Oppo BDP-103EU 3D Blu-ray Player Review
Oppo's latest Blu-ray player arrives and Steve Withers finds out if they've managed to stay ahead of the pack
Oppo may have been a little late to the Blu-ray party but when they finally did show up they certainly brought their 'A' game. The BDP-93 was simply the best all-round player on the market and the BDP-95 was one of the very few Blu-ray players to be awarded an AVForums Reference Status. Yes the players were more expensive than some of the competition but if you were looking for uncompromised performance, thoughtful design and superb build quality, there really was nothing better. If anything, Oppo were in danger of being victims of their own success and would to need to deliver something very special this year, if they were going to eclipse former glories. Perhaps that's why it has taken the manufacturer nearly two years to launch their new players?
Well on paper, at least, it certainly looks as though it was worth the wait, with the BDP-103EU includes all the features that made the BDP-93 so great and then adding even more. That's no easy task as the original BDP-93 offered a truly impressive set of features, including Blu-ray, DVD-Audio and SACD playback, as well as 3D compatibility, dual HDMI outputs and Marvell QDEO video processing. The BDP-103 includes all that but has also added 4K upscaling, 2D to 3D conversion, a dual-core processor, two HDMI inputs, MHL support and improved network streaming. Oppo appear to have also fine-tuned the design, which suggests they've been listening to our feedback. So let's plug the BDP-103 in and see if it can live up to our decidedly high expectations.
The BDP-103 uses essentially the same chassis as the previous BDP-103 but Oppo have made some subtle improvements based on review feedback. In fact this is one area where they are exceptionally good, not only in fine tuning their designs but also regularly releasing firmware updates when any bugs are reported. The front facia is basically the same but the buttons are easier to locate in the dark and there's now a MHL-compliant HDMI input. At the rear are still two HDMI outputs but there's now a second HDMI input, along with 2 USB ports. The remote control remains a text book example of thoughtful design, with large, intuitively placed buttons and backlight making it easy to use in the dark. The build quality is still superb and as a result the BDP-103 is very quiet in operation, whilst the addition of dual-core processing means that disc loading is fast and navigation very responsive.
Thanks to the Easy Setup Wizard, you'll have the BDP-103 up and running in no time and a concise, informative and easy to navigate menu system makes fine tuning the setup even easier. The BDP-103 doesn't have Wi-Fi built-in but it comes with wireless dongle and now includes an expanded internet platform, although if we're being honest it's still a bit of a disappointment. Whilst it makes sense to include Video on Demand services, and we welcome the inclusion of Netflix and YouTube, the majority of the other features don't work in the UK. On the plus side the network streaming capabilities are much improved and the file support is excellent. The inclusion of 4K upscaling and 2D to 3D conversion feel like gimmicks to help with marketing but the addition of access to the Gracenote global media database and a remote app for Android/iOS are actually quite useful.
The BDP-103 is marketed as a universal layer and it certainly is, providing playback of CD, HDCD, DVD, DVD-Audio, SACD, Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray. In terms of its performance, the BDP-103 was superb with a flawless delivery of both 3D and 1080p that was free of any unwanted processing. The handling of 1080i was equally as impressive and the deinterlacing and scaling of DVDs is of a reference standard, equalling some of the best video processors. The audio performance was equally good, regardless of what audio format you chose. The BDP-103 includes 7.1 outputs if your receiver doesn't support HDMI and our only minor complaint was the lack of dedicated stereo outputs.
The BDP-93 was a tough act to follow but Oppo have managed it, delivering a new player with even better build quality, more features and an equally superb performance - all for the same price. Whilst there are cheaper players available that will play Blu-rays just as well, if you're looking for an uncompromising universal player then the Oppo BDP-103 should be at the top of your list - Highly Recommended.
At first glance the BDP-103 appears to be using exactly the same chassis as the previous model and whilst this is true, on closer inspection you realise that Oppo have made subtle improvements. The chassis remains wonderfully solid with an attractive brushed aluminium front and simple buttons, disc tray and displays that provide a minimalist and elegant appearance. There is an on/off button on the left hand side, some basic controls on the right hand side and an eject button next to the disc try itself. However now these buttons are slightly raised, making them easier to find and there is a tiny illuminated icon on the eject button, which again makes it much easier to locate in a darkened home cinema. It's subtle improvements like this that make you realise how much thought Oppo put into their designs and it also shows that the manufacturer listens to feedback. The centrally mounted disc tray operates smoothly and quietly and adds to the feel of a well-engineered high end player.
