Product Review: OPPO BDP-83 Blu-Ray Disc Player (August 2009)

Considering how well their upscaling red laser DVD players work, it’s amazing more people don’t know about OPPO Digital. But then again, you can’t just walk into Best Buy or Wal-Mart and pick one up off a shelf.

No, OPPO prefers to conduct its sales mostly through the Internet, with retail giant Amazon.com as good a place to find them as anywhere. And that will hold true with the BDP-83, OPPO’s first foray into BD-land.

But don’t kid yourself. This is no bargain basement BD player, like the Magnavox models Wal-Mart had on sale last holiday season. Au contraire! The BDP-83 has more in common with Pioneer’s top-of-the-line BDP-09FD, reviewed here.

Figure 1. OPPO’s BDP-83 is a sharp-looking player for the money – and it’s no lightweight with performance, either.

OUT OF THE BOX

This player has high quality written all over it, from the brushed metal front panel to the solid housing that is actually more substantial than other name-brand Blu-ray players I’ve tested. It’s not particularly light at 11.2 pounds, but it does feel solid and stable.

That same front panel has a very subtle design, with small, “stealth” buttons for power and drawer open/close buttons. A mouse disk about the size of a half-dollar provides navigation and is located to the right of the panel. At the far right, you’ll find a covered USB 2.0 slot for playback of music and movie files and JPEG still images. A fluorescent display sits below the disc drawer and is very easy to read. It can also be dimmed in a projection theater.

The rear panel connections are sufficient for any home theater system. One HDMI 1.3 output is provided for connection to an AV receiver or HDTV set, and there’s also an analog component (YPbPr) output via RCA jacks.

Note that the only way to get upscaled video from regular DVDs will usually be through the HDMI connection – depending on the level of copy protection encoded on the DVD, you may only see 480i or 480p playback through the component video ports.

There are several ways to get audio out of the player. The first is through the HDMI connection, which is the only direct digital interface for high-resolution audio formats, including 7.1 channel PCM, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD.  The Toslink and coaxial SPDIF connections can handle Dolby Digital 5.1 formats, while 7.1 and 5.1 direct analog connections to appropriate receivers are handled by a separate bank of eight RCA jacks on the left rear panel.

Other connections include a second USB 2.0 jack for external audio, video, and image files, IR loop-through ports for controlling other compatible AV devices through the player, and a RJ45 Ethernet jack for Internet connections, required to enable and use the BD-Live function. (You can also use a wireless bridge with this port.) There’s also a RS232C jack option for an additional $89, for remote control in an integrated home theater system,

Figure 2. Here’s a look at the rear panel connections. Note the second USB 2.0 input (the other is on the front panel).

REMOTE AND MENUS

The supplied remote is very different from older OPPO designs. In fact, it also resembles more of a Pioneer product in size and shape. All of the buttons are large and backlit, making operation in a darkened room a snap – altogether, much more user-friendly and substantial (there’s that word again!).

OPPO has built quite a few neat tricks into this player. Of course, it supports 1080p/24 playback, and that’s the recommended mode when connecting to the latest generation of flat panel LCD and plasma HDTVs, as well as front projectors. You can easily toggle the 24p output from the player’s menu. This mode may also be activated automatically during the HDMI “handshake” between the BDP-83 and your display.

Now, this is cool: You can switch output resolutions on the fly while a disc is still playing, instead of having to stop the disc and make the change. It works very quickly and you get a visual confirmation of the selected resolution on the front panel display. Feeding an external video processor/seamless switcher? Select the player’s Source Direct mode, and it will send raw, unprocessed video from the disc directly to the HDMI output connector.

If you elect to process video onboard, you’re not giving up anything. The BDP-83 uses Anchor Bay’s VRS technology for deinterlacing, 3:2 and other cadence correction, and multi-axis motion interpolation. This is the same chipset used in the DVDO Edge processor, and it works exceptionally well.

Other menu options include aspect ratio settings (4:3 letterbox and pan/scan, plus 16:9 wide and auto) and image zoom modes, of which there are numerous options. Some of the more useful options include the correct vertical stretch for showing 2.35:1 movies on 2.35 screens, and several letterbox zoom modes to handle older DVDs that do not use anamorphic expansion to show widescreen movies.

The BDP-83 supports other legacy audio formats like conventional CDs, DVD Audio, and SACD. Using the Pure Audio menu or remote function, video playback is disabled through the HDMI output (only video black is transmitted) to your AV receiver. Ostensibly, this function is used to minimize any crosstalk between digital audio and video.

