- Written by Chris Heinonen
- Published on 21 January 2013
Introduction to the Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray Player
For years now, Oppo has dominated the high-end of DVD and Blu-ray players. Virtually every other reviewer and enthusiast I know has at least one in their system, if not more. I've personally been using their players going back to the DVD days, and have had every single one of their Blu-ray players in my system at some point and use them as my reference players. In many ways you wonder what Oppo has to improve upon, as they have the only players that score perfectly on all of our bench tests: DVD, Blu-ray, and HDMI. It turns out that beyond increasing performance, it's adding features as more and more of our content shifts from media to online.
Among the improvements from the BDP-93 are more streaming services, 2D to 3D conversion, better Netflix support with 1080p and 5.1 audio as well as the Kids portal, 4K output, HDMI inputs, and an MHL input to support smartphones and tablets or devices like the Roku stick. Additionally Oppo has said they have improved on the speed of the BDP-93, made the playback of media over your local network faster, and are releasing iOS and Android apps for playback control. Has the wait for a new Oppo player been worth it for those that want the best in playback, but also want lots of the usability features that other players offer?
OPPO BDP-103 BLU-RAY PLAYER SPECIFICATIONS
- Design: Universal Player
- Codecs: All
- Streaming Support: Netflix, Vudu, FilmFresh, Pandora, YouTube, Picasa
- Connections: Two HDMI 1.4a outputs, 2x HDMI 1.4a Inputs, MHL Input, Optical and Coaxial Audio, 7.1 Multichannel Audio, 3x USB, Ethernet, RS-232, IR
- Dimensions: 3.1" H x 16.8" W x 12.2" D
- Weight: 10.8 Pounds
- MSRP: $499 USD
- SECRETS Tags: Oppo, Blu ray, Video, Universal Players
Design and Setup of the Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray Player
Initially the Oppo BDP-103 looks very similar to the BDP-93 at first look but there are quite a few differences. The front of the unit has control buttons that now stand out a bit from the front instead of being totally flush, making them easier to find. There is a USB input but also an MHL/HDMI input on the front, the first time I've seen this feature in a Blu-ray player. Like the BDP-93 it is well built and made of metal, making it heavier and more rigid than most players on the market now.
The rear of the player has dropped the Component and Composite video outputs from the BDP-93, as the analog sunset is upon us, and there is also an HDMI input instead of the previous eSATA input. There are also an additional two USB jacks, allowing you to use one for the included Wi-Fi adapter and still having one free for another USB device.
In a welcome change from most players now, the Oppo includes a full 1GB of onboard storage for BD-Live content. With the cost of a 1 GB of flash memory being nearly nothing now, I wish more vendors would provide this with all their players. The dual HDMI outputs on the rear allow for you to send separate audio and video signals to you display and your audio receiver, or to do a dual display where audio and video are sent from both HDMI outputs. While you can send both to each HDMI output, the HDMI outputs are not identical as they use different chipsets. HDMI 1 has a larger degree of video adjustments available to it, and HDMI 2 is the only one that can send native DSD audio from an SACD.
The HDMI inputs on the Oppo BDP-103 allow you to feed a less ideal source, such as a cable box or online streaming content, and take advantage of the video processing inside of the Oppo to improve that source. With some displays still failing at deinterlacing content, most often on channels with scrolling text, being able to use the Oppo to properly deinterlace these as well as reduce macroblocking and other compression artifacts is a nice benefit. The front HDMI input also accepts MHL devices, most of which are typically using streaming or other lower resolution content that will benefit from the video processing. I'm sure many people wish the MHL input was on the rear so a device would be hidden away, but that also would make it less convenient to use with smartphones and tablets that also utilize MHL.
Streaming support for the Oppo player has been improved from the last generation, with Netflix now supporting 1080p and 5.1 audio, as well as the Kids interface that parents like myself will tell you is just wonderful. It also has support for Vudu, Pandora, YouTube, and Picasa, but not for other online services like Hulu Plus or Amazon. The MHL input and a Roku Stick (which Oppo sells as an option for the player) provides a bit of a work-around for this issue, but streaming support is where the universal players still fall short of other Blu-ray players.
