With the prices of 4K (a.k.a. UHD) televisions continuing to fall, more and more consumers are upgrading to the higher resolution technology. But many of you (us included) still have 1080p Blu-ray players connected to our new 4K displays. Sure, these new TVs do a good job at upconverting 1080p content, but nothing beats native content at full bandwidth!
The UHD Blu-ray format addresses the desire for native 4K content, and UHD Blu-ray players have been on the market for a little more than a year. Starting at around $300 and including options such as the Xbox One S, consumers are finally starting to see a choice when it comes to disc-based UHD movies at home. But despite these options, many of us have decided to wait for the popular Oppo brand to enter the market. Now, that wait is over, with the recent launch of the Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD/Blu-ray player for $549.
While priced higher than some of the competition, Oppo packs in quite a lot of functionality for that $549:
- Audio and Video Processing that has made Oppo a staple among those who are particular about their entertainment. Oppo has designed a custom quad-core processor for the video processing and they use a 32 bit 8 channel DAC from AKM to support audiophile grade audio.
- Fast Disc Loading using an optimized laser mechanism.
- HDR/Dolby Vision, the UDP203 supports the HDR10 format and will support Dolby Vision via a firmware upgrade.
- Upscaling is what put Oppo on the map in the early days of HDTV. Their new play takes that to a new level with the ability to upscale your Blu-ray discs to 4K.
- For the audiophile there is support for lossless audio
- All the latest surround formats are supported
- 7.1 Analog Output
- Integration with IR, RS-232, third party IP Control system, and HDMI CEC commands. The player also supports Trigger In and Out, so it can automatically turn on and off other devices connected to it for the ultimate convenience.
Setting up our Oppo UDP-203 was easy, and on par with the setup process for other common A/V equipment. We pulled out our old Oppo Blu-ray player and put this one in it’s place. We did have to swap out all but the Ethernet cable. The HDMI cable only needs to be swapped out if it’s not certified as high speed. Since Oppo includes one in the box we just used the one that came with the player. Because our receiver is HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 certified we connected the UDP-203 directly to it, as it will be able to pass through the 4K signal in all of its full resolution glory. But if you have a situation where you don’t have a receiver that supports the latest standards, you can use the HDMI 1.4 output on the Oppo to send your audio to the receiver, while the second HDMI 2.0 output will send the 4K video signal directly to your TV. This is one of those consumer headaches common with modern copy protection, but it at least provides an option for users to enjoy 4K content without needing to buy a new receiver.
Oppo UDP203 —-> Yamaha RX-850A —> Vizio 70 inch P-Series UHD TV
Oppo UDP203 —> LG 65UH6150
The Vizio was used for testing HDR content on TVs that don’t support HDR and the LG was used for the full experience.
After everything was connected we updated the firmware which took about 20 minutes. After that we were on our way. The menus are very basic but functional. There are menus for Music, Photos, Movies, Network, Setup, and Favorites. The only menu we explored however is the network. We were somewhat surprised to see our Plex Server show up. It was a crude implementation via DLNA but all our content was there, even if playback and navigation were a bit choppy. The main purpose of our review, of course, is UHD Blu-ray, so we grabbed some test discs and pushed forward.
The Oppo allows you to tweak some video parameters. For our review we did not touch any of them. In fact the TVs were also left in their respective movie/cinema modes, as we felt that this is how most people watch their TVs. If you have a professional calibrate your TVs you can likely expect even better results than what we experienced.
Our evaluation was conducted with three UHD Blu-ray movies: The Magnificent 7, Independence Day Resurgence, and Keeping Up With The Joneses. By the way, buy the UHD version of any movies you plan on watching in the future even if you don’t have a UHD player since almost all of them include the 1080p Blu-ray disc in the package as well.
First up, we wanted to set a baseline by watching some 1080p Blu-rays upconverted through the Oppo UDP-203. Starting with the Vizio, we went back in our vault and pulled out Black Hawk Down. We were really looking at the night scenes and in particular the scene looking through the night scope. In these cases we were looking at how much detail was present. There would be no way to compare it against an HDR version but we were surprised to realize that the film did indeed look better upconverted to 4K via the Oppo than at native 1080p. The black levels were deep but not so deep that you couldn’t see detail. You could easily make out details in people’s faces and see the sweat and grime from a day of fighting. The night vision shot had clarity and a crispness that seemed to be enhanced by the player. When examined up close we could not see any artifacts like in the old days of upconverting SD to HD.
