This week we tested the Oppo UDP-203 player, the manufacturer?s first model to ensure compatibility with Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. Given Oppo?s status as an absolute reference in the world of video players, it would be putting it mildly to say that expectations are high.
Often overlooked by audio and video equipment manufacturers, the Blu-ray player is a cornerstone of Oppo?s catalog. The manufacturer is spearheading the smartphone market in China and is also known for its excellent hi-fi headphones, headphone amplifiers, and DACs, as well as for its range of high-performance Blu-ray players. Moreover, Oppo?s Blu-ray players are highly functional and easy to operate. Since the Oppo UDP-203 is an entry-level model, it does not offer Internet streaming functions for audio and video files, a feature which should be made available in the near future with the Oppo UDP-205.
The Oppo UDP-203 boasts a heavy steel chassis with a central optical playback mechanism. Its electronic components ensure compatibility with CDs, SACDs, DVDs, Blu-ray discs and Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. Video stream up to 2160p and 60FPS is handled, along with the most recent color space (BT2020 in particular), high dynamic range (HDR 10 bits, Dolby Vision in the near future), and optimal color depth (8, 10 and 12 bits). Upscaling to 4K UHD format is, of course, a possibility. The Oppo UDP-203 is therefore Ultra HD Premium compatible.
As for the audio specs, the Oppo UDP-203 stands out for its integration of a multichannel Asahi Kasei Microdevice DAC, combined with analog outputs for 7.1 sound restitution (set or variable level).
Oppo UDP-203: remote control
Breaking with our tradition, we will start this review by discussing the Oppo UDP-203?s exemplary remote control. It is pleasant to hold, and the large buttons are well laid out and easy to press. Icing on the cake, the backlighting system is automatically activated when the user picks up the remote, thanks to an integrated motion sensor. The backlight turns off after 5 seconds if no button is pressed or if the remote remains motionless.
The Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray player integrates two IR receivers, one on the front panel and the other on the back panel. The user can choose which to activate depending on the installation.
Oppo UDP-203: connectors
Let?s start with the HDMI connectors. The Oppo UDP-203 features two HDMI outputs, one of which is exclusively dedicated to audio (HDMI 1.4), as well as an input (HDMI 2.0) for a TV set-top box or gaming console. The input is 4K UHD compatible, but is not HDR compatible. Three USB ports are made available. The two ports found at the back of the player are USB 3.0 compatible, while a USB 2.0 port on the front panel may be used to connect a flash drive with pictures, music, or videos. Two S/PDIF digital audio outputs and analog outputs for a 7.1 configuration are also available, along with RS-232 control connectors and triggers. The Ethernet port is paired with a Gigabit fast controller.
Oppo UDP-203: interface and configuration
The Oppo UDP-203?s OSD menu is very simple and grants access to the disc, videos, music, pictures, configuration menu and favorites via a series of icons located in a banner at the bottom of the screen. The navigation system is very smooth with no loading time between the menus. The interface?s language can be changed in the playback menu.
Oppo UDP-203: video settings
Two video output profiles are offered, one of which automatically adapts to the TV or video projector, while the other can be fine-tuned by the user via the remote control. The colorimetry is set to automatic by default, and the Oppo UDP-203 aligns its settings to correspond to the most advanced video display mode (4:4:4 for the most recent models). The user can choose to use the colorimetry settings of the original source (4:2:0 for example). 3D display settings (with 3D source) are limited to effect depth and overall depth and can be adapted to the screen size (dimensions are adjusted manually). In addition, 2D to 3D conversion is also possible.
When it comes to high dynamic range (HDR), the Oppo UDP-203 can adopt the source?s format (SDR or HDR), bypass HDR mode (for a TV which is not HDR compatible and with limited color depth), or retain the advanced colorimetry of an HDR Blu-ray disc while suppressing all the HDR metadata. The third option is an ideal solution for a BT2020 compatible TV without HDR compatibility. At the time of our test, the Oppo UDP-203?s firmware did not yet implement the HDR Dolby Vision mode, but a future update will change this.
Picture adjustments are grouped under 3 different profiles which the user can modify if desired. By default, all enhancements are deactivated. The main controls are luminosity, contrast, hue, saturation, sharpness and noise reduction. Note that it is possible to set the player to 25 or 24fps for DVDs.
Oppo UDP-203: audio settings
The HDMI output allows audio stream to be transmitted in its original format (Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD, Dolby Digital, DTS, PCM, DSD, etc.), converted to PCM format (up to 7.1), or downmixed (real-time reduction of the number of channels to obtain a stereo track, for example). The same applies to the S/PDIF digital outputs, although these outputs are mechanically limited to Dolby Digital, DTS and stereo PCM formats.