Last year's twin displays have been replaced by a single one on the left hand side showing the times, chapters, text and other useful information. We found the display to be informative and easy to read and, if you so wish, it can be dimmed or even turned off. There are also a pair of LED indicators to the right of the eject button, one tells you if the player is outputting 3D and the other if it's upscaling to 4K. Finally on the front right of the BDP-103 there is a USB 2.0 port and an HDMI input that is compatible with MHL (Mobile High-definition Link). The feeling of a high-end player even extends to the well written and informative manual as well as the solid and well-padded packaging; inside which you will find the BDP-103 itself wrapped in a rather nice bag and a separate box for the playerís accessories. Aside from the remote the other accessories include a high speed HDMI cable, a Wi-Fi dongle, a USB extension cable for locating the dongle away from the player and a detachable kettle style power cable.
The BDP-103 has an impressive array of connections including two HDMI v1.4a outputs and a composite (diagnostic) video output using an RCA connector, although as is the case with all Blu-ray players these days, the component video output has been dropped. There is also a second HDMI input at the rear, allowing you to connect another device and take advantage of the Oppo's superb video processing. There are also two more USB ports, a LAN port (in case you donít have a wireless router), a connector for the external IR sensor, a digital audio out using both optical and coaxial and an RS-232C connector for custom installers. Finally the BDP-103 includes 7.1 analogue audio outputs via RCA connectors for those that donít have HDMI capable receivers. The only thing missing is a dedicated stereo analogue output but you can downconvert the 7.1 channels to two channels if for some reason you want stereo audio output.
Whilst the remote control is quite large, we really like it because the sizeable buttons, intuitive layout and backlight make it very easy to use in the dark. The remote's design and build quality reflects that of the player, as does Oppoís attention to detail. The remote feels solid and comfortable to hold, the buttons themselves are easy to differentiate by touch and have a nice tactile response when pressing them. The buttons include all the usual controls for playing a disc and navigating menus, along with buttons for engaging the 2D to 3D conversion or bringing up the 3D menu. There is also a Pure Audio button that shuts down the video when listening to music, a button for changing the resolution and one for dimming the front display. There is even a dedicated button for directly accessing Netflix, which has now been added to the player's internet platform.
Setup and Menus
Setting up the BDP-103 is very straightforward, especially as most people will be using HDMI to connect the player to either a display or a receiver. The BDP-103 includes two HDMI outputs just like last year's players but the menu now offers a choice of Split A/V or Dual Display. If you choose Dual Display, the BDP-103 outputs video to two displays simultaneously but if you choose Split A/V, the player outputs video over HDMI 1 and audio over HDMI 2. This can be useful if you want to send video directly to your display and audio directly to your receiver, if perhaps that receiver is unable to handle 3D. Alternatively you might want to connect one HDMI output to a display and one to an external video processor if again that processor is unable to pass 3D. The BDP-103 also includes a Source Direct function which allows a user with an external video processor to output the original video content without any processing, so for example Blu-rays will be output at 1080p24 and PAL DVDs will be output at 576i.
For audio the set-up procedure is also fairly straightforward and largely depends on what kind of system the user has. If the users' receiver can decode the high definition audio formats (Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio) then the BDP-103 can pass the audio as bitstream via HDMI. Alternatively the decoding can be done internally and the BDP-103 can pass the audio as PCM, either via HDMI or using the 7.1 analogue outputs. If you have DVD-Audio or SACD discs the player can also pass their audio as PCM via HDMI or the analogue outputs and in the case of SACD the audio can be passed as bitstream using the DSD (Direct Stream Digital) codec if your receiver can decode it. The same is true of HDCDs, which the BDP-103 can either decode internally or allow the receiver to decode.
The menu system is very well designed - it is intuitive, concise and very responsive. When you first turn on the BDP-103 there is an Easy Setup Wizard which guides you through the basic setup of the player for settings such as the primary video output, the resolution, the aspect ratio and the audio settings. All the more detailed setup menus can be found by going to the Setup menu on the Home page or by pressing Setup on the remote. As before, pressing Setup on the remote brings up the relevant menu screen, even if a disc is playing , so you don't have to leave playback mode to alter the settings. This feature is great for comparing the impact of different options and not having to stop the disc saves time, especially where Blu-rays are concerned.
