The Little Upconverter That Can!
Great picture quality and connectivity.
Flimsy build quality.
The Bottom Line:
One of AV's great hidden bargains a budget "must-buy"!
Oppo's OPDV971H caused quite a stir in the world of DVD playback when it came to the public's attention by winning a "Best of 2005" award from Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity. Of greatest surprise was the unit's low, low price. $199.00 was not a lot of cash for a player offering this level of performance and features.
To start, the player features a DVI output offering picture upscaling from the DVD standard of 480 interlaced lines of resolution to 480p, 540P, 576p, 720p and 1080i. In case you don't know, upscaling seeks to better match a DVD player's picture output to a TV monitor's native resolution (BTW 576p is the highest resolution available to European PAL spec. standard definition TVs).
The claim is that an upscaled picture can rival true High-Definition in terms of clarity and overall picture quality. Does it? Well no, not really but given the limits of what's actually on a DVD disc, a good upscaled image can still look pretty spectacular.
So, what's in the box? Well perhaps it would be fairer to ask "what isn't in the box?"
The device (which can only be ordered online) comes packaged with nearly every cable you'll need to exploit the unit's full capabilities, including DVI to DVI and DVI to HDMI digital video cables. These could easily set you back a minimum of $50 dollars if purchased separately which makes this package even more of a stunning bargain. There's also a workman-like remote and some throwaway audio/video cables too. As a nice touch the unit comes wrapped in a quasi-velvet envelope inside the packing carton.
The back of the unit is connection heaven. In addition to the DVI output the unit also sports component video out, S-Video and composite video. Audio is delivered either via left/right analog connectors, the standard optical and coaxial digital connectors or amazingly for a unit of this price full, pre-decoded, analog 5.1 channel outputs. These are primarily intended to support DVD-Audio playback (again a major plus point on a unit of this price) but can also be used to output Dolby Digital and DTS signals to a suitably equipped receiver. I expect most people will use the digital audio connections for this purpose.
In order to utilize the unit's full capabilities you will need to connect the unit to a Hi-Def capable monitor using one of the aforementioned digital video cables.
My first test was a comparison to the much more expensive Denon 2910 universal, upscaling player I have in my living room. Using the same connections and with the Oppo's video output set to 1080i feeding a, calibrated, Toshiba CRT rear-projection display gave stupendous results. Colors were bright and vibrant, the image was rock stable and picture detail was fantastic even in difficult dark scenes. There was a distinct lack of any sort of jaggedness within the image. Was the picture, as many have claimed, better than units costing several times the price? Not exactly but I could hardly detect any difference between the Oppo and the $645.00 Denon I usually use.
I also hooked up the 5.1 audio output and demoed a DVD-Audio disc. The result was fine and the unit tracked the disc without problem but it has to be said that, in this instance, the Denon's sound was vastly superior (and thank goodness for that!).
Next test was to hook the Oppo up in its intended home in my bedroom system, this time feeding a Sony 23" KLV LCD monitor. Once again results were encouraging. With the upscaling matched to the Sony's preferred 720p resolution I saw an amazing picture quality. Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles was just that. So sharp and three-dimensional was the image you felt you could walk through the screen.
The Oppo can play DIVX files downloaded onto DVD from the internet . Although this is becoming a common feature on DVD players now, none of the other players I owned at the time of purchase could do this. As former Brits we like to occasionally download UK TV shows online and the DIVX feature allows us to watch them on a proper TV instead of our computer monitor.
In this regard it's also quite easy to "hack" the Oppo to be able to play discs from different regions throughout the world. Multi-region players seem to be common pretty much everywhere except the US so this might be a feature you'll enjoy. Also my dealings with Oppo product support have been pleasant and very helpful. They really are doing their best at Oppo and, in my opinion, deserve every success.
So what's the catch? Um!!! The remote's a bit of a brick (but it can control audio volume from the player which is rare) also the Oppo is a bit flimsy in build quality. For instance the disc tray is made from ultra-thin plastic which could snap under the slightest force so maybe not the best choice if you have toddlers around the house.
I'm scratching my head to say something bad about the Oppo, at this price it would be madness NOT to buy one!
RELIABILITY UPDATE 6TH OCT. 07: Daily intensive use, no problems reported.