Setting the Oppo up can be as simple as any other Blu-ray player, but with far more customization available to users it can also take a bit longer. All color spaces work correctly from the Oppo, so you can select based on what your system supports best. All of the video testing was done using HDMI 1, sometimes in dual display mode and sometimes in separate, as neither should provide any difference in picture or audio quality.
The Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray Player In Use
The first thing I noticed about the BDP-103 is how much faster it is than the BDP-93 that it replaces. The 93 has been my main player since it was released, and it is a bit slow to startup and begin working, but the 103 is much quicker. Responsiveness was always good but it is improved as well, making it a very good user experience. The BDP-93 seemed fast when it was released but time takes a toll on everything, and that speed deficit has been remedied in the BDP-103.
Watching movies was the same experience at it was on the BDP-93. Every color, detail, and even imperfection of a Blu-ray disc is presented on screen for you exactly as it is on disc. Nothing added or removed, but as pure an image as anyone can offers. DVDs are also scaled remarkably well, offering better detail and anti-aliasing than almost any other player out there. Of course Oppo has been making excellent players, and acing every test we throw at it, for years now so it is more the added features that we want to examine on the BDP-103.
Using the HDMI input to feed streaming Internet video of the Chicago Marathon, the image looked better than when fed to my plasma directly. Macroblocking was reduced by a noticeable amount and the image was better than expected on a 50" display. The Oppo wasn't able to turn bad streaming video into Blu-ray quality, or even good DVD quality, but it made it more watchable than without it. Without a Roku stick or compatible smartphone I wasn't able to test the MHL input but having it makes the Oppo more flexible going forward
One area of drastic improvement I found was the performance of the Oppo for browsing my networked music collection. I have over 400 albums, with over 300 different artists, stored as lossless FLAC audio on a NAS that uses DLNA to serve music around my house. Previously the Oppo was able to browse and play this back, but it was very slow in doing so. Now the Oppo seems to cache the full directory listing, instead of a page at a time, letting me browse and playback music much faster than before.
It also works as a DLNA renderer, so with a supported media controller you can actually send content to it (much like you use AirPlay to send audio from an Apple device to a receiver) instead of needing to browse. The ability to browse the network was nice in the BDP-93, but not very functional with a music library as large as mine and required a display be turned on. With the updates in the new Oppo it now works well for any size music collection. The forthcoming iOS application should make it easy as well for those of us with iPhones, and Android users already have an app that they can use.
All of the streaming services work well, and are caught up to where they are on other platforms. Netflix has full 1080p and 5.1 audio support, and is quick to load and buffer. The kids' interface is a welcome addition that makes life very easy for parents once your kid is addicted to Thomas the Tank Engine or Curious George or any other children's series. The issues I have with the Netflix design are those that are due to how Netflix wants it to look, and that Oppo and other vendors have no control over. Vudu and its streaming HDX titles look and sound great, and buffering isn't an issue with the included Wi-Fi adapter, as you will generally be limited by your Internet connection.
Gracenote support is a welcome addition, as movie and music titles that were inserted into the Oppo were quickly identified and detailed. This is most useful with music playback, to know the track names and details as you listen to something but is not that useful if you are listening without your display enabled. Hopefully the iOS and Android apps will provide this data on screen as you listen, making them very useful during playback.
Compared to the prior model, the Oppo BDP-103 is faster, with better online support, better local streaming support, and with a whole new feature in the video processing that no other player can offer. That's quite an accomplishment while still keeping the video performance and price at the same level as before.
The Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray Player on The Bench
With our standard Blu-ray/DVD Benchmark Suite, the Oppo doesn't break a sweat. Every single test it faced it passed without a hiccup or even a close call. Scaling on DVD test patterns was excellent, with images as good as anything I have tested outside of expensive video processors, and no one should be disappointed with the video performance of the Oppo BDP-103.
The Oppo players have never had an issue with our HDMI Benchmark, always serving as a reference that a company that cares enough can get it right, and once again they do. For a reference Blu-ray image, you're not going to beat the Oppo BDP-103 at this price point, or any price point. Those pixels on the disc are designed to come out one way, and the Oppo does it that way.