The Setup menu is broken down into six sub-menus - Playback Setup, Video Setup, Audio Format Setup, Audio Processing, Device Setup and Network Setup. Within Playback Setup are the controls for SACD and DVD-Audio playback as well as functions such as auto play, auto resume, languages and parental control. The Audio Format sub-menu allows the user to set the secondary audio used for commentaries etc. and whether the HDMI output will pass PCM or bitstream. In addition you can set the optical or coaxial to pass either PCM or bitstream as well as choose if the DSD decoding for SACDs and any HDCD decoding for CDs is done in the player or passed directly to your receiver for decoding. Whichever combinations you choose, the BDP-103 is capable of passing audio up to 192kHz at 24-bit over 7.1 channels.
The Audio Processing sub-menu is used for setting up the speaker configuration, distance and levels as well as the crossover frequency if you are going to decode the audio in the BDP-103 and pass via the 7.1 analogue audio outputs. There is also a dynamic range control for smoothing the audio during low level listening, a control for output volume and one for turning on the DTS Neo:6 mode.
The Device Setup sub-menu includes information about the latest firmware as well as the option to be notified of any new firmware upgrades. Oppo are very good at continually upgrading their software in an effort to provide the best possible performance so we recommend you always have the Firmware Notification set to On. These upgrades can be done a number of ways, either via disc, USB or through your network (LAN or Wi-Fi). There is also a control for the Remote Code in case the default setting interferes with other devices, as well as a control for HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control). Finally there is the control for dimming or turning off the display as well as a menu for the persistent storage. The BDP-103EU has 1GB of internal storage but more can be added via USB. The Network Setup sub-menu allows the user to set up the network connection either through a LAN cable or using the provided Wi-Fi dongle. We're surprised that Wi-Fi isn't just built-in but since the BDP-103 comes with the dongle, it doesn't really matter. Once set up the user will have access to BD-Live content via Blu-ray and other streamed media, as well as a new feature that adds access to the Gracenote database.
The Video Setup sub-menu offers all of the controls related to the Dual HDMI Output, the TV Aspect Ratio, as well the TV System and since most modern displays can handle PAL and NTSC we would advise selecting Multi-system. We would also recommend setting the Output Resolution to suit your display, which now includes 4K, and turn on 1080p24 Output. If you have 1080p24 Output on and you watch a lot of NTSC DVDs then there is an option to use 3:2 pulldown to convert them to 1080p24 output. There are also a number of Display Options, the most useful of which is the Subtitle Shift which allows the user to move the subtitles up. This is a very handy function if you have a constant height setup with a 2.35:1 screen and the subtitles appear in the black bars on a particular disc. There is also an HDMI Options sub-menu which allows the user to select the Colour Space for both HDMI1 and HDMI2. This setting defaults to Auto which allows the BDP-103 to select the colour space supported by the userís display. There is also an option to select Deep Colour for both the HDMI1 and HDMI2 outputs but since there is very little content that uses this feature, we would recommend leaving them at their Off default position.
There is a 3D Output sub-menu where you can select Auto to output 3D if supported by your display, Off which always outputs 2D and Forced which always outputs a 3D Blu-ray as 3D; generally the best setting is Auto. The other 3D related menu is 3D Setting, where you can select the amount of depth when using the 2D to 3D feature and also set the diagonal screen size of your 3D display. A new feature that Oppo have just added with the latest firmware update is Blank HDMI 2, which allows the player to force HDMI 2 to output a 2D blank screen when HDMI 1 outputs 3D video. Some customers reported that during 3D movie playback, when HDMI 1 was connected to a 3D display and HDMI 2 was connected to a non-3D receiver which in turn is connected to the same 3D display, there was no audio coming from the receiver. This change now resolves that issue and is a good example of Oppo listening to customer feedback.
