Oppo recently launched an Ultra HD Blu-ray player. The Oppo UDP-203 promises a lot of good on paper and looking at the reputation of the company, this player could well win the number one position from Panasonic. In this review we look at the Oppo UDP-203.
Oppo UDP-203 – specifications
The Oppo UDP-203 is an all-round premium Ultra HD Blu-ray player that can handle almost all your discs. The player swallows UHD Blu-ray, (3D) Blu-ray, DVD, DVD-Audio, SACD, CD and AVCHD (2D & 3D) discs.
The device obviously supports Ultra HD Blu-ray discs with high dynamic range (HDR) and a wide range of colors . But, HDR10 is not only supported in the field of HDR. Dolby Vision will also be added in early 2017 via a firmware update. At the time of writing, however, that update is not yet available. Dolby Vision is the Dolby HDR standard that uses 12-bit colors and dynamic metadata. An update that has already been rolled out – and Oppo rolls out regular updates – ensures that HDR10 is supported in MKV format.
Support for high resolution audio is of course also present. The player supports AKM 8-channel 32-bit DAC PCM, AIFF, ALAC, FLAC and WAV audio up to 384kHz / 32-bit, multi-channel DSD64 / 128 and even two-channel DSD256. Furthermore, the Oppo UDP-203 is equipped with two HDMI outputs (HDMI 1.4 for audio and HDMI 2.0 for video), two USB 3.0 ports on the back, a USB 2.0 port in front, 7.1-channel analog outputs, two digital connections, one lan port, built-in dual-band Wi-Fi with DLNA support, an aluminum front panel and a metal chassis. Striking is the HDMI input, something that we have not previously reviewed on an Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
Oppo UDP-203 – features
As you can see, the Oppo UDP-203 is a very richly equipped player. This model can play virtually all your discs and offers connection options for your older and newer equipment. Add support for the latest (and best) techniques and standards, and on paper we have the most complete model we have seen to date.
However, for those looking for apps, multiroom and streaming services, this is not the most interesting product. Oppo focuses with this player on the best audio and video experience, not on smart functions and possibilities to wirelessly get the audio to for example a speaker or headphones. Also YouTube and Netflix are not present. With the UDP-203 you leave this to your media player, your receiver or your TV. Of course, thanks to WiFi (or LAN) and DLNA it is possible to access your own NAS or PC so that you can stream media to the player.
Oppo UDP-203 – design
You might expect a somewhat strong and dominant device, looking at earlier players from Oppo, but the UDP-203 is actually a relatively slim and simple yet sleek Ultra HD Blu-ray player. It is slightly deeper than the Panasonic DMP-UB900 and about as high. The device is equipped with a sturdy metal chassis (and you can feel that too) with a brushed aluminum front panel, small and sleek buttons and a simple and dimmable display.
The silver colored legs ensure that the player is stable and that vibrations are minimized, and the disc tray feels solid and smoothly gliding. All in all, the player offers a high quality of construction. No bells and whistles but just a sleek-looking device for your home cinema setup.
Oppo UDP-203 – ease of use
In terms of ease of use, we first look at the included remote control. This is rather large and somewhat old-fashioned looking but does what he has to do. All important buttons are present, but due to the large quantity the accessory may seem a bit tricky to use. The buttons have a good travel, which on the one hand is nice but on the other hand you give that somewhat old-fashioned feeling again. A big plus is the lighting for the buttons that is activated when you pick up the remote control. The player reacts quickly to signals from the remote, even from some less logical angles, and because of the format you will not lose the remote quickly.
The player also comes with an on-screen display that gives you access to the settings and main functions. The interface is very simple and sleek, again without bells (striking icons) and bubbles (animations). From the main menu you have direct access to the inserted disk, connected USB media, linked servers, the settings of the player and set favorites. The interface is easy to navigate and also browsing / searching through, among other things, your USB media and NAS is going fast.
The advantage of the lack of smart functions and apps is that the player gets a lot faster. You notice this not only when you browse through menus or search through media, but also when you load a disc. On average, you can start working with the film within 30 seconds of entering a disc. In addition, the player is quite quiet, especially when compared to the Panasonic DMP-UB900. No noticeable humming fans in this case.
And then there is that extra HDMI input. You can connect to what you want, for example a media player or a Chromecast. This is particularly useful when your receiver or TV does not have enough HDMI inputs. At the moment, however, this HDMI input does not have HDR support, which is a shame as apps like Netflix and YouTube also offer content in HDR.
It must be said that during the test period we have suffered twice from a hitch. During a movie, the player did not know it and the image was frozen. After a second or 10 the film continued. This also occurred once during the skipping of scenes. It seems to be a bug that can be solved through a firmware update.
Oppo UDP-203 – picture quality
The most important part of this review is of course the image quality. The Oppo UDP-203 has everything to match the DMP-UB900, or even to surpass it, but does it do that? You get with this player in any case a device in the house where you as a ‘tweaker’ happy. Oppo makes it possible to adapt, fine-tune and switch everything on and off almost everything. There is even an HDR off / on button on the remote control and you can specify the guideline for luminance. But, the beauty is that without adjusting a setting you are already provided with an almost perfect image. So you do not have to play with it.
Just to fall home with the door; the Oppo UDP-203 goes just that little bit further than the Panasonic DMP-UB900, on almost every level. Yes, we were already impressed by the Panasonic player, but it is apparently even better. For this review we have watched several films on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, including The Revenant, Life or Pi, Everest The Martian and the 5th Wave. In fact, the conclusion was the same for all three films; the UDP-203 performs better especially when we look at the sharpness, motion, subtle details and smooth transitions between shades of color.
