Oppo UDP-203 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Review
Does the Oppo offer the best 4K opportunities?
What is the Oppo UDP-203?The UDP-203 is Oppo’s first Ultra HD Blu-ray disc player and combines the main features of their earlier Blu-ray players with the latest in 4K and High Dynamic Range playback. The new disc spinner can handle CD, DVD, DVD-Audio, SACD and Blu-ray (both 2D and 3D), as well as the new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format. There are multichannel analogue outputs for those that haven't gone fully digital yet and Oppo are even promising a Dolby Vision update in the spring but, does the UDP-203 do enough to justify its £649 asking price? Let’s find out.
DesignThe UDP-203 uses the same basic design as their previous BDP-103 Blu-ray player, although if you look closely there are some minor differences. The disc tray is centrally mounted on both players but Oppo have now moved the display to the centre as well, just below the disc tray. The display itself, which can be dimmed or turned off, remains well designed and informative. There is still an illuminated power button on the far left and play, pause, forwards, backwards and stop controls on the far right. Just to the right of the disc tray is the eject button but, unlike on the BDP-103, this isn’t illuminated which makes it hard to find with the lights out. The HDMI input that was on the front of the previous generation has been dropped but there’s still a USB 2.0 port.That’s it in terms of the front facia but we like the clean and minimalist approach that Oppo have taken, whilst the black brushed metal finish is very fetching. The UDP-203 takes a decidedly classical approach and uses a full size chassis which is nice to see in these days of players with half the depth or curved fronts. The build quality is excellent, with a solid construction and an impressive level of finish. To a certain extent this is what you’re paying for when it comes to an Oppo player and the UDP-203 doesn’t disappoint. The disc mechanism is smooth and despite some owners complaining that their players are noisy, our review sample was nearly silent in operation. The UDP-203 measures 430 x 311 x 79mm (WxDxH) and weighs in at 4.3kg.
The UDP-203 has the classic looks and solid build quality that we expect from Oppo
Connections & ControlThe majority of the connections are at the rear and although the layout is very similar to the BDP-103, there are some notable differences to reflect the UDP-203's Ultra HD Blu-ray capabilities.
As before there are two HDMI outputs but the first of these is HDMI 2.0a with support for HDCP 2.2 and HDR. The second HDMI output is HDMI 1.4 and is an audio only output that offers the choice of running video and audio separately or, as is more likely, connecting the UDP-203 to an AV processor or receiver that doesn't support HDCP 2.2 and HDR. There is also an additional HDMI input, allowing you to connect other devices and use the Oppo as a video processor.
There are two USB 3.0 ports, a LAN port, digital audio outputs using both optical and coaxial connectors, in and out triggers and an RS-232C serial port for custom installers. Finally the 203 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. Unlike previous Oppo players, which used a wireless dongle connected to one of the USB ports at the rear, the UDP-203 has built-in WiFi.The remote control is essentially the same as the one included with previous generations of Oppo Blu-ray players but the company has made a few refinements. The new remote retains the same shape and size, with a groove on the back and large buttons, that make it comfortable to hold and easy to use with one hand. The remote is also still backlit but now it's motion sensitive, so the backlight comes on when you pick up the controller. Otherwise the layout and function of the majority of the buttons are the same as before.
In terms of actual differences the 3D button, which was fairly redundant, has been dropped to be replaced by the Dimmer button. Where the Dimmer button was there is now a new button called Pic which provides direct access the Picture Adjustment Menu. Since the backlight is now motion activated, there's no need for a dedicated backlight button and Oppo have replaced it with a new HDR button – more on this later. The direct access buttons for Netflix and Vudu have also been dropped for reasons that will become obvious in the next section.
The remote control is familiar but Oppo have made some useful refinements
Features & SpecsIn terms of features the main one is obviously the UDP-203's ability to play Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. In conjunction with Mediatek, Oppo have developed the quad-core OP8591, which is a specialised 4K UHD Blu-ray decoder SoC (System-on-Chip), to deliver a superior performance. The UDP-203 also has some useful options, one of which is the ability to select either 10- or 12-bit video depth. The Panasonic DMP-UB900 only outputs at 12-bit and this has caused banding issues for some older HDR TVs, so being able to select 10-bit should help eliminate the problem. The UDP-203 can turn HDR off and output at Rec.709 or strip the HDR metadata and output at Rec.2020, although the latter is still a work in progress. Oppo have said that they plan to add Dolby Vision via a future firmware update, making the UDP-203 the first player to support the alternative HDR format.
The UDP-203 is actually a universal player, so along with Ultra HD Blu-ray it can also play regular Blu-rays (both 2D and 3D), as well as DVD, DVD-Audio, SACD and CD. The Oppo supports both stereo and multi-channel high resolution audio content and for SACD, users can select whether to output the DSD (Direct Stream Digital) signal in its native format or convert it into PCM. Whilst digital over HDMI is the main audio choice these days, UDP-203 includes the option of 2-channel or 7.1-channel analogue outputs and uses a 32-bit/384kHz 8-channel DAC from AKM, that supports formats such as 32-bit/192kHz PCM and multichannel DSD 24/128. Oppo do offer a remote app for use with smartphones and tablets, however we were unable to get their current app to work with UDP-203, although we would expect the new player to be added in the near future.