Finally within the Video Setup sub-menu there is a Picture Adjustment menu which includes Brightness, Contrast, Hue (Tint), Saturation (Colour), Sharpness, Noise Reduction, Colour Enhancement and Contrast Enhancement controls. These controls can be applied to either HDMI1, HDMI2 or the Analogue Video outputs and up to 3 different Picture Modes can be saved. Generally we would recommend leaving the majority of these controls at their default setting of zero. Increasing the Sharpness control to 'sharpen' the image will only add ringing and other artefacts but reducing the sharpness control will slightly blur the image which could prove useful to hide compression artefacts on standard definition content. The Noise Reduction control could also be used to reduce compression artefacts such as mosquito noise on standard definition content. However when it comes to a properly mastered Blu-ray always make sure these settings are all set to zero because a pristine 1080p image just doesnít need any additional processing.
If we had one criticism of the previous Oppo Blu-ray players it was that their internet platform was very limited, especially when compared to some of the feature-laden systems offered by the competition. Oppo have tried to address this with the BDP-103, providing an expanded platform of services and better networking and streaming capabilities. Whilst this certainly looks good on paper, the reality is that most of these services are not currently available in the UK and thus the platform remains rather limited.
All the features offered by the BDP-103 can be accessed from the Home page and initially it looks impressive. However, in the UK at least, the only services that you can actually use are Picasa, Netflix and YouTube, with the rest (Vudu, CinemaNow, Film Fresh, Pandora and Rhapsody)not being offered here. The inclusion of Netflix is certainly welcome and it makes sense to concentrate on Video on Demand services but the addition of more useful services like BBC iPlayer or LOVEFiLM would be useful. The problem that Oppo have is that the BDP-103EU is available throughout Europe and the company thus has to services that support different countries. The BDP-103 is also compatible with the Roku Streaming Stick, when and if that feature is supported in the UK.
The BDP-103 is certainly a much better performer when it comes to streaming content over your home network. It includes both Digital Media Player (DMP) and Digital Media Renderer (DMR) features, enabling wired or wireless access of audio, picture, and video files stored on DLNA-compatible digital media servers. The BDP-103 worked well in our testing and appears to support the majority of media and file formats including JPEG, AVCHD, MP3, MP4, DivX, MKV, FLAC and WAV files. All these audio, video and picture files can be accessed via your home network, discs or USB drives.
The BDP-103EU can play CDs and HDCDs, as well as Super Audio CDs (SACD) and DVD-Audio discs. For both SACD and DVD-Audio, the player supports both stereo and multi-channel high resolution audio programs and for SACD, users can select whether to output the DSD (Direct Stream Digital) signal in its native format or convert it into PCM. A new addition is the ability to connect to Gracenote's global media database over the Internet, offering an enriched playback experience by displaying Cover Art, Title, Artist, Genre and other media information for CD, DVD, Blu-ray and a wide range of digital media files. Although, we're not really convinced that Scott Walker should be classed as 'Alternative & Punk'.
Along with most other manufacturers, Oppo offer a remote control app for use with a smartphone or tablet. The remote control app for Android is already available in beta form and the app for Apple iOS devices is coming soon. We tried out the Android app using a tablet and it worked very well, connecting with the player and creating a facsimile of the remote control. It isn't as slick as some of the competition but offers a nice alternative to the provided remote and can be used with the BDP-93/95 players as well.
We would expect any 3D Blu-ray player to output the content on 3D Blu-rays correctly and the BDP-103 doesn't disappoint, delivering a flawless performance. All the discs we tried played first time, with no hand shaking problems or other unexpected issues and navigation and playback was equally as effective. The BDP-103 handled the high definition audio equally as well and the resulting experience was incredibly immersive with the added dimensionality of the 3D image and the enveloping surround sound being delivered perfectly over HDMI. A new 3D feature is the inclusion of 2D to 3D conversion which we regard as little more than a gimmick, it works to a degree but the results never actually look like native 3D.
As with the 3D performance, the digital nature of the content means that any Blu-ray player capable of outputting 1080p should be identical to any other player over HDMI, assuming of course the manufacturer isn't doing anything they shouldn't. We checked and thankfully Oppo have resisted the temptation to fiddle with the 1080p output and, as a result, the BDP-103 again delivered a flawless performance. We also checked there was no backdoor processing going on by comparing source direct to the 1080p output and once again everything was perfect. The BDP-103 correctly output 1080p video without any issues as demonstrated by the multiburst and zone plate patterns on our Spears & Munsil disc. The BDP-103 also includes 4K upscaling to a resolution 3840 x 2160 and although we were unable to test it, we can't help feeling that such a feature is something of a gimmick, given the current lack of 4K displays.
