2016 was a statement year for 4K UHD Blu-ray. Disc sales outpaced industry expectations and early adopters were showered with a handful of first-gen player options. Initially pricy and questionably incomplete, we ended the year with five official 4K UHD Blu-ray player releases (with only one – OPPO’s UDP-203 – primed to handle the coming onslaught of Dolby Vision content). Of course, reveals at CES 2017 have changed the model landscape, and the field of 4K player models is beginning to look a bit more crowded (not to mention more competent).
As last year progressed, one of the biggest questions became OPPO’s planned release date for its highly anticipated 4K player. Curiosity intensified at CEDIA 2016 as OPPO quietly revealed a prototype unit to various members of the press. Rumors on the show floor were hot and heavy, and catching a glimpse of the unit was akin to seeing Sasquatch darting through the woods. It was secretive and, quite frankly, cool.
OPPO ultimately stuck to its guns and didn’t rush its player to market. The company, you see, understands the importance of its own sterling reputation as an industry leader; damaging goodwill by taking an incomplete product to market was never an option. They did manage to officially announce the player just before the Holidays. As it sits, OPPO’s UDP-203 ($549 through oppodigital.com) is the best 4K UHD Blu-ray player money can currently buy. And true to the company’s desire to manufacture enthusiast-grade gear, the 203 is more than just a video player, it also doubles as a Hi-Res audio device.
True to Its Roots
The UDP-203 (top) looks very similar to OPPO’s older BDP-93 (bottom).
The UDP-203 is practically a mirror image of previous OPPO Blu-ray players. In fact, from a distance it’s nearly impossible to distinguish between the 203 and the company’s last several Blu-ray models. The 203’s exterior sports a center mounted tray and LCD display framed by a gorgeous black brushed aluminum faceplate. There’s also a cross configuration of operational controls for menu and playback functionality, in addition to a USB 2.0 port for video and audio file access.
The backside offers two USB 3.0 ports, eight stereo analog RCA outputs for users wanting to tap OPPO’s DAC, and one HDMI 2.0 input alongside two HDMI outputs (one for connection to a 4K capable receiver or display, and one dedicated for audio output to legacy receivers with HDMI 1.4). You’ll also find optical/coaxial outputs, a LAN connection, RS-232C for home automation, and 12V trigger input/output jacks. OPPO truly left no stone unturned, even including a rear-mounted infrared sensor to expedite the clean install of an IR cable.
The 203’s backside features eight multi-channel outs.
The exterior of the 203 is built to accept a rack mount kit, which can be purchased direct from OPPO ($79).
Out of the Box
Image taken during the 203’s unboxing.
OPPO always handles packaging right and the 203 proved to be no exception. Overall boxing and materials (right down to the cloth bag protecting the player) were all on par with what’s to be expected from a premier manufacturer. Owners will find a host of in-box extras, including a paper user manual (which is more like a book), a remote with batteries, one HDMI cable, and a power cord.
The 203’s startup screen features Hi-Res images and a simple menu bar.
The UDP-203’s menu interface is simple and organized, and boot time (from Off to On) is super-fast. The player’s startup screen (via your display or projector) features a sharp Hi-Res image of deep space with a simple menu bar displayed along the bottom of the screen. Selection features include Disc, Music, Photos, Movies, Network, Setup, and Favorites. The screen changes its Hi-Res image as you scroll through the bottom menu bar, displaying stunning images like crashing waves and the moon hovering over a mountain scape.
Of course, the player’s screen saver mode (which kicks-in after several minutes of inactivity) features the name “OPPO” bouncing from edge to edge on the screen (those of you that currently own OPPO gear know this pattern well).
The remote is a familiar beast, looking identical to remotes shipped with the BDP-103/105 series of players. That is to say: it’s hefty and loaded with lots of functional buttons. Kudos to OPPO for including button backlighting, as so many manufacturers have gone cheap and stripped this feature from current releases. This particular version of OPPO’s remote activates its backlight instantly when the remote is moved (i.e., picked up for use). Prior versions required users to press a button (which has been replaced by an HDR button that toggles the player’s HDR output mode).
Menu screens are clean and easy to navigate.
Aside from connecting various cables, the set up process included linking to my home network. The UDP-203 can connect to the internet via built-in Wi-Fi or Ethernet. For this review, I chose Wi-Fi (which proved to be a quick and painless process), giving me access to stored media and potential firmware updates. Unlike players of the past, OPPO chose not to include app functionality on the 203. That means no Netflix, YouTube, or VUDU. This is less of an omission and more of a nod to the fact that most of these services are directly accessible through SmartTVs and media sticks. However, most Blu-ray players ship with this kind of functionality included, so it is a bit curious that OPPO chose to forgo adding it as part of the package.
