Although the DV-980H touts its HD upscaling, that doesn't mean it can play either of the new high-definition disc formats, HD DVD and Blu-ray. Despite what you may have read elsewhere, upscaling generally only yields slight increases in picture quality, and the degree of those increases depends on your HDTV. Every HDTV already has upscaling processing built-in, so the increase in quality can only occur if the DVD player does a better job than your TV does--and we'll cover the DV-980's performance later. The DV-980 is capable of upscaling to 720p, 1080i, and 1080p resolution through its HDMI output; as with virtually every other DVD player, there is no upscaling available over the component video output.
We were pleased with the way the DV-980H handled older nonanamorphic wide-screen discs. Some older HDTVs, such as the HP LC3760N and the Philips 42PF9831D, do not have aspect-ratio control when fed sources in a high-def resolution, so it's nice to have the upscaling DVD player handle it. This is not an issue for most high-quality DVDs, which are anamorphic, but nonanamorphic wide-screen discs will look distorted via on many player/TV combinations that lack proper aspect ratio control. To correct for this, engage the 16:9 Wide/Auto under TV Display on the Oppo's General Setup screen. The player will automatically detect nonanamorphic discs and squeeze them into the proper aspect ratio and zoom the appropriate amount to fill the screen. You're also able to zoom other material to fill the screen, eliminate black bars, or magnify a section of the image.
Connectivity is another strong point on the DV-980H, which has as many outputs as you could want. For video, there is an HDMI output, a component video output, an S-Video output and a composite video output. The extra inputs are nice, but remember that to really take advantage of the DV-980H, you'll want to use the upscaling HDMI output. That output also carries audio, and other audio outputs include both optical and coaxial digital audio jacks and a 7.1 channel analog multichannel output. Rounding out the connectivity, as mentioned before, is the USB port on the front panel.
Like every other Oppo we've reviewed, the DV-980H delivers excellent image quality on standard definition DVDs. We started off by looking at some test material. The DV-980H did a superb job with the vast majority of tests on Silicon Optix's HQV test suite. The initial resolution test looked absolutely solid, displaying the full resolution of DVDs with no flicking on the image that we sometimes see. The player also passed the jaggies tests, showing very little jaggies on a rotating white line or three pivoting white lines. We did notice more jaggies than we'd like on a shot of a waving flag, but overall it was still better than most DVD players we test. The DV-980H also aced on the 2:3 pulldown test, locking into film mode very quickly with no moirÃ© in the grandstands.
The Oppo fared well with additional test patterns as well. Using the Windows DVD Test Annex, we noted that the DV-980H did not suffer from the chroma upsampling error (also known as the chroma bug), which occasionally still pops up in new DVD players. Using Digital Video Essentials, we were able to confirm that the DV-980H does not crush whites or blacks, as it successfully passed both blacker-than-black and whiter-than-white signals. While the real-world benefits of passing these tests are slight, videophiles will be happy to know that the information is not lost.
We switched to actual program material and the DV-980H didn't disappoint. The introduction to Seabiscuit looked great--a sequence that even HQV-equipped players struggle with. For a DVD, Seabiscuit has exceptionally rich colors and the DV-980H made DVD look just about as good as it gets. The introduction to Star Trek: Insurrection is another good test of 2:3 pulldown, and the DV-980H had no trouble smoothly rendering the curved lines of the bridge railing and the hulls of the boats. We looked at several other discs, including Serenity and King Kong, and had difficulty nitpicking the image quality even when we were looking for flaws. When we matched it up with the DV-981HD, spotting repeatable differences was very difficult, although we'd give the nod to the DV-981HD if we had to choose. Overall, the DV-980H's performance is outstanding for its price range and should satisfy nearly everyone.