Ever since standalone Blu-ray players hit the market, there's been a great deal of anticipation for an Oppo Blu-ray player, mainly because of the company's reputation for making excellent upconverting DVD players. Oppo held out for quite some time, and in retrospect it was a smart move; almost all the early Blu-ray players were plagued with usability problems and hardware limitations. After a long beta-testing period, the Oppo BDP-83 is finally here and it lives up to the hype. The player feels fast and reliable, and has outstanding image quality on Blu-rays and DVDs. It's a true universal disc player, handling both DVD-Audio and SACD discs in addition to Blu-ray Discs, CDs, and DVDs.
On the other hand, the Oppo BDP-83 really isn't for everyone. It lacks Wi-Fi and, more importantly, streaming media features such as Netflix and Pandora that are available on cheaper Blu-ray players from Samsung and LG. At $500 list price, it's also very expensive compared with the Sony PS3 Slim ($300), which also offers excellent Blu-ray playback--and can play high-definition video games, stream media, and browse the Web. If you're not a home theater enthusiast with a sizable budget, you'll get more value from a PS3 Slim or LG BD390. However, if you are a dedicated, well-heeled home theater fan, the BDP-83 is a nearly perfect way to get the most out of your disc-based media.
We almost never comment on product packaging, but we'll make an exception for the BDP-83. It comes wrapped in a soft sheath that also doubles as a carrying case. You may never need to carry your Oppo around, but the cover does give the impression that something special is inside. We'll also give Oppo credit for being one of the few manufacturers that includes an HDMI cable in the box.
The BDP-83 comes wrapped in a soft cloth bag.
A rare sight: an HDMI cable included with a Blu-ray player.
We've seen Blu-ray players slim down over the years, but the BDP-83 is a throwback, measuring 16.9 inches wide by 13.2 inches deep by 3 inches high. Once you pull the BDP-83 out of the box, the first thing you'll notice is its weight. At 11 pounds, it weighs about twice as much as Blu-ray players we test from manufacturers like Sony, Samsung, and LG. Aside from pure heft, the Oppo is solidly built, with a thick, brushed-metal faceplate and an all-metal chassis. It feels built to last, unlike the easily scratchable plastic on the Samsung BD-P3600, for example.
The right side of the front panel features playback controls and a USB port.
The front panel design is relatively bare. On the front right is the power button, which is illuminated by a thin blue LED. Surprisingly, you can't disable the light, but a tiny piece of electrical tape will blot it out if it bothers you. In the center is the disc tray, and below that is the LCD screen that is large and easily readable from a distance. Just to the right of the disc tray is the open button, and off to the side is the directional pad that allows for basic playback controls. On the far right there's a USB port with a plastic cover.
The included remote is a winner too. Its buttons are large and most of the important functions are prominently located. Even better, the entire remote is backlit--a rarity with Blu-ray players--making it a cinch to operate in a dark home theater. Yes, we would have liked more button separation and it looks a bit old school, but overall it's a great clicker.
The menu system on the BDP-83 is one of the better ones we've seen, especially the setup menu. It presents you with crisp text that's optimized for HDTVs, unlike some of the softer text menus we've seen. You're able to tweak the audio and videos settings essentially to your heart's delight, and we found all the options to be easy to understand.
Pressing the "home" button brings up another menu to help you choose from the various media types available, including music, movie, and photos. This is straightforward enough, although we'd point out that we still prefer the large icons on the BD390 that are visible without pressing an extra button.
Calling the BDP-83 a Blu-ray player would be missing the point. Yes, it handles Blu-ray movies, but it's also essentially a universal disc player that is able to play back CD, DVD-Audio, SACD, and DVD discs
. (Sorry HD DVD fans.) While DVD-Audio and SACD are niche formats that are nearly dead, many audiophiles still have sizable collections that they enjoy. And if you have some PAL-encoded DVDs lying around, the BDP-83 can play them back adeptly. It's nice having a single player that can handle pretty much every disc in your collection.
All the basics are covered with the BDP-83. It's Profile 2.0-compliant and it has onboard decoding for both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. There's 1GB of onboard memory, so you don't need additional storage for BD-Live features, although you can add more storage via the available USB ports. Internet-enabled BD-Live features and downloadable firmware updates are accessed using the BDP-83's Ethernet jack.
Somewhat surprisingly, the BDP-83 doesn't have built-in Wi-Fi, a feature available on competing products like the LG BD390 and PS3 Slim. When we asked Oppo about the omission, a representative said that the there wasn't a Wi-Fi capable processor that could also provide the same speed and disc compatibility as the processor they chose. Fair enough, but it does mean that home theaters without wired Ethernet will lose out on BD-Live features. Oppo does offer the option to pack in an Asus Wireless Bridge Kit for an additional $80, however, that effectively makes the player wireless.
Additionally, the BDP-83 currently lacks any additional streaming media services (beyond BD-Live). Competing players such as the Samsung BD-P3600 and LG BD390 offer Netflix and Pandora streaming and the PS3 Slim features pay-per-view movies via its online video store. Depending on your viewing habits, these may not be critical features, but we really appreciate the capability to add instant-gratification streaming content on other players. On the other hand, it's easy to add streaming functionality to any home theater with the Roku Digital Video Player. (Oppo is planning to add additional streaming media in the future via the BluTV platform, but with no content partners currently announced, we wouldn't recommend holding out if those are features you're interested in.)
While the BDP-83 can't handle streaming content, it is quite capable with digital media stored on a USB drive. We had a USB hard drive loaded up with music, video, and photos, and the Oppo handled nearly everything we threw at it, including DivX, Xvid, AVI, MKV, JPEG, and MP3 files.
