 2009 3:15 PM
About Richard FisherRichard Fisher is the President of Mastertech Repair Corporation, serving north east Atlanta, Georgia, and has been servicing, calibrating and reviewing audio video products since 1981. Tech Services USA, a division of Mastertech, creates sites, communities and libraries for consumers and professionals to share their technology knowledge and learn from each other. These include The ISF Forum and HD Library. HDTV Magazine exclusively publishes HD Library and Forum for Tech Services USA.
Richard is ISF and HAA certified providing calibration and A/V reproduction engineering services. Richard is a technical consultant and also provides performance ISF and HAA home theater systems and calibration via Custom HT. Mastertech Repair Corporation is a factory authorized service center for Hitachi, Mitsubishi and Toshiba and a member of the National Electronics Servicing Dealers Association, NESDA, and the Georgia Electronics Servicing Dealers Association, GESDA.