The UDP-203 will support all the main audio formats including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, which means you can also enjoy immersive audio formats like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D. The Oppo 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 Oppo 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 drive and the UDP-203 even offered gapless playback in some cases.
The home pages have been redesigned and now use a series of images, one for each of the seven options. This is a nice touch and certainly makes navigating the various home pages more visually interesting. The menus are essentially the same as previous Oppo players, which is good news because we have always found them comprehensive and intuitive to use. What you won't find on the UDP-203 are any third party streaming services, which explains the absence of the Netflix and Vudu buttons on the remote control. It's possible that Oppo may add various services later, previous models started with minimal streaming services but now include Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Tidal. In the meantime there's hardly a shortage of other devices for accessing streaming services and the main reason for purchasing the UDP-203 is as an Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
MORE: What is immersive audio?
MORE: What is Dolby Vision?
The Oppo has plenty of features but currently it doesn't support any streaming services
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Playback
The UDP-203 is the first Ultra HD Blu-ray player from Oppo and it didn't disappoint, delivering a near flawless performance with the new 4K disc format. We have read reports of various playback issues with the player when it was first released but as is always the case with Oppo, the company was quick to respond and has already issued a number of firmware updates. We certainly had no issues with our review sample and despite watching a number of UHD BDs on the player, it never put a foot wrong. All the discs we tried played first time and we had no problems HDMI handshaking either, although that can very much depend on the equipment you are using. The playback of 24p content was also superb, with no judder, motion issues or other problems observed.
Given the digital nature of Ultra HD Blu-ray, we would expect any player to be capable of delivering perfect images over HDMI and so it proved with the UDP-203. In direct comparisons with the Panasonic UB900 there was no difference in terms of image quality, with both being exceptional players. When watching a disc like The Magnificent Seven, the Oppo delivered the beautiful landscapes and vistas with exceptional precision, both in terms of the colours and the dynamic range. With a disc like Sully, which was shot at 6.5K and finished at 4K, the images produced by the Oppo were simply breathtaking, whilst animated films like The Secret Life of Pets and Storks were bursting with colour. The chroma processing was equally as impressive with the option of YCbCr 4:4:4 output.
The advantages of 10-bit encoding were made obvious when comparing the Ultra HD Blu-ray and regular Blu-ray of Deepwater Horizon. The film begins with an underwater sequence which was full of banding on the Blu-ray but completely absent from the Ultra HD Blu-ray. The impact of HDR was also impressive but if your display doesn't support HDR then the player can strip the HDR metadata and output SDR instead. You can either do this via the menu or by using the HDR button on the remote control, although novelty value aside were not sure a dedicated button on the remote was actually necessary. The flexibility of the UDP-203 in terms of setup is sure to please enthusiasts, with the option to choose 10- or 12-bit video bound to be popular.
The UDP-203 can upscale sources, of any resolution from 480i and up, to Ultra HD which means that when you're watching DVDs or Blu-rays you can still benefit from the superior processing capabilities of the Oppo. Since the UDP-203 has an HDMI input as well, you can also use it as a video processor and scale another connected source. Depending on the native resolution of your display, you can either use the Auto option or select a Custom resolution and in testing the Oppo performed exceptionally well. We tested the upscaling of the player with high definition content from regular Blu-rays, as well as standard definition content from DVD. Overall the UDP-203 proved to be a very capable performer, with the player handling lower resolution content extremely well, delivering upscaled images that were detailed and free of unwanted artefacts. There is also a Direct option, which means the player will output the source at its native resolution, which can be useful if you use the player with an external video processor.
Although its capabilities as an 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player is the main selling point of the UDP-203, the majority of a film fan's collection is going to be composed of regular Full HD Blu-rays. Thankfully the Oppo is also an excellent Blu-ray player, which means it can take what is on the disc and deliver it precisely to the display. We tested the player with our usual selection of 2D and 3D Blu-rays and the UDP-203 played all the discs with ease, delivering great looking images that were detailed and judder-free. As mentioned in the previous section the 4K upscaling was excellent, so as a result the player was able to take the images and deliver every pixel with precision and without introducing scaling artefacts. We used a number of recent 2D Blu-ray releases during the review, including Snowden, and the results were impressive. We also tried various 3D titles, including Kubo and the Two Strings, which again the Oppo handled perfectly without introducing any issues.
