★★★★★ £649 • From www.amazon.co.uk
Its feature list is long, but there are better-value 4K Blu-ray players than the Oppo UDP-203
Despite its extensive features, the UDP-203 is simply too expensive to recommend
IF YOU’RE LOOKING for a device to play an Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray film, there’s only a handful of players to choose from. Now Oppo, a Chinese electronics manufacturer highly respected in the industry for its high-end disc spinners, is ready to join the party.
The Oppo UDP-203 is a UHD 4K Blu-ray player that has support for RGB and YCbCr colour spaces, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, PCM and Bitstream audio formats, plus HDR10, and Dolby Vision HDR coming soon through a firmware update. That’s a long list of features, though we’d expect nothing less considering the high price of £649.
With a brushed aluminium front panel, a full metal chassis and metal feet, the UDP-203 looks stunning. At the front, there’s an on/off button, a dimmable LED display, an eject button, a USB port for playing media from a flash drive and a set of media transport buttons.
Around the back is a hugely impressive selection of ports. You get two HDMI outputs (a 1.4 port for audio only, and a 2.0 output for video and audio) and another single HDMI 2.0 input with HDCP 2.2, so you can hook up a Chromecast or Amazon Fire Stick to add smart features. There are optical and coaxial digital audio outputs, a pair of USB3 ports for connecting hard disks or flash drives, and eight phono output ports for surround-sound connection to older home theatre receivers.
JACK OF ALL PLAYS
The UDP-203 will, of course, play 4K and Full HD Blu-rays, the latter in both 2D and 3D, but its capabilities don’t stop there. It will also play DVDs, CDs, DVD-audio, AVCHD files, Kodak Picture CDs and SACDs. The selection of discs and formats play to Oppo’s advantage, especially over Panasonic’s DMP-UB900 (Shopper 342), which isn’t capable of playing nearly as wide a selection of formats.
In addition to the video and audio connections, the UDP-203 also has built-in Ethernet and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which you can use to stream video content from a NAS drive or other shared storage and update the firmware. Furthermore, its chunky, infrared remote is as well thought out and as comprehensive as its array of connectivity. We particularly like the backlit keys.
Colour spaces are another plus point for the UDP-203; with both RGB (PC and video) and YCbCr (4:4:4, 4:2:2 and 4:2:0) support at 8-, 10- and 12-bit, there’s lots to choose from. HDR is a must-have for top-quality 4K playback, and thankfully, the UDP-203 comes with full HDR10 support. Better still, later in the year it will have Dolby Vision HDR support as well, via a firmware update.
This is something that should excite videophiles, as the upgraded HDR format is set to bring more life and colour to movies by offering 12-bit playback and up to 10,000 nits of brightness.
Currently, HDR10 is capable of 1,000 nits, which means Dolby Vision HDR will provide a higher dynamic range on capable TVs. Even though there aren’t any displays capable of displaying 10,000 nits, the new technology does futureproof the UDP-203. No other player has this capability, either currently or planned, so it’s good to see Oppo bringing a degree of future-proofing to its player.
DAC TO THE FUTURE
Audio enthusiasts will also be pleased by the Oppo’s DAC, which is a 32-bit AKM AK4458VN. This eight-channel DAC enables 192kHz/32-bit PCM and multi-channel DSD64/128 playback and also supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, making it ideal for serious home theatre installations.
We were impressed by the Oppo UDP-203’s settings menus, which provide a wide variety of options to delve into. This
includes manually forcing the player to output HDR – a small but useful feature to include, as not every TV automatically recognises HDR content. Another useful feature is its upscaling capability, which allows you to play a Full HD Blu-ray or DVD in Ultra HD.
SETTING THE PACE
Through the settings you can change the audio output (including forcing a Bitstream or PCM output), manually set the aspect ratio, resolution, frame rate, colour depth and even the colour space. This makes it one of the most fully featured 4K UHD Blu-ray players on the market. By comparison, the Xbox One S (Shopper 346) – currently the cheapest way of getting a 4K Blu-ray player – has only a handful of features. Granted, most won’t need to fiddle with these options, but it does lend the player the flexibility to suit any occasion.
On a negative note, the menus were a little laggy, and we were also disappointed to find no built-in streaming apps. Despite the UDP-203’s network connections, Oppo has decided against including either Netflix or Amazon streaming.
Powered by a MediaTek OP8591 quad-core CPU, the Oppo UDP-203 is smooth and responsive in operation, no matter what you throw at it. In fact, coupled with its custommade 4K loader (in other words, the tray), the UDP-203 loaded and searched all our test movies far quicker than the Xbox One S.
The player is silent, too. We were barely able to make out the disc spinning, and with no audible fan noise there’s nothing to interrupt your listening pleasure.
Video quality is superb. Action scenes are perfectly showcased and accurately portrayed, and the player’s HDR capabilities deftly brought out details in demanding scenes, such as blue skies appearing realistically through dense foliage.
Colours are vibrant yet natural-looking. We found the gloomy colours in The Revenant and the popping scenes from Star Trek Beyond were portrayed superbly, and with a pool of colour spaces and depths to choose from, you can align the player’s capabilities with the film you pop into the loader.
Compared to the Xbox One S, colours were slightly more refined and more vibrant. This is most apparent in the final scenes of The Revenant, with the trail of blood on the snow thick with texture and the wind-worn faces of characters alive with craggy detail.
Moving on to the player’s audio capabilities, we had no problems with any delay (as can sometimes affect lip-syncing) or the quality throughout different scenes. Audio is correctly reproduced with a full-bodied sound throughout the frequency range.
The Oppo UDP-203 is undoubtedly the most capable 4K Blu-ray player on the market. It’s stacked with features, supports every imaginable standard and type of connection, and it looks and sounds fantastic.
The big question, however, is whether it’s worth three times as much as an Xbox One S (which, in addition to being a 4K Blu-ray player, provides you with its main function as a games console as well). The honest answer is that, for most users, it isn’t.
Despite the Xbox One S having slightly slower performance, fewer settings and less vibrant image quality, that doesn’t justify the huge price difference, and neither do the extra features and connectivity options – unless you desperately need analogue outputs, that is.
This could leave the Oppo UDP-203 as a worthy niche-filler for serious home theatre fans, but even then, there are similar devices that are almost as capable and cost much less. Both the Panasonic DMP-UB900 (£380) and Samsung UBD-K8500 (£215, Shopper 342) offer better value for money in this regard; they’re unlikely to ever get Dolby Vision HDR support, and can’t claim the same broad scope of connectivity, but otherwise they manage to deliver the same level of customisation and performance at much lower prices.
The UDP-203 has a long list of features, though we’d expect nothing less considering the high price of £649