Review: OPPO BDP-103 Universal 3D Blu-ray Disc Player

Sections: 3D, Reviews, Source components, Video

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OPPO BDP-103 frontAs I said in my review of the BDP-93 a couple years back, OPPO doesn’t make Blu-ray players for everyone. The BDP-93 was a luxury device, with luxury features, and a relatively luxury price tag of $499. Add even more luxury features, not to mention ten digits to its model number, and—as you might imagine—the follow-up BDP-103 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player isn’t going to end up in the bargain bin at Best Buy anytime soon. Perhaps the most amazing thing about this updated model, though, is that its price is the exact same as its predecessor.

That’s all the more astonishing when you consider just much OPPO has added to the BDP-103: 4K upconversion, for one thing, which obviously doesn’t benefit many people right now, but certainly makes the player future-ready. The other big addition is, of course, the pair of inputs—an HDMI port on the back, and an MHL port on the front—both of which give you access to all of OPPO’s amazing video processing for another source or two, plus mobile device charging via the front panel. We’ll cover the inputs in a moment (the standard HDMI input, that is; unfortunately my iPhone doesn’t support MHL), but I wanted to point out another upgrade, one that might go unnoticed in a surface comparison of the older OPPO models to the new. Speed.

Compared to my old BDP-93, which seemed quite speedy in and of itself, the BDP-103 is like greased-freaking-lightning. Its faster processor does translate into snappier navigation, but the biggest boost is to loading times, both for simple Blu-rays, as well as more complex BD-J enhanced discs. The first disc of the Downton Abbey: Season Three Blu-ray set, for example, loads in roughly 16.5 seconds on my old BDP-93. On the BDP-103, the disc is locked, loaded, and ready to rock in a mere 7 seconds. For a recent stress test of BD-Java load times, I turned to the upcoming Les Misérables Blu-ray, which loads in to the Universal logo about a minute and change on the older machine (1:00.9, to be precise). That same disc in the BDP-103 loads to the same screen in a mere 26 seconds. Netflix also gets a bit of a boost, although not quite that astounding; the service consistently loads in a little over 15 seconds on my BDP-93, and just under 10 seconds on the BDP-103.

OPPO BDP-103-Internal

The one thing that hasn’t changed, of course, is the BDP-103’s amazing audiovisual performance. Or perhaps flawless is a better word. The player eats up every HQV test you can throw at it and begs for more. Of course, a lot of Blu-ray players these days sport perfect video output, but OPPO is staying ahead of the game by now also offering that same video processing to external devices. This isn’t really something I personally would use on a regular basis, since my Anthem D2v AV processor boasts some truly amazing video processing, but if you don’t have upwards of $9500 to drop on an AV processor, the BDP-103’s video capabilities could come in quite handy for your less-than-stellar video sources.

Just for giggles, I ran my old Denon DVD-1920 universal through the BDP-103, outputting the video directly into my TV, and was duly impressed by how well it improved the picture of that old machine. Of course, the audio still took a direct path to my Anthem D2v (which I still haven’t upgraded to 3D-capable yet), thanks to the BDP-103’s dual HDMI outputs. OPPO even seems to have made improvements in this department, given that I’m not running into nearly as many handshake issues as I do with the BDP-93 when going this route, but the fact that OPPO is offering dual outputs at all is laudable, since most Blu-ray player manufacturers have ceased to deliver this option. It’s seriously handy for 3D fans without 3D pass-through capabilities in the AV processing department.

The only other significant changes to the BDP-103 include some rather nice cosmetic enhancements to the front panel—raised buttons instead of the admittedly gorgeous but hard-to-find-in-the-dark flush controls of the 93, along with a nicely lit Eject button, which I love to itty bitty pieces—and, oddly enough, a change from a two-prong to a grounded three-prong power cord.

OPPO BDP-103-Back

OPPO’s online offerings haven’t changed much in the past few years—Blockbuster is of course gone, CinemaNow is in, and we still don’t have Amazon Instant (grr!)—but the Netflix implementation is much better. You now have full search capabilities, and when Netflix loads, you get the choice of the full experience or Netflix Just for Kids. The BDP-103 also supports Netflix Super HD, which is super spiffy. Networking, specifically DLNA implementation, lags a little behind the competition in terms of refinement, and is the player’s only real shortcoming.

More than making up for that is the fact that the BDP-103 still sports the amazing little video tweaks that made the BDP-93 such a hit with constant height projection fans. The Stretch Zoom feature formats 2.4:1 films perfectly for use with anamorphic lenses, and the subtitle shift—adjustable and available at the tap of the Subtitle button—keeps all the words on the screen even when you’re eighty-sixing the black bars.

Are these features most of you would use? Probably not. But although, again, OPPO doesn’t make Blu-ray players for everyone, the BDP-103 boasts a feature set that is sure to cover just about anyone. For me, the ultra-fast loading times and superior Netflix access make the player worth the coin, as do the dual HDMI outputs, and especially the DVD-Audio and SACD support, which is getting rarer and rarer these days (and yes, I still have and enjoy a collection of nearly 250 multichannel high-res discs).

For you, it may be the video processing for other sources, or the tweakability. Or perhaps the Source Direct mode, which turns the BDP-103 into a video transport for use with external video processors—a feature rarely seen outside of incredibly (and I do mean incredibly) expensive alternatives. Or maybe the 2D-to-3D conversion, which is more adjustable and delivers more consistently impressive conversion than my Samsung plasma’s built-in processing.

Or maybe you just appreciate the refinement and presentation of such an incredibly well-made and well-packaged device. (See my review of the BDP-93 for unboxing photos; the BDP-103 boasts the same presentation and the same packed-in extras, just with the addition of a free MHL cable this time around.)

Taken individually, you might find many of these features on other Blu-ray players for a lot less money. But I know of no other player that combines all of these features at this price, with the same rock-solid build quality and reliability I’ve enjoyed from my BDP-93 for nearly two years now, and the BDP-103 for the past few months. It hasn’t failed to load a single disc I’ve thrown at it, its firmware support has been phenomenally prompt and painless, and if my experience with its predecessor is any indication, OPPO will only continue to improve and update the player as time goes by. The lack of 24fps support for standard-definition DVDs was one of my few complaints about the 93 when I originally reviewed it, but both it and the BDP-103 now offer the option. If I have one hope for the future, it’s that the company will continue to improve its online offerings.

Seriously. Amazon Instant. I need it!

There is, of course, OPPO’s new flagship model BDP-105 to consider it all of this, because if there’s a better Blu-ray player out there, that would be it. It offers additional features like superior D-to-A conversion, XLR outputs, an asynchronous USB input, headphone amp, and PAL/NTSC Conversion, but at $1,199 its price makes it harder for me to recommend. As odd as it might be to call a $499 Blu-ray player a value, especially in the face of wonderfully performing players costing a third as much, I really do feel like the BDP-103 hits an economic sweet spot, given everything it offers. It’s a marvelously future-ready device that should maintain its value for a long, long time.

Until, that is, OPPO cooks up an even more-feature-packed model for exactly the same price. At this point, though, I’m really not sure what the company could add.

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Buy it now on Amazon: OPPO BDP-103 Universal 3D Blu-ray Disc Player SACD & DVD-Audio

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