Oppo add some 'visual presence' to their Blu-ray players
What is the Oppo BDP-103D?
It's never easy trying to follow-up a hugely successful product, so spare a thought for Oppo who have had to do it not once but twice in the last three years.When they released their BDP-93 Blu-ray player to an expectant enthusiast market back in 2011 they didn't disappoint, delivering a genuinely universal disc spinner that ticked every box. In terms of performance, features and build quality, Oppo's inaugural European Blu-ray player didn't put a foot wrong. When you hit it out of the park on your first pitch it's never going to be easy following up but Oppo did a pretty good job with the BDP-103EU. This player included all the features that made the 93 so good and added yet more such as a HDMI input to take advantage of the superb video processing and 4K upscaling. It also addressed the few minor gripes that people had with the BDP93.That's all well and good but what do you do next, when your current Blu-ray player is already regarded as the reference machine in the market place? Well we suspect what Oppo were hoping for 4K Blu-ray but in the continuing absence of the Ultra HD disc format they had two choices. They could either continue selling the award-winning BDP-103 or create a new player that they could differentiate in some way and hang a marketing campaign on. Oppo have gone for the latter and produced the BDP-103D, which is essentially identical to the BDP103 but now adds Darbee image processing - hence the 'D' suffix. Is this latest iteration of the 103 a worthy successor or nothing more than a marketing gimmick? Let's find out...
Design and ConnectivityThe 103D uses exactly the same chassis as the previous model, which is extremely solid with an attractive brushed aluminium front and simple buttons, disc tray and display that provides 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. These buttons are slightly raised and there is a tiny illuminated icon on the eject button, which makes it easy to locate in a darkened room. The centrally mounted disc tray operates smoothly and quietly, thanks to some careful engineering and excellent construction. The display is 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. On the front right of the 103D there is a USB 2.0 port and an HDMI input that is compatible with MHL (Mobile High-definition Link). As always with Oppo there is a well written and informative manual, along with some carefully thought out and well-padded packaging. Inside you will find the 103D comes in a rather nice bag with a separate box for the player’s 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.
Just like the previous incarnation, the 103D has an impressive array of connections at the rear including two HDMI outputs and an additional HDMI input, allowing you to connect another device and take advantage of Oppo's superb video processing. There are also two more USB ports, a LAN port, 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 103D includes 7.1-channel analogue audio outputs via RCA connectors, which you can also down-convert to two channel if you want stereo audio output.
The remote control is the standard Oppo model with large buttons, an intuitive layout and a backlight to make it easier to use in the dark. The remote feels solid and comfortable to hold, whilst 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 accessing the Home page, Netflix and the Darbee processing. There is also a Pure Audio button, which bypasses the video circuits for when you're just listening to music.
Like its predecessor, the 103D is a beautifully made and well thought out disc player that ticks all the boxes.
Menus and SetupOppo have been using the same menu system for the last three years and it's well designed - intuitive, concise and very responsive. The Setup menu is broken down into six sub-menus - Playback Setup, Video Setup, Audio Format Setup, Audio Processing, Device Setup and Network Setup. The sub-menus are fairly self explanatory, with Video Setup covering all the necessary controls for correctly setting up the video features on the 103D and the Audio Format Setup covering the various audio options. The Audio Processing sub-menu is only applicable if you intend to use the 103D's multi-channel analogue outputs, whilst the Network Setup allows you to create either a wired or wireless network connection using the included dongle. The Playback Setup sub-menu covers various options covering disc playback and finally the Device Setup sub-menu covers options related to the player itself including firmware updates.
The big difference between the 103D and the 103EU is in the Picture Adjustment sub-menu where along with the existing picture controls, you'll also find the new settings for the Darbee Visual Presence and VRS ClearView features. As with the 103EU, the Picture Mode includes Brightness, Contrast, Hue (Tint), Saturation (Colour) and Noise Reduction controls. The Darbee controls give you a choice of Mode (High-Def, Gaming, Full Pop) and Level, with a Demo Mode for comparing the before and after effect. The VRS ClearView controls include Detail Enhancement, Edge Enhancement and Video Smoothing. As with the Darbee controls there is also a Demo Mode for before and after comparisons. The Picture controls can be applied to either HDMI1 or HDMI2 but the Darbee and VRS ClearView features only apply to HDMI 1. You can create and save up to three different Picture Modes.
