With its sterling reputation among home theater connoisseurs, every new Oppo product is greeted with higher expectations than the last. While many have hoped that Oppo would roll out a HD DVD or Blu-ray player, the latest model is another standard DVD player for those still sitting out the format war. The Oppo DV-980H is an update to the DV-970HD, adding refinements such as 1080p output, 7.1 analog outputs and a black finish. This is on top of all the other features we've already come to expect from Oppo, such as DVD-Audio/SACD playback, DivX/Xvid playback from CDs, DVDs and USB flash drives, and playback of PAL movies. As with other Oppo players, the performance of the DV-980H is excellent, proving to be comparable to players costing much more.
While the DV-980H pretty much does everything right, its $170 price tag may cause buyers to wonder if it doesn't make more sense to buy the Toshiba HD-A2 HD DVD player instead, which can be had for about $240 at the time of this review and should get even cheaper when Toshiba rolls out its new lineup in October. That's a tough choice and probably comes down to how often you'll use the extra features of the DV-980H--the HD-A2 lacks enthusiast-friendly features such as DVD-Audio/SACD playback and DivX support. On the other hand, the audio and video quality on most HD DVD discs blows away anything DVD players can offer. The DV-980H is a top-notch DVD player with excellent enthusiast-friendly features and performance, but with the falling price of HD DVD units, we have a feeling it may be the last high-end DVD player we can recommend.
In terms of functionality and performance, the DV-980H is really an update to the DV-970HD, but you wouldn't know it from the way it looks. While the DV-970HD has a reflective silver faceplate that looks a little cheap, the DV-980H sports an all-black look that we prefer. To the far left is the power button, followed by a resolution indicator, with a light that tells you whether you're in 1080p, 1080i, 720p, or 480p mode. We definitely like the idea of the light, but we would have also liked the option to turn it off--especially for home theater buffs that are irked by any additional light sources in the room. Further to the right is the LED display--which thankfully can be dimmed or turned off--along with some front panel control buttons, including chapter forward/backward buttons. Although it doesn't have anything to do with how the product looks, we do have to commend Oppo on their excellent product packaging--the soft protective sleeve and included HDMI cable make you feel like you got your money's worth.
One of the small gripes often mentioned about Oppo players is that the disc tray feels a little flimsy. That's definitely still the case on the DV-980H, although it feels may a tad sturdier than previous models. Still, although we've mentioned the flimsiness before, we don't think it's a major issue--we've been using several Oppo players in CNET labs for a while and have never run into any problems.
The remote will look familiar to fans of Oppo gear, as it's essentially identical to the remote on the DV-970HD and DV-981HD. While we've become accustomed to Oppo's remote design, there's still some room for improvement. Most of the buttons are similarly shaped, which makes it difficult to navigate by feel. On the other hand, the buttons are all glow-in-the-dark, so it's pretty easy to navigate in a darkened home theater.
The DV-980H's main function is to play back DVDs, but it is also capable of playing back the two niche high-resolution audio formats, SACD and DVD-Audio. Unlike most other SACD and DVD-Audio players, the DV-980H is capable of sending the multichannel audio over the HDMI connection to compatible receivers--it can even send the encoded DSD stream to receivers with onboard DSD decoding. It's also able to playback numerous file formats (MP3, WMA and DivX) burned onto DVDs and CDs, or from a thumbdrive connected to the Oppo's USB 2.0 port. We had no problem playing a few 175 MB DivX files off a thumbdrive.