If you were to ask someone if £155 was a reasonable sum of money for a DVD player, they would probably say no. But there are many reasons to spend more on a DVD player than that £30 job from Sainsbury's, not least because modern, flat panel TVs really need a good quality source -- ideally one with HDMI out -- to make the most of a DVD picture.
Of course, with Blu-ray players falling in price all the time and many of them capable of upscaling as well, the job of justifying spending money on a simple DVD player becomes harder. But the Oppo 980H isn't a simple player -- far from it. It has some very advanced features, many of which aren't yet available on Blu-ray players.
In Europe, Oppo DVD players are supplied by opposhop.com, and are fitted with a Scart socket, which you wouldn't get if you imported one from the US.
You can't fault much about the Oppo players. They all look slightly different, but there is a build quality and sturdiness to them that really is very pleasing. The cases are made out of proper, tough metal with a nice weight to it.
At the back of the player there are quite an impressive number of connections. There's the obvious Scart output and HDMI, optical and coaxial digital audio output, as well as 7.1 analogue audio outputs, which are RCA style connections. For analogue fans, there's a component output provided too.
The included HDMI cable is impressive. It's rare to get an included cable with Blu-ray players -- you don't even get one with the PS3 -- so not only are we pleased to see one included here, but we're also thrilled that it's reliable.
As for the remote control, it isn't the most sophisticated thing we've ever seen, though the buttons are logically placed and the glow-in-the-dark effect helps with movie viewing in a darkened room.
Let's be honest; DVD region coding is as unwelcome as a wet Labrador in a sofa showroom. No one ever asked for it, and it only serves the needs of Hollywood movie studios. It's an archaic and restrictive system that does nothing but cause consumers pain and we're pleased to see the Oppo ignores it completely. Frankly, this alone puts it ahead of all the Blu-ray players on the market -- none of which play DVDs from everywhere in the world, and all of which introduce yet another region coding system for HD content.
We love the inclusion of analogue 7.1 audio outputs, although it's fair to say that 7.1 on a DVD player is overkill. Movies don't generally have 8 channel audio, though you will sometimes find 7 channel soundtracks. If you're looking for DVDs with more audio tracks, keep an eye out for Dolby Digital EX and DTS-ES logos, as those both support more channels, but only DTS can boast discrete 6.1 surround sound.
Like many DVD players, the Oppo supports MPEG-4 playback in the form of DivX and XviD encoded video. You can also watch a slideshow of images or listen to MP3s from a USB stick. We're actually very impressed by how the Oppo handles itself -- content downloaded from the Internet worked a treat, and the quality was very good, though this will depend on the source file as you might imagine.