FeaturesOppo have been trying to expand the smart platform available on their players and whilst still not as comprehensive as much of the competition, they at least cover some of the key features. All these features are accessed from the Home page and from a UK perspective the main services you will probably use are Picasa, Netflix, YouTube and BBC iPlayer. The latter is a welcome addition to the line-up but there's obviously still a lot missing. The 103D is a great 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 103D 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 103D 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. The player can also access 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. Oppo also offer a remote control app for use with a smartphone or tablet. This app works very well, easily connecting with the player and creating a facsimile of the physical controller. It isn't as slick as some of the competition but offers a certain level of convenience and an alternative to the provided remote.
Oppo have finally added BBC iPlayer which is a nice addition to the smart platform.
Oppo BDP-103D Audio PlaybackThe 103D is an excellent audio performer, although how much impact it will have on sound quality will largely depend on how the player is being used and the rest of your system. Since most people will probably send the audio as a digital bitstream over HDMI, this means that the digital-to-analogue conversion will be being handled by their receiver or audio processor. In this scenario the 103D won't sound any better or worse than any other player sending a digital signal over a digital connection - the deciding factor will be the rest of the system. If your receiver or audio processor can't handle a bitstream signal, you can also perform the decoding in the 103D and send the audio as PCM. Finally if your receiver to audio processor doesn't support HDMI you also have the option to perform the decoding and digital-to-analogue conversion in the Oppo and send the audio via the multi-channel analogue outputs.
We tried a number of different audio formats on the 103D 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. The 103D was able to detect all the different discs and audio formats without any problems and played each one back flawlessly. As a digital transport the 103D was excellent but if you plan on using the multi-channel analogue outputs for whatever reason you won't be disappointed either. The Oppo proved to be very capable at both decoding and digital-to-analogue conversion, although we preferred sending the audio as a bitstream signal and performing these tasks in the various receivers that were paired with the 103D.
Oppo BDP-103D Video PlaybackAs always we would expect any 3D Blu-ray player to output the content on 3D Blu-rays correctly and the 103D doesn't disappoint, delivering a flawless performance. All the discs we tried played first time, with no handshaking problems or other unexpected issues and navigation and playback was equally as effective. 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. With all the processing features turned off, the 103D again delivered a flawless performance. 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. As we expected the BDP-103 passed every single cadence test, whilst the video deinterlacing was equally as good and in the video resolution test it correctly processed the moving portion of the image, leaving the background free of artefacts. The 103D also includes 4K upscaling to a resolution 3840 x 2160 and although we were unable to test the feature on this player, previous Oppo players that we have tested have performed well in this regard.
The deinterlacing and scaling capabilities found on Oppo Blu-ray players are superb and set a reference by which all other disc players are measured. So if you have a large collection of DVDs, the 103D can give them a whole new lease of life thanks to some truly impressive video processing. In our tests the 103D delivered superb results when it came to scaling and with the video deinterlacing tests the results were equally as good, eliminating jaggies and other unwanted artefacts. The 103D also had no problems with the test displaying film material with scrolling video text, the text was always clearly readable without any shredding. The motion adaptive deinterlacing was also excellent and in the cadence tests the 103D performed flawlessly, correctly detecting the 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) and 2:2 (PAL - European) formats. There is even 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've bought a lot of DVDs from the US in the past but remember to turn it off for video based content.
The big selling point go the BDP-103D is the inclusion of both Darbee Visual presence and VRS ClearView processing and whether you feel the price premium over the 103EU is warranted will depend on how much value you place on these features. If you're a video purist that just wants their Blu-ray player to output exactly what's on the disc then Darbee processing is not for you and whilst you can just turn it off, you may as well buy the 103EU and save £100. However if Darbee processing is something you're interested in then the 103D provides this feature for a premium that is half the cost of buying a separate processor. So how does Darbee Visual Presence work? Well in simple terms in uses proprietary algorithms in conjunction with local pixel luminance adjustments to create a perception of greater detail and depth. Remember that if you're watching a Blu-ray on a 1080p display you're already seeing all the detail that's available, so what Darbee are doing is essentially a trick. Whether you like the look of this trick is largely down to personal preference and how much you adhere to the content creator's original intent. We actually reviewed Darbee's standalone unit in some detail here, so if you'd like an in-depth look at how the processing works we would suggest you give it a read because in the interests of brevity we'll just give you the highlights in this review.
