Ultra HD Central Review
OPPO UDP-203 Review
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Player
| August 3, 2017 |
| Richard De Jong, Editor |
Over the last ten years, I have reviewed a variety of OPPO Digital products, beginning with their DV-980H upconverting DVD Player, through a series of their Blu-ray players and now, with the UDP-203, OPPO’s first 4K Ultra HD model.
Beyond each of the unit’s unwavering stellar audio and video performance, I have been consistently impressed with how well they have been built. OPPO constructs their machines to provide you with years of high-end goodness.
And as soon as I pulled the sturdy UDP-203 out of its box and felt that familiar robust build, I was confident that this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player would live up to OPPO’s reputation. Indeed, the UDP-203 definitely passes with flying colors.
With advanced audio and image processing components, OPPO rightfully markets the UDP-203 to videophiles – and audiophiles – who are looking to add top-notch 4K UHD Blu-ray video and lossless, high-resolution audio playback capabilities into their home theater systems.
Though, even with an over $500 price tag and cutting edge technology, you might be surprised to find that this OPPO UDP-203 does not provide any integrated apps like Netflix or YouTube or Amazon Prime. If you want to access streaming content providers, you will want to attach an external 4K streaming device like the Roku Premiere+.
With that stipulation in mind, even the most discerning ‘philes should be overjoyed with the video – and audio – performance of the OPPO UDP-203.
(Editor’s note: OPPO Digital has recently released the next in its line of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players, the UDP-205, [$1299], which upgrades the audio specs of the UDP-203 with two SABRE PRO Digital-to-Analog Converters, (along with other features). You can read the OPPO UDP-205’s press release here.)
I threw all the D’s at this OPPO UDP-203 – CDs, SACDs, DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, and UHD Blu-rays. The player’s custom-made 4K disc loader handled them all flawlessly.
For those of you who are producing your own 4K video, this OPPO is also capable of reading 4K media files and supports decoding of the HEVC, H.264, VP9 4K, and Hi10P video codecs.
For the high resolution audiophile, OPPO states, “Audio format support has been expanded to multi-channel DSD64/128, as well as 192kHz/24-bit PCM used in high-resolution lossless formats such AIFF, ALAC, APE, FLAC and WAV. (DSD64 is played back in native mode or converted to PCM, DSD128 is converted to PCM.)” The player also bitstreams both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based surround formats.
And for those grease monkeys who like to get under the hood and tweak, OPPO provides extensive video and audio setup and processing menus. For example, the Video Output menu contains a Picture Adjustment submenu as well as controls over more esoteric settings like Color Space and Color Depth.
I tend to leave most of these settings at Auto and do the bulk of my tinkering with the settings provided by the TV. Of course, if your TV has a less robust toolset or processing engine, then the UDP-203 is a great fine-tuning alternative.
I can’t stress enough how well the OPPO UDP-203 is constructed. Over the years I have handled many DVD, Blu-ray and UHD Blu-ray players. A majority of them sooner or later – often sooner – fail for one reason or another.
The OPPO players that I have had the pleasure to review have held up for the long haul. I credit that longevity to their rugged build and OPPO’s history of timely firmware upgrades.
The world of 4K, as far as standards are concerned, is quickly evolving and the OPPO tech support team has been vigilant in addressing new features as they begin appearing on UltraHD Blu-rays. For example, one of the UDP-203’s recent firmware upgrades added Dolby Vision support.
Already, since the player debuted last December, OPPO has released five firmware updates adding features like a "Target Luminance" setting and general performance enhancements. (You can read the firmware details on the OPPO website.)
For those who have your smartphone grafted to your palm, OPPO provides the OPPO UDP-20X MediaControl app. Download it to your favorite compatible tablet or phone (iOS, Android, Amazon), and the device can mimic the controls on the player’s remote.