Standard Definition Playback
We'll admit that we rarely watch DVDs these days, except for testing purposes, but if that's a format that's still important to you then the UDP-203 won't disappoint. It was an equally effective performer in this area and had no issues playing both PAL and NTSC DVDs. The player exhibited excellent deinterlacing and cadence detection, with the interlaced signals being handled well regardless of whether it was film or video based or even a mixture of the two. In terms of motion there were no problems with our test discs, which appeared free of unwanted judder or other issues. As we mentioned in the previous section on 4K upscaling, the Oppo was also able to take a deinterlaced standard definition signal and upscale it with real precision, resulting in images that were free of unwanted artefacts and surprisingly watchable.
Oppo UDP-203 Video Review
Sound PerformanceWe have read reports of the UDP-203 suffering from lip synch problems but we didn't have any such issues on our review sample. In addition we have also read of problems with dropouts and here we did experience some issues. We initially had the audio output set to the default setting of auto and we quickly noticed dropouts with the Dolby Atmos soundtrack on The Magnificent Seven. However switching from auto to bitstream in the menu immediately fixed this, so if you have had problems with dropouts try this approach. You also need to make sure that Secondary Audio is off if you want to enjoy immersive audio soundtracks like Dolby Atmos.
Aside from this setup issue, we found the Oppo to be an excellent audio performer, although in the digital realm the UDP-203 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 player and send the audio as PCM. In addition 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 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 Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D immersive audio soundtracks and the UDP-203 handled them all with ease. The same was true when it came to multichannel audio from SACD and DVD-Audio discs as well as two channel audio from SACDs and CDs. The Oppo 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 UDP-203 was excellent but if you plan on using the multi-channel analogue outputs then you won't be disappointed either. The Oppo proved to be very capable at both decoding and digital-to-analogue conversion, resulting in an impressive level of sound quality. Personally we prefer the convenience of sending the audio as a bitstream signal and allowing our receiver to handle the digital to analogue conversion but if you're happy to run multiple cables from the back of the player, then the DACs in the UDP-203 are sure to please and the Oppo is a highly competent audio source.
MORE: What is DTS:X?
MORE: What is Auro-3D?
The UDP-203 delivered a near flawless performance with Ultra HD Blu-ray
Disc Loading & Energy ConsumptionThe UDP-203 proved to be reasonably quick when it came to booting up and loading discs and was showing its home page within 14 seconds of pressing the power button. A regular Blu-ray was loaded within 15 seconds and an Ultra HD Blu-ray within 30 seconds, whilst a DVD was playing within about 5 seconds. The disc navigation was reasonably quick and responsive, whilst the player itself was pleasingly quiet in operation. The power consumption was also suitably efficient, with the player drawing less than 0.5W in standby, 14W when idle, which went up to 21W when a disc started playing before settling back to 14W again.
- Flawless playback
- Universal disc support
- Impressive 4K upscaling
- Excellent audio
- Twin HDMI outputs
- Attractive design
- Great build quality
- Dolby Vision support
- No streaming services
Oppo UDP-203 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Review
Should I buy one?
Anyone familiar with Oppo's previous Blu-ray players will have a good idea of what to expect from the UDP-203 and it doesn't disappoint. There's a certain pleasure to be had from a full size chassis and a superb level of build quality. The Oppo is attractively designed, easy to set up and boasts a well designed remote control. The lack of streaming services might be a disappointment for some but they aren't the reason for buying the UDP-203 and in terms of 4K disc playback, the player delivers the goods.
We suspect that Oppo may have rushed the UDP-203 to market at the end of last year if the reported bugs and the number of firmware updates are anything to go by but their customer support is legendary and it would seem the majority of issues have now been fixed. Our review sample delivered a near flawless performance with Ultra HD Blu-ray and was just as impressive with every other disc we tested. It's an excellent video source and an equally good audio source whether its digital or analogue.
The Oppo UDP-203 definitely isn't cheap but manages to go a long way towards justifying its £649 asking price. You certainly won't find a better Ultra HD Blu-ray player on the market, whilst the promise of a Dolby Vision upgrade in the near future means that it's also future-proofed and as such it comes highly recommended.
What are my alternatives?
There are actually quite a few alternatives, depending on your budget. If you're looking for an Ultra HD Blu-ray player at the lowest price possible then the Xbox One S has to be your first port of call at £249 and you get a games console into the bargain. If you're looking for a stand-alone player then Samsung's UBD-K8500 remains a great choice and can be picked up for £299. Then there's Panasonic's DMP-UB700 which also costs £299 and is essentially the same as its more expensive sibling, the UB900, but without the analogue outputs.
However if you're thinking of buying the UDP-203 then the obvious alternative is the Panasonic DMP-UB900, which you can currently buy for £449. There is very little between these two players and both are excellent, so whether you feel the Oppo is worth an additional £200 will largely depend on how much emphasis you place on build quality, universal playback and whether you feel Dolby Vision will be of importance going forward. One thing is for sure, whichever player you choose, you won't be disappointed.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £649.00
Ease Of Use9
Value For Money8
Our Review Ethos
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