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Oppo OPDV971H 720p/1080i Upconverting DVD player Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 March 2006
Article Index
Oppo OPDV971H 720p/1080i Upconverting DVD player
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ImageIn this day and age, it seems everyone, short of your immediate family, is manufacturing a DVD player. However, with so many manufacturers throwing their hats into the ring, it can become somewhat daunting as to which player to buy. Sure, you can stick with the brands you know, like Sony and Denon (to name a few), but all too often, you may end up paying a little more for the name recognition than for the performance. The flip side is taking a chance on a lesser-known brand or fledgling company, only to quickly end up with a technological boat anchor. Compound the predicament with new digital technology, as well as the supposed pending release of high-definition disc formats, and you’ve got a lot to ponder before making the trip to your local retailer. Well, the OPDV971H DVD player from Oppo Digital may just be the answer to what ails you.

A relatively new company here in the U.S., Oppo Digital is the North American offshoot of the consumer electronics giant BBK of China. BBK has been in business for quite some time and boasts a respectable track record, with worldwide product sales reaching Sony-like levels on some SKUs. While Oppo may still be in its infancy, it’s nice to know Mom and Dad are here to see junior through to the real world.

Retailing for a very modest $199 and sold directly through Oppo’s own website and select retailers, the Oppo OPDV971H DVD player is a strong candidate for today’s budget-conscious consumer. Out of the box, the OPDV971H is very attractive, featuring one of the thinnest chasses I’ve seen, measuring in at a touch over 16-and-a-half inches wide by 10-and-a-half inches deep and just under two inches tall. Weighing in at approximately five-and-a-half pounds, the OPDV971H is a DVD player that will easily fit into almost any equipment rack or home entertainment system. The OPDV971H sports a silver-gray chassis with grayish blue accents and is about as clutter-free as they come in terms of faceplate design, with only four buttons controlling power, eject, play/pause and stop. The disc tray is almost unnoticeable and the thin LCD display isn’t much better, despite its bright blue glow during normal playback. Staying with the LCD display, the way in which it displays information is rather unique to the Oppo OPDV971H. I use the word “unique” because I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to describe the rather cryptic way the display renders type, which on more than one occasion had me wishing for a translator. Turning my attention aft, the OPDV971H features a single DVI output which facilitates the player’s ability to up-convert standard definition discs to either 480p, 720p or 1080i, to list a few. Next to the DVI output are the OPDV971H’s 5.1 analog outputs, as well as the more traditional audio/video connections consisting of composite video, S-video, component video, coaxial digital audio and optical audio outs. I was surprised to find 5.1 audio outs on such a budget piece, but welcomed their inclusion and applaud Oppo for giving even the common man a little taste of the higher end. The OPDV971H also has a hard-wired power cord and comes packaged with a pair of RCA audio cables, as well as a standard composite video cable. The packaged digital video cables in the form of a DVI cable, as well as a DVI to HDMI cable, are a huge step in the right direction on Oppo’s part. I can become annoyed when manufacturers feature the latest high resolution video capabilities in their players, then stiff you on the appropriate cables to take advantage of such technology. Hats off to Oppo for going the extra mile here.
Turning my focus inward, I was astounded by the list of formats supported by the OPDV971H DVD player. Beyond traditional DVD and CD playback, the OPDV971H supports DVD-A, DIVX, HDCD, WMA, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW and Kodak Picture CD, as well as both NTSC and PAL formatted discs. Along with supporting multiple formats the OPDV971H features DCDi processing from Faroudja, which goes a long way in eliminating “jaggies” and other motion artifacts from the DVD image. The OPDV971H also has Per-pixel Motion De-interlacing as well as FilmMode Processing for proper de-interlacing of 3:2 and 2:2 pull-down material, resulting in a truer cinematic experience. The OPDV971H features progressive scanning, but it is only available through its DVI output. Also through its DVI output, you can take advantage of several higher resolutions such as 480p, 540p, 576p, 720p and 1080i. On the audio side of things, the Oppo OPDV971H features surround sound decoding coming by way of Dolby Digital and DTS audio. Lastly, the OPDV971H has several virtual surround sound modes under such names as Concert, Live, Dance, Techno, Classic and Soft. The inclusion of virtual surround sound settings in the DVD player itself is a bit odd, since most receivers come packaged with similar settings as well, never the less, I’m certain some users will rejoice in the feature.

Which brings me to the remote. Just before my deadline, I was startled to find out that Oppo began shipping the OPDV971H with a new and improved remote. My first thought was, thank heavens, because the original remote was the kind that nightmares were made of. A quick email to the good people at Oppo and I was back in business with the new remote in hand. While the new remote is leaps and bounds better, it still has its issues. It is larger than the previous remote, which makes it much more comfortable in the palm of your hand. The buttons have become larger and more legible, but their placement is still a bit random and some of their labels are still a tad on the small side. Also, the new remote features glow-in-the-dark keys, which aren’t quite as luminous as true backlighting. However, it is a huge improvement over the old.

I had the pleasure of using the OPDV971H in a variety of systems, ranging from super-budget to my reference home theater set-up. Since the OPDV971H has been getting rave reviews from other publications about how it performs above and beyond its price class, I thought it best to go ahead and test it in my reference home theater. Granted, the Oppo seems a natural fit for a bedroom system, provided you have at least a TV with a DVI connection to take full advantage of the Oppo’s performance.

The OPDV971H was easy enough to place on my equipment rack and making the requisite connections took no time at all. I split my time with the OPDV971H between my Denon 4806 receiver and my new reference, the Outlaw Audio 970/7075 home theater combo. Since my projection system is between rooms at the moment, I hooked up my 42-inch Vizio plasma screen for the duration of the review. Throw in my ever-ready Definitive Technology ProCinema 80 speaker system and a hand full of Monster Cable for both audio and video, and I was in business in no time.

The OPDV971H’s onscreen menus were a snap to navigate and, within minutes, I felt I had made enough adjustments to accurately begin my evaluation. I would like to point out that the OPDV971H’s manual is very informative and well-written. However, the way in which the onscreen menus are laid out may make it a bit redundant. This is clearly a player aimed at all skill levels. After what was a very brief set-up, I felt I had spent enough time with the OPDV971H ‘s remote and went ahead and programmed my Harmony 880 universal remote to control the Oppo as well.

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