It’s the little things that make the difference, like the rich texture with natural skin tones and shadows of the tired and worn-out face of Leonardo di Caprio, the rapidly changing shadows in the woods that are full of subtle details, the fur of the tiger whose hairs are sharp and individually distinguishable and the rich colors in the many impressive scenes of Life of Pi. These are all examples of a little more suppleness, with clean lines and subtle details that add a bit more life and depth to the image. Even when the action comes into play, for example at The 5th Wave, the player is very well positioned. Details are retained, hardly any sharpness is lost and it is and remains just a tight and dynamic picture. It is even noticeable that fast pan movements are better absorbed; tighter and smoother.
The color reproduction is also extremely high. Especially in Life or Pi, where bright and striking colors are central, nothing is exaggerated or too bright. It is impressively well balanced, with colors still splashing from the screen and smooth transitions between different shades. This was particularly visible in the horizon, with the setting sun and the clear blue water. Also at The Martian the orange surface of Mars is never exaggerated, just natural and realistic. The player does not seem to have any trouble with a picture full of dynamics, a large color pallet and many subtle details. This makes for a more realistic representation, where you actually want to get involved.
And then we have not even mentioned HDR. The Dolby Vision update is not in yet, so we’ve looked at Life of Pi and Everest in HDR10. Those are surely the two films that have left us with the best impression with HDR. Here too it can be said immediately; the HDR view is impressive. For example, at Everest we see a bright orange setting sun in the background, in which subtle contours of the mountains can still be seen on the horizon. And that while the dark parts of the foreground are a combination of deep black and detailed shadows. Also in Life of Pi we see a bright moon beam over a blue-black sea, with the moon shining naturally into the room while we continue to see the subtle dark details in the sea. The clear parts look just a bit tighter and more intense than with the DMP-UB900, while deep black just seems a bit deeper and subtle details in shadows are slightly more visible.
It is mainly the combination of the elements (Ultra HD, HDR and a larger color range) that brings the image to life, brings it to life more than an HD Blu-ray source. Only when you have a screen that supports everything you get a picture that is more dynamic, lively and natural. The gradient of colors is tighter, colors are much more intense and natural, subtle details come just a bit more forward and the larger dynamic range creates an image that splashes from your screen. The UDP-203 combines all these standards with excellent techniques to give a very fine, convincing and above all natural and impressive picture.
But not everyone has a large collection of Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and therefore a top model like this should also be able to handle HD Blu-ray discs. It should come as no surprise that the UDP-203 here also puts its best foot forward and actually hardly has any problems with lower resolutions. Yes, the larger color range is lacking in the basis, just like HDR and the Ultra HD resolution, but the device still manages to make a sharp, lively and convincing picture of it. You can choose to convert SDR to HDR but that is and remains in our view something unnatural and rarely error-free. This player does not like to exaggerate and therefore will not think of anything that is not there, and that is good for the image. The difference with the DMP-UB900 is rather small when content is upscaled, or is not actually visible. Both players know with a minimal amount of noise and artefacts to show a reasonably clean and tight picture, which obviously also details more sharp and sharp eyes. The color balance remains high and the motion handling is relatively smooth.
Since the launch of the UDP-203, the support for Dolby Vision has already been discussed . This HDR format was developed by Dolby and supports 12-bit colors where HDR10 supports 10-bit color. In addition, Dolby Vision comes with dynamic metadata that optimizes image quality for each scene. With HDR10, there is currently one HDR setting for the entire movie. The official update with which Dolby Vision is added will take some time. That in itself is not a disaster because there are hardly any Ultra HD Blu-ray discs with Dolby Vision for sale. Unfortunately, it is not possible to play HDR content via the HDMI input.
Oppo UDP-203 – audio quality
In the field of audio quality, there is less difference between the UDP-203 and DMP-UB900. In music, we even prefer the Panasonic. When watching movies and listening to the audio track (in our case, Dolby Atmos) both players perform the same. Surround effects are accurately placed in the room so you feel like you are in the action and the sound image is sufficiently wide with many convincing details. Dialogues are clear and penetrating, full of emotion, and the soundtrack is reproduced with convincing dynamics and suppleness. The player delivers a rich audio performance with sufficient power.
When we listen to music (The Beatles in high resolution) we prefer the sound that the player from Panasonic produces. Although it is minimal to hear that the DMP-UB900 sounds a bit more dynamic, richer and freer. The music is just a bit more alive. This does not alter the fact that the UDP-203 is able to produce a broad and lively sound field, with rich details and a natural sound. It is certainly one of the better players in terms of audio playback. It must also be said that the UDP-203 offers support for SACDs and DVD-Audio, the DMP-UB900 does not.
Oppo UDP-203 – conclusion
If we take everything together we have to conclude that the Oppo UDP-203 is currently the best Ultra HD Blu-ray player, at least in terms of possibilities and image quality. The player is not perfect because the remote feels old-fashioned, there are no streaming apps or techniques on board (purists might be a plus) and the HDMI input does not support HDR, but the most important thing is still the excellent image quality . Combined with the excellent build quality, all necessary connections, the wide support of files and discs, and the good audio reproduction makes it a premium all-rounder. Oh, and Dolby Vision will soon be added to that. However, the price also counts and with 849 euros the UDP-203 is far from cheap. It is also the most expensive Ultra HD Blu-ray player you can buy at the time of writing. However, the real home cinema enthusiasts can not ignore it; If you want the best image quality on your high-end TV, then the UDP203 is the best choice. If you also want the best of the best in audio, then it might be wise to wait for the UDP-205.