- Review Price: £149.00
US company OPPO continues its assault on the UK market with another DVD player that comes equipped with a mind-blowing array of features. And despite boasting a superior feature set to the sensational DV-981HD it actually costs less, which could make it one of the DVD player bargains of the century. There are still no UK distributors but you can buy one at the company’s European online shop at OppoShop either directly or via Amazon.
But it’s not only the feature list that looks great – the actual unit does too. OPPO has squeezed all the electronics into a skinny box that measures just 49mm high, which make it unobtrusive and easy to slip under your TV. It’s fairly light but crafted from sturdy materials, and the sparse fascia gives off a cool minimal air, with a circular silver control pad adding a dash of glitz. Also on the front is a USB 2.0 port (unusually hidden behind a rubber cover), which opens up the possibility of viewing media files from external drives and devices.
OPPO has also packed the rear panel full of connections and offers one or two surprises, the most important of which is the HDMI output. This is one of the few players on the market to sport an HDMI v1.2a socket (most offer 1.0 or 1.1) which makes it possible to pipe multichannel PCM and DSD (as used by SACD) to an amplifier. This socket can also output video in 1080p, 1080i and 720p, which polishes the picture for playback on hi-def TVs.
Another nice surprise is the inclusion of 7.1-channel analogue outputs, which enable you to take advantage of the deck’s on-board Dolby Digital Surround EX decoding – offering an extra surround back channel that results in a more immersive surround experience. These sockets also let you take advantage of the unit’s DVD-Audio and SACD compatibility, two more features that make this deck such a talented blighter. Rounding up the connections roster are usual suspects like component, S-video and composite video outputs, plus an RGB-capable SCART socket and optical/coaxial digital audio outputs.
The deck supports a range of other formats that earn it true universal status. Not only does it handle common formats like MP3, WMA, JPEG and all versions of DivX from DVD, CD or USB, but also plays more obscure types like XviD, .SRT, .SMI, .IDX and .SUB. Sadly it wants nothing to do with WMV files though. As for disc compatibility, it takes DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-RW and DVD+R DL in its stride, along with CD-R and CD-RW.
Also pleasing is that the deck isn’t locked into Region 2 – it plays Region 1 discs from the box, which is perhaps a side effect of its American origin. Inside the unit is a star-studded line-up of audio components supplied by OPPO’s ‘world famous high fidelity audio equipment partners’, including 192kHz/24-bit audio DACs.
A rummage in the setup menu reveals a gratifying level of flexibility when it comes to picture and sound optimisation. In the video realm, you can adjust the levels of sharpness, brightness, contrast, hue, saturation and gamma, as well as change the colour space and RGB range. As for audio, you can set the size, delay and levels for each individual channel, plus choose from seven EQ types that suit different types of music, and seven sound field modes including Bathroom, Cave and Church – all of which are convincing but ultimately useless.
There are a few other nice features that make for an enjoyable playback experience. The last position memory jumps straight back to the point where you left off after you take a disc out and reinsert it – even if you watch another disc in-between. If you want to get up close and personal with your favourite scenes, or check out whether that really is a ghost behind Ted Danson in ”Three Men And A Baby”, then the surprisingly high-quality seven stage zoom mode lets you do so. You can zip through discs at 32x normal speed, watch in slow motion, bookmark favourite scenes and manually search for specific points on the disc – all of which are DVD basics but handy nonetheless. But the most novel feature is Capture, which takes a still from the film you’re watching at the push of a button and uses it as the background splash-screen when you first boot up the player.
The DV-980H is generally user-friendly, with menus that respond snappily to remote commands and a setup menu that might look basic but is easy to follow. Some elements frustrate – you can’t enter submenus by pressing ‘right’ on the control pad – but we’re nit-picking; overall it’s fairly hassle-free. The onscreen displays are similarly rudimentary (blocky white text is so last decade) but convey the information in a clear and legible manner, which is the most important thing.
Sadly, the remote feels a little on the cheap side, sporting big spongy buttons that don’t give you a satisfying click, and they all look too similar. On the plus side the buttons glow in the dark and the zapper is ergonomically shaped.
In terms of picture quality however, the DV-980H really excels. Loading up our copy of ”Aliens” from the Alien Quadrilogy boxset, the player makes James Cameron’s sci-fi classic look slick, clean and cinematic. During the movie’s many dark scenes, the action is displayed with depth and directness, and thankfully loses none of the detail.
”Aliens`” moody visuals don’t test the deck’s talents with bright, dazzling colours, but it does reveal its prowess with more subtle tones. Sigourney Weaver’s skin looks beautifully balanced and utterly convincing, lacking the excessive red or green tinge that hinders some cheaper DVD players. And a blast of ”Finding Nemo” reveals that strongly saturated colours are faithfully reproduced with mesmerising vibrancy.
The deck’s 1080p upscaling is also highly impressive. Pictures boosted to 1080p and fed into a 1080p Toshiba set look fractionally cleaner and sharper than 576p pictures upscaled by the TV, demonstrating the benefits of upconverting the picture before it reaches the display.
Finally the player’s sound quality is very good for the money. ”The Return of the King’s” Dolby Digital EX track is dynamic and lively, with the player’s competent decoding making effective use of the extra surround information. Regular 5.1-channel soundtracks, carried over the analogue or digital outputs, also sound fantastic, while DVD-Audio and SACD material sounds every bit as sharp and detailed as we hoped it would. It isn’t quite up there with the high-end Denons and Pioneers, but in the budget-to-midrange arena the DV-980H is a shining star.
OPPO is destined for big things in the UK if it continues to make DVD players as good as this. The DV-980H’s feature list reads like an A-Z of DVD technology, boasting a host of appealing features like multiregion compatibility, HDMI v1.2 and a USB port, along with DVD-A and SACD support, wide media compatibility and even Dolby Digital Surround EX decoding. Its top-notch picture and sound performance, attractive slimline looks and solid build quality make it an even more appealing package. It needs some work in the remote control department and onscreen presentation could be jazzier, but overall this is one of the best-value DVD decks on the market right now.
Score in detail