As mentioned previously there are three modes - Hi-Def, Gaming and Full Pop - with each offering a greater degree of processing. You can also adjust the level of each mode, increasing the amount of processing. We found that if we were going to use the Darbee processing at all, we restricted ourselves to Hi-Def as the other two looked overly processed, and set the level at a lower percentage. Whilst we could see the pixel manipulation working well with video games, when it came to film and TV content and especially Blu-rays, we were less convinced. Ultimately we found that whilst the image initially looked sharper and had greater depth, we were also aware that it was being processed and film in particular developed a slightly 'digital' look that was certainly not the director's intention. The same was true with the VRS ClearView processing which adds a host of edge and detail enhancement controls, along with a video smoothing feature. Whilst these features could be useful for improving the look of lower resolution and heavily compressed material, particularly content from the internet, they should be left off when watching Blu-rays. In some respects the VRS ClearView processing makes more sense, especially if you plan to watch a lot of streaming video content on the 103D or want to take advantage of the HDMI input and use the Oppo as a video processor.
The video performance is exemplary but the addition of Darbee processing feels like a bit of a gimmick.
Disc Load TimesThe 103D uses the same dual-core processing found on the previous incarnation and as a result it is incredibly fast at both powering on and loading discs. It only took 5 seconds for the 103D 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 103D was equally as fast and regardless of the disc type it was also very quick at navigation. One of the things you're paying for with the 103D is the build quality and thanks to the steel chassis, aluminium faceplate, and centre-mounted disc loader, it's extremely quiet.
Oppo BDP-103D Video Review
- Standby: 0.0W
- Idle: 10W
- Playing a disc: 12W
- Universal playback
- Reference video processing
- Excellent build quality and quiet operation
- Very fast load and response times
- Easy to use with well designed menu system
- Two HDMI outputs
- 7.1 Analogue audio outputs
- WiFi dongle included
- Well designed and high quality remote
- No dedicated stereo analogue outputs
- Limited internet functionality
- More expensive
Oppo 103D (BDP-103D) Blu-ray Player ReviewThe BDP-103D is another great Blu-ray player from Oppo that combines superb build quality, careful design and excellent performance in equal measures. The player is wonderfully engineered and constructed, with fast loading times, responsive navigation and almost silent operation. There are more connections than you will probably ever need and the remote control and menu system are highly intuitive and easy to use. The audio performance is excellent, with plenty of flexibility in terms of how you can connect the 103D to your receiver or audio processor. The video performance is also superb and the deinterlacing and scaling is amongst the best you will find anywhere. The disc support is genuinely universal and whilst the smart platform isn't as comprehensive as some of the competition, it's good to see that Oppo have added BBC iPlayer. The file support and network features are excellent and the remote app works very well, making for a handy alternative to the provided controller. The only difference between the BDP-103D and the previous BDP-103EU is the addition of Darbee Visual Presence and VRS ClearView processing and since you can still buy the 103EU, the real question is whether these additional features are worth an extra £100?
The answer is largely going to be a matter of personal taste and specifically whether you feel that Darbee processing adds value to your viewing experience. From a video purist perspective the Darbee technology is manipulating the image and that is never desirable. Whilst, at first glance, you may think the image looks better and more defined, if you're watching a Blu-ray on a 1080p display you simply can't add what isn't there. So the Darbee processing is a trick but if you like the results then that's your prerogative and the £100 premium is cheaper than buying the Darbee processor separately. However we always prefer our Blu-ray players to output a pristine signal from the disc itself with no additional processing or manipulation; so from that perspective we would rather not have things like Darbee processing being included. Of course you can just turn the processing off but you're still paying a premium for a feature you probably won't use. The BDP-103D is a great player and is deserving of a recommendation on that basis alone but unless you really want to add Darbee image processing to your viewing experience we would suggest you go for the superb BDP-103EU instead and save yourself £100.
Ease Of Use9
Value For Money8
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.