The remainder of the 203’s settings menu provides access to a seemingly endless parade of audio and video performance adjustments. For example, owners can set a custom Output Resolution (from auto UHD right down to 480p), tweak Color Space, alter Output Volume, and select Custom Speaker Configurations. Default settings were used for purposes of this review, and, quite frankly, it’s hard to imagine that the average HDMI-bound owner would ever need to make serious alterations within the menus. If you are tweak-prone and find yourself curious about possible adjustments, head over to OPPO and browse the user manual. You'll quickly see the possibilities are intensely deep.
As stated earlier, the UDP-203 is a full-fledged universal disc player (hence, UDP) capable of handling a wide variety of media formats. Movie lovers will appreciate its ability to handle Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, and DVD Video discs, in addition to 4K UHD Blu-ray playback. It can also play Blu-ray Bonus View and BD-Live content, BD-R/RE single-layer and dual-layer discs, Kodak Picture CDs, and DVD±R/RW content.
The player internally decodes Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio codecs, with bitstream output of the aforementioned in addition to Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS, DTS-HD Hi Resolution, Dolby Atmos, and DTS:X. There is no internal decoding for Auro-3D, however the player can output bitstream to an Auro-3D capable receiver or processor.
The 203 can playback a host of popular movie file types including MOV, MP4, and AVI. I successfully played 3GP, FLV, MP4, MKV, and a series of MOV files contained on a USB stick. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find the overall quality of the MOV files (taken from my iPhone) to be stunningly superb on my LG B6 4K display.
On the audio front, the 203 accepts DVD Audio (which can contain Hi-Res and multi-channel tracks), SACD, and standard CDs. This is complemented by support for a range of Hi-Res file formats, including AIFF, WAV, ALAC, APE, FLAC, and DSD. In addition, the player can be networked to receive audio content as a digital media player (requiring a server that supports DLNA), a digital media renderer (requiring a digital media controller), or a SMB/CIFS/NFS client.
There are a host of formats that OPPO says the UDP-203 can’t play. That list includes DVD-RAMs, HD-DVDs, the data portion of CD-Extras, Blu-ray discs with a cartridge, DVDs and Blu-rays with a region code not matching the player’s region code, some dual discs that feature audio on one side and DVD-video on the other, and some audio discs with copy protection. Owners may also find the 203 takes issue with some future 4K UHD Blu-ray discs simply because the Blu-ray disc specification is constantly evolving. OPPO, however, will address that kind of incompatibility with corrective firmware updates (as needed).
Under The Hood
A look inside the UDP-203 (photo: OPPO).
OPPO has a healthy reputation when it comes to internal components and circuitry, and the UDP-203 appears game ready. Audiophiles will appreciate the 203’s 8-channel 32-bit AKM AK4458VN DAC, a feature that’s particularly important for owners planning on using the player’s multi-channel outputs. Equally impressive is the 203’s Blu-ray decoder SoC. It’s a MediaTek quad-core OP8591 that OPPO says delivers industry-leading video processing.
As stated earlier, the 203 also ships with hardware that allows for future support of Dolby Vision. Dolby Vision offers 12-bit color depth (as compared to HDR-10’s 10-bit color), among other performance enhancements. OPPO says a 2017 firmware release will unlock Dolby Vision on the 203 (noteworthy to potential buyers because a player must have specialized Dolby Vision hardware onboard to be Dolby Vision compliant).
OPPO says its disc loader is a “high-precision, well-balanced laser optical disc loader [that] ensures smooth and reliable playback of all types of disc media. An optimized laser mechanism [ensures] super-fast disc loading, strong error detection and correction.”
That’s a mouthful, but seems to translate to solid real-world performance.
The tray takes roughly 4 seconds to open when operated via remote. Once loaded, I found 4K UHD discs had variable load times, typically falling in the 25 to 35 second range (with a few reaching a “resume” screen in roughly 20 seconds). Standard Blu-ray discs and DVDs loaded slightly faster.
Image: 20th Century Fox.
Now to the nuts and bolts. OPPO’s 203 looks great on paper, so let’s find out how it performs. For the video evaluation, I paired the 203 with a 65-inch LG B6 OLED 4K TV, a JVC RS45 1080p projector, and an older Panasonic 1080p plasma. The latter two were used to evaluate the 203’s friendliness with legacy gear (especially pertinent for buyers that have yet to purchase a 4K display).