The 7.1 analog outputs are key for anyone with an older, non-HDMI AV receiver.
The BDP-83's connectivity selection should cover nearly connection you'd like to make.
The BDP-83's connectivity is comprehensive. Aside from the standard HDMI output, there is a component video output, which can output Blu-ray movies at 1080i, and a standard-definition composite video output. Audio outputs include both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs, plus 7.1 analog audio outputs and a separate stereo analog output. The 7.1 analog audio outputs are a great option for anyone with an older, non-HDMI AV receiver that still wants to listen to Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. The BDP-83 also features a custom-installer friendly RS-232 port and IR inputs and outputs. Rounding out on the connectivity is another USB port and an Ethernet jack.
Oppo built its reputation on upconverting DVD players that delivered outstanding performance for a fraction of the cost high-end competitors were charging. It would seem to make sense that the company could apply the same expertise to Blu-ray, but we came into the review with a skeptical bent. The fact is that the differences in performance between Blu-ray players are much smaller than the differences between DVD players; in fact, if your HDTV properly accepts a 1080p/24 signal, you'll see essentially no difference between players. For that reason, we tested the BDP-83's performance in 1080/60 mode.
We began by testing the BDP-83 on a variety of test discs, and first up was Silicon Optix's HQV test suite on Blu-ray. The Oppo didn't have trouble with anything we threw at it. The Film Resolution test looked sharp and jaggy-free, and the second portion of the test, with a slow pan across Raymond James Stadium, looked pristine as well. We moved onto a few video-based tests, which we put less weight on because there are relatively few video-based discs, and the BDP-83 had no problem with test patterns like a rotating white line or three pivoting white lines.
We also looked at both the "Qdeo" and "Spears and Munsil" test discs, and again the BDP-83 was a standout performer. Both discs have several tests that use unusual film cadences, and the BDP-83 passed every single one. That's impressive, especially since the Samsung BD-P3600 and Philips BDP7310 only passed a handful of these test patterns. That being said, passing these tests amounts to little more than bragging rights for most people; the vast majority of Blu-ray movies are encoded in the proper film cadence of 1080p/24 and so are shown with a 2:3 cadence when converted to 1080p/60, which means the Oppo's excellent performance on rare 6:4 cadence source material, for example, won't matter one way or the other with standard sources.
We switched to program material and the Oppo showed no sign of slowing down. On "Mission Impossible: III," it had no problem with the stairs in the background of chapter 8 or the trimming of the limo in chapter 16. On "Ghost Rider," some players have problems with the grille of the RV at the end of chapter 6, but the BDP-83 rendered it perfectly, moire-free. The video-based "Tony Bennett: American Classic" also looked sharp, only showing some minor jaggies that are most likely in the source material. We watched scenes from several other movies including "Juno," "Transformers," and "Master and Commander" and couldn't find anything to complain about.
The bottom line is that the BDP-83 has the best Blu-ray image quality out of any player we've tested, handling even uncommon program material with plenty of finesse. On the other hand, for the vast majority of Blu-ray movies you won't see any difference between the BDP-83 and other top-performing Blu-ray players like the PS3, LG BD390, and Samsung BD-P3600. Whether you need that last smidgen of performance is up to you.
Aside from video quality, we also tested the BDP-83's operational and disc-loading speed. The BDP-83 was a standout performer in this regard, besting nearly all other players in loading Java-heavy discs such as "Spiderman 3" and "Pirates of the Caribbean." It's also no slouch loading straight-ahead discs like "Mission Impossible: III," coming in at just 14 seconds with the player on, and a blazing fast 24 seconds with the player off.
Just quoting load times would be a disservice to how smoothly the BDP-83 operates overall. With the player off, the BDP-83 is extremely quick to eject a disc, as well as to resume a Blu-ray movie that you've stopped. For us, the most telling anecdote comes from fellow reviewer Steve Guttenberg who claimed that the speed of the BDP-83 saved him at least 30 minutes when doing a review versus the already speedy Samsung BD-P3600. Sure, we change discs when reviewing much more than the average user, but it really is a delight to use such a stable and responsive player.
As we mentioned before, Oppo has a reputation for excellence with DVD performance and the BDP-83 is no different. We put it through the standard HQV test disc on DVD and the Oppo started off acing the initial resolution pattern with no image stability on the screen. Next up were a pair of video-based jaggies test patterns and both looked superb, with essentially no jaggies on a rotating white line and three pivoting lines. The detail test with marble steps looked especially sharp and when we flipped between the PS3 Slim and the Oppo BDP-83 we could clearly see more detail with the Oppo.
We changed over to program material and the BDP-83 reminded us how good DVDs can look. When we watch DVDs these days, we're used to noticing false contouring artifacts and jaggies, then lamenting that we're not watching Blu-ray. The BDP-83 mostly made us forget about the format. The notoriously difficult opening of "Seabiscuit" looked excellent, with the black-and-white photographs were free of any line crawl or moire. The "Star Trek: Insurrection" introduction was also handled well, with the Oppo smoothly rendering the curved lines of the boat hulls and bridge railing. We watched scenes from a few other DVD movies, including "The Matrix" and "Aeon Flux," and the BDP-83 never failed to impress us.
While we're somewhat tentative on raving about the BDP-83's Blu-ray image quality, our observations about its DVD image quality come with no such reservations; it's significantly better than the DVD processing in competing standalone Blu-rays players, although only videophiles will notice the difference. If you still plan on playing plenty of standard DVDs and take image quality seriously, the BDP-83 is the player for you.