The settings available for the 7.1 analog outputs are very interesting. First of all, these outputs can work at a set level (to connect the Oppo UDP-203 to an integrated amplifier or to a preamp/home cinema receiver) or allow the user to adjust various levels. For the latter, the Oppo UDP-203 modulates the output volume, and one or several power-amplifiers can be connected to the player.
For each of the 7 outputs, the size of the speaker (small or large) can be adjusted. This parameter is associated with a low cutoff frequency (high-pass filter) which can be set to between 40 Hz to 250 Hz and adjusted by increments of 10 Hz to 160 Hz. The frequencies which have been cut off are then sent to the subwoofer RCA output. The distance between the speakers can be specified and the user can set the volume of each channel independently using a pink noise audio test track. Moreover, several downmix options are offered: stereo without subwoofer (2.0), stereo with subwoofer (2.1), and 5.1. When all of the 7.1 outputs are set to variable mode, it is possible to set the player?s default sound level to 40 (out of 100) in order to prevent loud volume upon activation. The maximum volume can be limited in the settings. The player retains the last settings used by default.
The user can also adjust the digital filter applied during the decoding process, as well as choose from a variety of attenuation slopes for high frequencies. With 5 low-pass filters, Oppo?s intention is clearly to provide audiophile-grade quality. It is also worth noting that a stereo signal can be converted to a 7.1 signal thanks to the DTS Neo:6 process.
Oppo UDP-203: test conditions
We paired up the Oppo UDP-203 with the LG OLED65C6V OLED screen (Ultra HD and HDR 10 bits) and a NAD C388 receiver with Focal Aria 906 speakers. We viewed content in the form of HD Blu-ray discs, MKV files and M2TS files.
Oppo UDP-203: impressions
As previously mentioned, the Oppo UDP-203 is extremely easy to operate. Although it features advanced configuration settings, it is not necessary to venture into fine-tuning territory to enjoy a captivating experience. The load time for Ultra HD Blu-ray discs is particularly fast and the player is very quiet, so much so that no noise can be heard during playback. The Oppo UDP-203 responds swiftly to commands, a real treat.
With the 4K HDR version of The Revenant, our LG OLED65C6V television’s HDR compatibility was immediately detected. Moreover, the TV offered us the option to reboot in order to switch to BT2020 mode with maximum color depth. The screen’s HDR mode was also automatically activated, thus pushing the OLED’s luminance to its highest level. Upon noticing this change, we suspected that we might be met with an extremely disparate dynamic range, with barely tolerable, overly bright whites. But we were quickly comforted when we discovered the image?s remarkably natural balance. The result is simply beautiful and consistently smooth.
It is important to point out that the image is never over-the-top and there is no flashy effect. The Oppo UDP-203?s strength is that it delivers truly magnificent images which bring the spectator to the heart of the content instead of trying to wow the audience.
We had high expectations for the decoding of video files from USB and Samba, and we were not disappointed as the Oppo UDP-203 didn’t freeze once when reading from a USB 2.0 external hard drive. We did our first test with an MT2TS file (compression-free Blu-ray AVC remux) of Genesis? Three Sides Live concert. The high data rate (2 Gb for the 5-minute-long Abacab) was no problem for the Oppo UDP-203. We observed the same behavior with Deadpool in MKV format (Ultra HD Blu-ray remux, HEVC 10 Bits). Changing from one audio track or subtitle track (adjustable size/color/opacity, etc.) to another was seamless. The Oppo UDP-203 also offers a surprising image quality with highly compressed files. We tested a 6 Gb MKV file of Mad Max Fury Road in 2160p HEVC 10 bits and noticed no lag or artifact, and the image was incredibly precise.
In a nutshell, all video files entrusted to the Oppo UDP-203 are perfectly rendered.
In terms of audio performance, it is a perfect score as well. The player?s analog outputs are on par with the best CD players, the sound is spacious and well balanced, and the Oppo UDP-203 can even handle FLAC 5.1 24 bits / 192 kHz as well as DSF (DSD64) files without any difficulty.
To top it all off, the Oppo UDP-203 can access DLNA servers (for audio and video playback) shared via the local network and be used as a digital media renderer. It is therefore possible to stream video files from a tablet or a smartphone.
Oppo UDP-203: conclusions
What we liked: the natural image rendering with any source (720p, 2160p, HDR or not), the exhaustive list of compatible video and audio files, the OSD, the backlit remote control.
What we would have liked: an even more affordable price, the addition of NetFlix and Plex apps.
What more can we say? Easy to use, beyond reproach in terms of both audio and video quality, the Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray is the indisputable reference on the market. Cheaper players exist, but they are far from offering this level of quality.