On our load time tests, the Oppo once again takes the crown as the fastest player we have tested. The new processor helps with Java load times, and disc seek times are very quick as well. The time to Open, Close, and Load a disc from Power Off is very fast at 19 seconds, and that is in Energy Saver mode as opposed to the Instant On mode.
The Oppo players have always been perfect on their colorspace conversions and the BDP-103 doesn't change this at all. The BDP-103 supports RGB, YCbCr 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 perfectly, and you can choose the one that is correct for your environment without worry.
Testing the video processing was done with 1080i and 720p content from an Oppo BDP-93 player. With interlaced content the video scaler was able to properly deinterlace 2:2 and 3:2 content, as well as pass every test for DVD content that it would pass on our Blu-ray Benchmark. Noise Reduction and scaling was very good on 720p content (no cadence tests were necessary with 720p signals), and in both all luma and chroma detail remained for all colorspaces. Used with a Roku stick or smartphone with the MHL input, or with a cablebox or TiVo, the Oppo will deliver very good performance as a video scaler.
With both CD and DVD-Audio test signals, THD+N was almost identical on a 1 kHz test tone. The main difference you can see on the CD Audio version is a noise floor fall off past 22 kHz where the signal end and some noise spikes right around 44.1 kHz that are very, very low. That fall-off and the spikes are not present on the DVD-Audio signals.
10 kHz THD+N test results are similar as well. The fall off on the noise floor is there and there are some spikes out there as well. Here it seems to be at 44.1 kHz again, and then 10 kHz below that at 34 kHz. These numbers are still quite low and very nice.
IMD test results with 19 kHz and 20 kHz test tones are great here as well. There is around 95 dBV of range from the A and B peaks to the B-A peak at 1 kHz. Otherwise the test results are very similar to each other, with the same differences seen on both the THD+N tests.
IMD numbers for the Oppo with 60 Hz and 7 kHz tones are good but not exceptional. The data is actually very clean and I wonder if that-imd-value isn't low due to the noise around 120-300 Hz that is present on all the tests and likely on my electrical lines. Those values don't get included into the THD+N test results but with a 60Hz tone here it might cause the values to be lower.
While not the analog focused machine that the BDP-105 is, the DAC in the BDP-103 will still do well as a universal audio player if you choose to use the analog outputs.
Conclusions about the Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray Player
For those coming to the BDP-103 expecting a standard Blu-ray movie to look better, or even different, than with the BDP-93 or BDP-83 you'll come away disappointed. Just like those players, the BDP-103 is pixel-perfect and outputs exactly what is on the disc. The Oppo has plenty of adjustments available, but thankfully stays away from offering the difference Scene Modes that many other vendors are intent on offering now, and sometimes even defaulting to. Everything about the image coming from the Oppo says "Reference Class", be it Blu-ray or DVD content.
Of course, Oppo has kept up by offering far more features than they had on their previous players. The online content has been improved, as has network streaming and playback. Most notably they have added HDMI inputs with processing as well as 4K-output capability. While many other vendors are dropping analog audio outputs, Oppo has kept those around and tweaked the audio output compared to the BDP-93, which was already very good. Oppo has shown they are determined to not fall behind in the Blu-ray race, and have added features we haven't seen anywhere before.
This year saw what I felt was one of the first mass-market players that really gave the Oppo a decent competitor in the Sony BDP-S790. With many of the features we expect on the Oppo, such as dual HDMI outputs and a Source Direct mode, the Sony offered up phenomenal performance for its price. However it also tripped up on the Blu-ray Benchmark a couple of times on tests that the Oppo passed without issue. It also lacks many of the more advanced features, like subtitle shift, that some dedicated home theaters need, and it is not a fully universal player with 8 channel analog outputs. Finally, it does not have the HDMI inputs and video processing for external sources that the Oppo offers.
Other players have come out firing at Oppo, but none has yet to dethrone it as the reference Blu-ray player. It has output that is perfect, has features that no one else has been able to offer, and has performance in all areas that leads the industry. For the single best Blu-ray picture available, the Oppo BDP-103 is untouchable.