Editors' note: The rating on this product has been lowered because of changes in the competitive marketplace.
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.
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 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.