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Oppo UDP-203 review: For serious videophiles only

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The Good The Oppo UDP-203 is a well-built, premium 4K Blu-ray player and the first to support Dolby Vision disc playback. Connectivity is superb, with a full 7.1 analog output and even an HDMI input for connecting streaming players. Video and audio quality is excellent.

The Bad The player is expensive and defiantly free of built-in streaming features. Picture performance isn't readily distinguishable from players at half the price.

The Bottom Line The Oppo UDP-203 is an excellent high-end 4K Blu-ray disc player, but image quality improvements over cheaper players are tough to spot.

7.5 Overall
  • Design 10
  • Ecosystem 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 9
  • Value 7

For twelve or so years Oppo has built up an enviable reputation for making reference-level disc players, including DVD and Blu-ray models that have earned our highest marks at CNET. The four-year-old Oppo BDP-105 is still our reference player for testing home theater equipment.

The times are changing though, and streaming is engulfing the need for physical media. So how does Oppo respond? With a steadfastly "physical" 4K Blu-ray player, the UDP-203. No streaming, no extraneous frippery. Just you and your local content. 

If you're a disc enthusiast the choice will be music to your ears, particularly as the Oppo supports most disc-based standards including Dolby Vision and even 3D (remember that?). The player also sports onboard digital-to-audio-converters and 7.1 analog audio outputs for additional flexibility.

If you're an Oppo fan, know that this player maintains the high standard the brand has earned over time and it's just a lot of fun to use. On the other hand, competitors are able to offer similar disc performance for half the price. For anyone who doesn't need to pay for "the best" you might be better off with a Sony UBP-X800 or Samsung K8500.

The Oppo UDP-203 is available for $550, £649, and AU$949.

Design

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Ever since Oppo's first Blu-ray player in 2009, the BDP-83, the company has cultivated a readily identifiable look for its machines. While competitors opted for ever-slimmer chassis, Oppo has maintained its output of large rectangular boxes. Sony and Samsung have changed tack with some very stylish players in the past year, but the substantial Oppo UDP-203 still manages to ooze quality in a way those others don't. It's built like a velvet battering ram.

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The front of the player is a big 'ol slab of brushed aluminum which is inset with a Southern Cross of playback controls and a blue LED display. There is also a USB port for connecting external drives and a disc tray of course. It's a fairly standard width at 17 inches and it's a little over three inches tall.

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The remote is the standard Oppo remote we've seen before. Yes it is loaded with buttons, but it's reassuringly large, and actually fun to use. When used in conjunction with the player's friendly menu system it's an experience that's quintessentially Oppo.

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The user interface is the best Oppo has produced yet, and this is no doubt due to the lack of streaming features. The wallpaper is a cool blue and there are stock photos accompanying each option. It's a lovely change from the austere black of previous Oppo menus.

Features

Say you're dropping $550 on a new 4K Blu-ray player, what kind of features would you be looking for? If you said "Netflix," you're going to be sorely disappointed, but I actually applaud Oppo's decision to ditch apps. Streaming apps on a Blu-ray player or smart TV almost never get the latest revisions, and by contrast a Roku box is crazy cheap and regularly updated. 

If you want to stream via the Oppo you can plug one of those boxes or sticks into its novel HDMI input. The company says "This approach affords users the flexibility to choose from a wide range of streaming devices and easily upgrade as streaming technologies evolve, while still taking advantage of the UDP-203's audio and video processing capabilities."

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Oppo concentrates on the media you keep in your house -- whether this is silver-disc-based, on a USB key or even a local network drive.  As a 4K disc player the Oppo has support for most of the standards you would expect: High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Color Gamut, plus an HDR converter for standard televisions. You get allowances for color spaces such as BT.2020 as well as standards such as HDR 10 and Dolby Vision. Almost the only thing that isn't supported yet is Hybrid-Log Gamma (HLG) and Samsung's HDR10+, but there's no need to worry about those right now.

Still carrying your music collection around on a USB disk? The Oppo supports AIFF, WAV, ALAC, APE, DSD and FLAC. The player also comes with 802.11ac Wi-Fi or gigabit Ethernet for playing back audio and video files on a NAS or networked computer.

While 3D support is quickly disappearing from TVs and Blu-ray players alike, the UDP-203 is doing its best to keep the format alive by including it too. It's weird to think that this feature -- so hot a few years ago -- is now considered "legacy", especially when new 3D Blu-rays are still being released.

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Connectivity is one of the player's strongest suits and maybe it's even enough to convince people to pay the difference over a "standard" player. In addition to the HDMI input you get two HDMI outputs (one HDMI 2.0 and one 1.4 audio for legacy receivers), plus 7.1 channels of analog audio in addition coaxial and optical digital. Theres also three USB ports for connecting external disks or powering the aforementioned HDMI streaming dongles.  

Video performance

We've said for many years that 1080p Blu-ray players are now at the point where performance is almost irrelevant -- most models are able to replay discs to a very high standard. From what we've seen, the same is true with the current 4K players. Even though the medium pumps out four times as many pixels and throws in HDR and extended color palettes, the models we have tested so far, including the Xbox One S, have been universally excellent at playing back 4K Blu-rays. 

We started with standard 1080p Blu-ray test discs, however, and the Oppo was excellent. It ate the HQV 2.0 Blu-ray for lunch. Most of the benchmarks involve jaggie reduction or matching the correct video cadence, and for these the Oppo did very well. For example, the second test involves a wide clock dial that sweeps over a fine grid. The Oppo completed it better than any other player we have ever seen, with minimal blurring on the sweeping edge. 

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