Going deeper into the menu, you can play back red laser DVDs at a 24p frame rate with 1080p upconversion. (This is not available through the analog HD outputs.) Your TV or projector must support native 24-frame playback for this to work correctly, and the choice of whether to output 24p or not can be left up to the Auto setting, plus a successful HDMI handshake with your display.

The VRS processor adds multiple levels of choices, including five different deinterlacing modes (Auto, Film, Video, 2:2 Even Field, and 2:2 Odd Field), two chroma upsampling error correction modes, four different color space setup modes (RGB Video, RGB PC, YCbCr 4:2:2, and YCbCr 4:4:4), and HDMI Deep Color modes (30-bit and 36-bit). An audio delay mode (lip sync correction) is also included.

The audio menu is also deep. For the initial setup, you’ll choose between linear pulse-code modulation (LPCM) and Bitstream modes, the first being used when the HDTV or AV receiver is unable to handle advanced Dolby and DTS formats. For compatible receivers, select Bitstream mode and let the receiver do the heavy lifting. You can, of course, go straight from the rear panel analog audio connections, if need be.

There are numerous digital audio output configurations that are detailed in the owner’s manual, so I won’t go into them here. Suffice it to say that the BDP-83 will support whatever standard or advanced multichannel audio formats you’re likely to encounter. Just make sure your AV receiver is as up to date!

IN OPERATION

In my review of the Pioneer BDP-09FD, I mentioned the precise, smooth operation of the disc tray and drive motor. While the BDP-83 doesn’t quite have that “Swiss watch” feel, it’s a lot closer to the Pioneer than to competing players from Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, and LG.

OPPO makes a big deal of the fast load and play times on the BDP-83. I measured them with a stopwatch, and it took just 11 seconds from powering up until the OPPO logo appeared, and I was prompted to load a disc. 12 seconds after I loaded a disc, the first video image or menu on that disc appeared. That’s REAL fast! Of course, disc loading times also depend on whether the studio added BD-Live content that will boot up at the same time, or needs to be accessed separately.

I ran the BDP-83 through my Denon AVR-788 receiver and used it to watch a 5.1 channel mix from Ice Worlds from the BBC’s Planet Earth BD collection (buy this one, it’s a keeper!). This series features one of the better DD 5.1 channel mixes around, particularly the dubbed-in and location sounds of nature. It’s immersive, to say the least.

The audio playback was smooth with no “hits” or dropouts and had plenty of dynamic range. The 1080p video, which went through my Mitsubishi HC6000 3LCD projector, had excellent contrast, color, and detail – although with a VRS processor on one end and a HQV Reon on the other, it would be hard to screw things up.

Just for kicks, I took the BDP-83 upstairs to my office and connected it to a Westinghouse Digital L2410NM WUXGA (1920×1200) LCD computer monitor, which has zero video processing. Here’s where you can really see the VRS chipset shine, spinning up the Realta Blu-ray test patterns perfectly and giving me gorgeous 1080p playback of Iron Man (in thrilling two-channel stereo, of course).

CONCLUSIONS

For $500, this is one sturdy, precision Blu-ray player. If you want to go high-end, it would be hard to justify paying a lot more for what the BDP-83 already delivers. As OPPO has demonstrated more than once in the past, you usually do as well (if not better) with their upscaling red laser DVD models, and it looks like OPPO’s unique combination of engineering and value has successfully migrated to Blu-ray platform. Grab one for yourself!

OPPO Digital BDP-83
Blu-ray Disc Player

MSRP: $499.00

 

Specifications:

Compatible disc types: BD-Video, DVD-Video, AVCHD, DVD-Audio, SACD, CD, HDCD, Kodak Picture CD, CD-R/RW, DVD±R/RW, DVD±R DL, BD-R/RE

BD Profile: BD-ROM Version 2, Profile 2 (also compatible with Profile 1, Version 1.0 and 1.1)

Internal Storage: 1GB (Actual available storage varies due to system usage)
Analog audio output: Stereo, 5.1ch, 7.1ch (RCA)
Digital audio output: Coaxial, Optical, HDMI 1.3
Analog video output: Composite, Component (480i/p only)
Digital video output: HDMI (NTSC 480p/720p/1080i/1080p, PAL 576p/720p/1080i/1080p)
Other interfaces: 2x USB 2.0, 2x IR (1/8” Mini plug)

Optional interfaces: RS232C

LAN Interface: RJ45-type jack
Dimensions: 16.9” W x 13.3” D x 3” H

Weight: 11.2 lbs.
BD firmware updates: Through Internet connection

OPPO Digital, Inc.
2629 Terminal Blvd. Suite B
Mountain View, CA 94043
(650) 961-1118
www.oppodigital.com