Next, we moved on to a true UHD film and loaded up The Magnificent 7. For this movie the UDP-203 had to go from HDR to SDR on the Vizio. What we saw was very impressive. The movie was sharp and detailed. Colors were natural and warm. With that said, we didn’t find the improvement over the 1080p Blu-ray really compelling. We felt the same about Independence Day and Keeping Up With The Joneses.
The audio, however, sounded like it was at another level for all three films. Whether it was Dolby or DTS, the audio made the movie. We did experience a few lipsync issues while watching, however, but that seems to be a bug with the Vizio’s video processor. Pausing and resuming the movie seems to fix the issue. The LG has a newer processor and did not have this issue.
The real test was going to be with a TV that supports HDR. For that, we switched over to the LG 65UH6150. For these tests, we connected the Oppo UDP-203 directly to the TV, without a receiver in between. This was purely the result of the equipment, or lack thereof, on hand, and shouldn’t matter as long as you’re using a modern receiver with support for 4K and HDR.
The first film we looked at in HDR was Keeping Up With The Joneses. Other than the noticeable improvement in detail there wasn’t much difference between the film in HDR on the LG and the film in non-HDR on the Vizio. There were scenes where we could notice more realistic color and shadow details, but the disc and film simply weren’t good showcases of the HDR experience.
Next up was Independence Day Resurgence and, unfortunately, this was another disc that didn’t meet our expectations. There are a lot of dark scenes in this film and HDR should have made a bigger difference. The shadow detail really didn’t look better than the standard 1080p Blu-ray, let alone the non-HDR 4K experience.
Finally, we took a look at The Magnificent 7. We had high expectations for this film, as it looked really good on a non-HDR 4K TV. Thankfully, the film, LG TV, and Oppo UDP-203 did not disappoint! The detail and color were so lifelike it felt as though we were transported to the wild west. We found ourselves watching the detail at times and not the movie. It truly felt like being introduced to HDTV for the first time. Skin tones were the most natural we have ever seen. The beard/stubble on Chris Pratt’s face was so detailed we felt that he looked almost too groomed for the old west. The detail in the dark scenes were more pronounced than on the Vizio. In fact the blacks seemed almost plasma like. The war paint on Red Harvest’s face looked so good, again, it was almost too good! There were no visible artifacts that we could see even when we got up very close to the screen. The UDP-203 produced a spectacular image and really served as a good example of just why you should want to upgrade your home theater to the latest technologies.
Odds and Ends
- Load times for the Oppo UDP-203 are very good (nothing like the long waits common with the first Blu-ray players!). In general we were up on screen in less that 15 seconds.
- The menus are simple and easy to navigate but, quite honestly, you won’t be in them very much.
- The remote has a ton of buttons. Most you will never use. If you have a Harmony or other remote you can reduce it to the essentials.
- The Oppo UDP-203 currently supports the HDR10 format. This is currently the most common HDR format for UHD Blu-ray discs, although the competing Dolby Vision format is gaining traction. Oppo promises that a firmware upgrade to add Dolby Vision support is slated for the early part of this year. To us that mean by tax day. Let’s see if Oppo agrees.
- For the audiophiles out there the UDP-203 can pretty much handle any file you throw at it. Multi-channel DSD64/128, as well as 192kHz/24-bit PCM in all the popular formats are supported. Oppo has always excelled when it comes to audio quality, and the UDP-203 is no exception.
- Like many of Oppo’s previous products, the UDP -203 includes a dedicated HDMI Input, allowing you to connect external sources, such as a game console or cable box, which can then take advantage of the player’s high quality video and audio processing capabilities.
If you have upgraded your HDTV to a UHD set that supports HDR you would be committing a crime if you didn’t upgrade your Blu-ray player as well. There are a few options out there and while the Oppo costs a little more you get so much more. The best audio playback support of any UHD player on the market today, coupled with ability upconvert content to 4K video streamed over your local network or played through the USB and HDMI inputs makes the UDP-203 the most capable UHD player available at any price. Support for Dolby Vision via an upcoming firmware upgrade makes this player virtually future proof.
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