OPPO DV-981HD: The Review.

DVDs, Entertainment, Gadgets, Movies, Useful Things by Richard

HD DVD, Blu-Ray… Blu-Ray, HD DVD… from week to week one or the other is on top. If you want higher quality video to match the resolution of your new flat-panel display, and want to wait the format wars out until you can just go out and buy any movie you want without worrying about if it will play on your chosen video player, what do you do? There’s another option: upconverting your DVDs to the resolution of your flat-panel (720p, 1080i, or 1080p). The DV-981HD, new from Oppo is an excellent way to get the most out out of your current DVD library. For those of you who are unfamiliar, here’s a gross oversimplification: upconverting takes a standard-resolution source (in this case a DVD at 480p) and makes some very educated guesses to fill in the missing dots to bring the picture up to a resolution that your flat-panel can take full advantage of. The earlier Oppo DV-971H is the absolute best upconverting DVD player to-date, taking home a 98/100 in the Secrets DVD Player Benchmark, which compares hundreds of DVD players on the market (all 8 DVD players that I’ve ever owned are on the list), and this model is an upgraded version that removes the component video out in favor of going HDMI-only, with full 1080p support.

I’ve been using this DVD player for the past few weeks with fantastic results. I’ve tried all the old DVD testing standbys, including the Fifth Element Superbit, and a few newer ones with a lot of action, including Spiderman and The Matrix, and man, the image quality is noticeably better than standard DVD resolution. I can’t believe the detail that I can make out using the same old DVDs. This player is great at making something out of nothing, that’s for sure. It’s got a top of the line Faroudja with DCDi chip that easily handles whatever video you throw at it.

It’s easy to use, and plays just about every disc that you can put into the tray (short of HD DVD and Blu-Ray, of course)… I’ve never seen a compatible format list this long. It plays DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, Super Audio CD (SACD), DivX®, XviD, Audio CD, HDCD, Kodak Picture CD, CD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW and DVD+R DL. It’s an Official DivX® Certified product, certified to the Home Theater Profile, and can play all versions of DivX® video (including DivX® 6). Insane. Divx actually looks sharper/better on this player than on my computer!

It’s also easily upgradeable: This DVD player offers downloadable firmware updates to add new functions, features and fix bugs that may crop up in the software. You just download the update from their site, burn a CD containing it, and insert it into the DVD player. Easy!

I did have a few gripes about it… the disc tray doesn’t slide out as far as I’m used to, so getting DVDs into and out of the player is a little bit more difficult than it should be. I don’t like the remote (it’s the standard tons-of-buttons-that-glow-in-the-dark remote), but it’s not an issue for me, as I have a great universal remote that I’ve programmed the player’s functions into.. and I suppose that if you are serious enough about home theater that you’d invest in a high-def set and an upconverting DVD player, you probably have a nice universal remote of your own.

The DV-981HD runs $229, and the DV-971H (which includes component video output) is available for $199. Not bad at all, especially considering the prices of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players these days. Stay out of the format wars for now and pick one of these up instead.


Comments (1)

One reply on “OPPO DV-981HD: The Review.”

Great review. I have been looking at this brand for a long while and I think I am sold now. Thanks

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