First, I ran the 203 through various mixed film and video edge adaptive tests found on Spears and Munsil HD Benchmark 2nd Edition Blu-ray. Both Horizontal and Vertical clips (pans of metal roofs, brick buildings, skyscrapers) were smooth and problem free. I did note mild jutter on the edges of vertically scrolling text, but nothing offensive to the eye. In all, the 203 handled the disc without difficulty.
Next, I sacrificed precious time (I jest, of course) and viewed a number of UHD Blu-ray discs. The results were stunning. Colors and specular highlights were punctuated and pleasing to the eye. The 203 delivered an incredible 4K image laced with full HDR (in this case HDR-10); image issues and artifacts were non-existent. One of the better-looking demo discs was Deadpool. The level of detail, grit, and depth shown on Deadpool’s red outfit was jaw dropping, and the film proved to be a visual delight.
I also challenged the player with a handful of Blu-ray, DVD, and DVD-R discs. Menus and playback were all fully accessible and functional on these formats. Image upconversion appeared to be spot-on and devoid of abnormalities. The 203 also played nicely with my 1080p display gear, once again showing no playback hiccups or incompatibilities.
Finally, I tested passthrough. OPPO endowed the 203 with the ability to provide audio/video processing of an external source via a single HDMI input (selectable using the player’s remote control). I tested this feature by connecting a Xfinity X1 cable box to the 203. Performance was flawless and on par with the box’s delivered image quality when connected direct to the LG B6 display. This passthrough feature is handy, as it could easily serve as an extra port for a media stick or an additional 4k/HDCP 2.2 compliant input for systems needing an extra port.
Photo taken during CD playback (JVC RS-45 Projector).
The UDP-203 delivered fantastic (and easy to access) audio playback. I played a variety of disc media (including standard CDs, SACDs, and DVD Audio) via HDMI and multi-channel out with great results. Owners will appreciate the plethora of on-screen information displayed (see image). You can select from playback options (such as Shuffle, Random, Repeat), as well as view Artist, Disc and Song title, and Track information. Much like the 203’s Settings Menu, audio playback screens have a clean and neat appearance.
Switching between CD audio and USB audio was made possible by a few quick clicks on the remote. During USB access, the player displayed an organized menu of tracks found on the stick along with song information (similar to CDs). Hi-Res playback of several file types was flawless; owners will be happy to know that gapless playback is supported for APE, WAV, and FLAC files. Also, the 203 quickly linked to my Plex Media Server (Mac) on my home network, allowing for easy and organized navigation through music folders. Networked playback, like disc playback, was flawless and sounded great.
OPPO’s UDP-203 is a stellar jack of all trades that offers quite a bit of bang for the buck. While mildly expensive (at $549), the player delivers a dizzying amount of video and audio performance, which makes it the perfect media anchor for a modern 4K theater or stereo system. And based on the fact that it’s primed to offer Dolby Vision performance, buyers can rest assured that the 203 should have relative lastability.
If you’re in the market for a 4K player, you can’t go wrong with the OPPO-203.
Disc Types: 4K UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, AVCHD, SACD, CD, Kodak Picture CD, CD-R/RW, DVD±R/RW, DVD±R DL, BD-R/RE
BD Profile: BD-ROM Version 3.1 Profile 6 (also compatible with BD-ROM Version 2.5 Profile 5)
Output: Analog Audio: 7.1ch, 5.1ch, stereo.
Coaxial/Optical Audio: Up to 2ch/192kHz PCM, Dolby Digital, DTS.
HDMI Audio: Up to 7.1ch/192kHz PCM, up to 5.1ch DSD, Bitstream.
HDMI Video: UHD/1080p24/1080p/1080i/720p/576p/576i/480p/480i, 3D frame-packing 720p/1080p24.
Audio Characteristics: Frequency: 20Hz - 48kHz (±0.2dB), 20Hz - 96kHz (-4dB ˜ +0.05dB)
Signal-to-Noise Ratio: >112dB (A-weighted, Unmute)
THD+N: < 0.001% (1kHz at 0dBFS, 20kHz LPF)
Crosstalk: < -103dB (A-weighted)
Power Supply: 100V - 240V˜, 50/60Hz AC
Power Consumption: 40W (Standby: 0.5W in Energy Efficient Mode)
Dimensions: 16.9 x 12.2 x 3.1 inches (430mm x 311mm x 79mm)
Mass: 9.5lbs (4.3kg)
Operating Temperature: 41°F - 95°F, 5°C - 35°C
Operating Humidity: 15% - 75%, no condensation
Image Credits: Todd Anderson/Home Theater Shack, OPPO Digital, 20th Century Fox