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Everyone thought the arrival of high-definition disc formats and HDTVs would signal the end for DVD, but thanks to the rising quality of upscaling DVD players it hasn't quite turned out that way. The key is price; most budget DVD upscalers allow people to squeeze the best-possible picture quality from their existing movie collections without paying the high asking price of a Blu-ray player, which for many is reason enough to put true hi-def on the back burner.
This naturally makes perfect financial sense, but what's harder to understand is why anyone would be willing to buy a DVD player that costs the same as, if not more than, a Blu-ray player, when Blu-ray decks do a pretty good job of upscaling DVDs themselves - as well as delivering true 1080p, of course. The answer lies in those two words, ‘pretty good' - we're yet to see a hi-def player that upscales DVDs with quite the same panache as, say, the Denon DVD-1940 or the Pioneer DV-LX50, and therein lies the point. If you want the best DVD pictures it's always best to leave it to a machine whose sole purpose is to handle DVDs, rather than one that does it as a nifty sideline.
That's where the DV-983H from US brand OPPO comes in. At over £300 it's more expensive than your average DVD player, but comes equipped with an astounding array of internal components designed to squeeze the very best performance out of a DVD, as well as boasting an awe-inspiring feature list. We've been highly impressed by OPPO's previous two players (the DV-980H and DV-981HD) but on paper it looks like this flagship model could blow them both out of the water. Let's find out…
What will excite serious home cinema fans the most is the inclusion of Anchor Bay's latest Video Reference Series (VRS) technology, courtesy of an ABT102 chipset that handles de-interlacing and progressive cadence detection and an ABT1018 chip that primarily handles video scaling. These superior chipsets should take any type of video in their stride and make sure the picture is free from scaling and deinterlacing artefacts.
Other features afforded by the ABT1018 chip include frame rate conversion, which converts from PAL to NTSC without any loss of resolution, plus aspect ratio control and video zooming, which enable you to adapt the source material to fill the screen or crop black borders.
On the outside, the deck's design isn't a radical departure from the previous two models, boasting the same brushed black fascia, meaty build quality and ultra slim dimensions. There are a couple of differences - the menu direction pad has been jettisoned and the USB 2.0 port (more on that later) has been moved from the front to the rear. But in general it's a classy machine that looks and feels exactly as it should for the money.