I tested the app on an iPhone and the Fire HD tablet and the software performed as advertised. But I prefer handling OPPO’s motion sensitive backlit, oversized remote (8 7/8” x 2 1/8”) that provides plenty of real estate for buttons galore that even pudgy fingers can tap assuredly.
After dealing with minimalist remotes which rely on on-screen menus, this OPPO remote is a dream with its large dedicated buttons, many of which directly access features like Resolution, HDR and Pure Audio.
The elegant exterior sports a face plate with an industrial black brushed metal sheen surrounded by a matte black metal body.
On the back, OPPO supplies one HDMI input and two HDMI outputs, an HDMI 2.0 out to feed the current crop of 4K UHD projectors and TVs and an HDMI 1.4 for legacy AV receivers. Also the OPPO designers remember those of you with older 7.1 speaker systems by offering 7.1 analog audio outputs.
In addition, on the back panel are two USB 3.0 ports, two digital audio outputs (one coaxial, one optical), and one Gigabit LAN port for a wired Ethernet connection. The UDP-203 provides a built-in Wi-Fi adapter (802.11A, B, G, N [2.4GHz and 5GHz] and 802.11 AC [5GHz]). For integrating into a home theater system, OPPO also includes an RS-232C port, Trigger In and Out connections and an IR port.
Inside the sturdy metal case, OPPO packs high tech audio and video components with wonderful descriptive names like the MediaTek quad-core OP8591, a “specialized 4K UHD Blu-ray decoder SoC” and the AKM AK4458VN, a “premium 32-bit, 8-channel DAC with support for formats such as 192 kHz / 32-bit PCM and multi-channel DSD.” In simple terms, the OPPO UDP203 provides a combination of muscle and finesse to emanate powerful but nuanced audio and video.
For many of you, setting up the OPPO UDP-203 should be quick and relatively painless. The biggest task will be integrating this player into your system by connecting the proper inputs and outputs. For example, if you have a older A/V receiver, you may want to pass the audio signal from the player through the receiver to the speaker system.
If the receiver doesn’t handle 4K content, then you would send the video output directly to your 4K compatible TV or projector. Of course if you have a more complicated home theater system, you may need to fiddle with IR sensors and Trigger connections.
After you have all the components communicating with each other, the good news is that the initial setup of the UDP-203 is very straightforward. If you have hooked an Ethernet cable to the wired port on the back panel, the OPPO will automatically connect to your network and the Internet. If you decide to go wireless, you will need to deal with entering a password to link into the network.
Once on the Internet, you should open the Setup Menu and then the Device Setup submenu and click on Firmware Upgrade to see if your unit is up to date. Once you are current, you should be set to start spinning discs.
To begin, you don’t need to worry about all those options in the Setup Menu. As the manual reassures you, “The Setup Menu of the UDP-203 presents many setup and configuration options. For most users, the default configuration will be sufficient and will not require any changes to the settings. However, if you need to configure the player to perfectly match your home theater setup and viewing preferences, please refer to the following sections for details about each configuration option.”
For those who treat manuals like the plague, only suitable for confusing Luddites, I can testify that OPPO’s manuals are some of the clearest, most informative ones that I have had the pleasure to peruse.
And I will wager that you will dip into the manual when you are ready to explore some of the many features provided by this multi-faceted player, like the ability to tap into your computer network’s photo, music and video files.
At first blush, the OPPO UDP-203’s $549 price may cause a bit of sticker shock, especially if you have been window shopping and finding 4K UHD Blu-ray players for about half as much. But if you are familiar with OPPO’s history of stellar build quality and top-notch video and audio performance, you will know this player is a true value proposition.
With Disney and Marvel finally beginning to produce 4K UHD Blu-rays, the time has come to purchase a high quality 4K Blu-ray player. The OPPO UDP-203, with its first-class audio and video processors creating superior performance, is an ideal match for a home theater system. And with this player’s rugged build along with OPPO’s commitment to timely firmware upgrades, the UDP-203 should serve you well until the advent of 8K Blu-ray players.