When it comes to 1080i content the opportunity for the player itself to add value is far greater than it is with 1080p content. The ability of the player to detect film content inside the interlaced signal and correctly deinterlace it without introducing artefacts is dependent on the quality of the processing in the player itself. The BDP-103 passed every single cadence test on both my Spear & Munsil and HQV Blu-rays, so the video processing is as good as we expected. We also used the HQV Blu-ray disc to check the quality of the video deinterlacing. This disc has a jaggies pattern that uses three rotating bars and with the BDP-103 all three bars were smooth with no jaggies. The BDP-103 also had no problems with the video resolution loss test, correctly processing the moving portion of the image and leaving the background free of artefacts. The BDP-103 was also able to handle discs with film content that is encoded at 1080i/50Hz without any problems. Whilst there isnít a great deal of 1080i content on Blu-ray it is good to know that the BDP-103 is capable of such excellent performance and if you do have any 1080i content the player will be able to output it flawlessly.
Overall the BDP-103ís performance with both NTSC and PAL content was of reference quality. Using the HQV DVDs the BDP-93EU was also able to fully reproduce the SMPTE colour bar tests for both PAL and NTSC, correctly scaling the full 576i/50Hz and 480i/60Hz images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. With the video deinterlacing tests the results were also excellent, the BDP-103 reproduced the rotating line without producing any jaggies, even at the most extreme angles. In the motion adaptive deinterlacing test the performance remained superb with all three moving lines being reproduced correctly, even on the bottom line. The BDP-103 also had no problems in resolving all the fine brickwork in the detail tests on both the PAL and NTSC discs.
The BDP-103ís performance was equally impressive with the film detail test, correctly locking on to the image and in the cadence tests it also performed flawlessly, correctly detecting the most common types 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) and 2:2 (PAL - European) format as well as all the more obscure variations. There is also an option to restore the original 24 frames per second progressive-scan video from well-authored NTSC DVDs and output at 1080p 24Hz. This is a handy feature if you have a lot of movies on US DVDs but remember to turn it off for video based content. The BDP-103 also had no problems with the test displaying film material with scrolling video text, the text was always clearly readable without any shredding. This was a superb performance by the BDP-103 and represents some of the best processing, deinterlacing and scaling that we have seen, not only from a player but even from some dedicated video processors.
Subjective Audio Tests
Unlike the video performance which can be measured using a series of established tests and viewed on a calibrated reference monitor, things are a little more subjective when it comes to the audio performance. As with video, the audio will also be subject to the quality of the system being used, how it is setup and how it has been calibrated. In addition, since most people will be sending the audio as a digital bitstream over HDMI, this means that the digital to analogue conversion is actually being handled by their receiver or audio processor.
We tried a number of different audio formats on the BDP-103 including multichannel PCM, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA soundtracks from Blu-rays and Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks from DVDs. We also listened to the multichannel audio from SACD and DVD-Audio discs as well as two channel audio from SACDs and CDs, including HDCDs. We tried different methods of connecting the BDP-103 to our receiver, including HDMI, optical, coaxial and analogue multichannel cables and we also switched between bitstream and PCM.
The result of all these experiments was that we could not detect any differences between these various modes and every format sounded wonderful. The BDP-103 is clearly a very capable audio performer and whether it was DTS-HD Master Audio or a stereo CD the audio sounded fantastic. The BDP-103 was also able to detect all the different discs and audio formats without any problems and played each one back flawlessly.
Disc Load Times
The BDP-103 uses new dual-core processing and as a result it is incredibly fast at both powering on and loading discs. It only took 5 seconds for the BDP-103 to power on and extend the disc tray and whilst the loading times of discs will vary from studio to studio, it was still very fast with most discs loading in about 20 seconds. When it came to DVDs, the BDP-103 was equally as fast and most discs had reached their menu page before we had sat down. The BDP-103 is also very quick at navigating discs and thanks to the steel chassis, aluminium faceplate, and centre-mounted disc loader, it's also very quiet.
Our feedback for Oppo
If you are interested in buying the Oppo BDP-103EU,
Have your say
Read about our review ethos and the meaning of our review badges here.
4,496 word review viewed 15,872 times.
3D Universal Blu-ray Disc Player
Suggested price: £499
Reviewed 7th December, 2012 by Stephen Withers
To get the best out of your TV or projector, consider getting it calibrated.