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Oppo Unleashes Best DVD Upscaling Player Yet: DV-981HD Does 1080p

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

Even though you've probably never heard of the company, Oppo uses the the best upscaling tech in the biz—by Faroudja. Now Oppo jumps onto the 1080p bandwagon armed with its latest BFG: the $229 DV-981HD player that upscales garden-variety DVDs from the usual 480p up to 1080p resolution. It has an HDMI output, but gone is the component video output of its predecessor. That coveted 1080p video doesn't travel well over component outputs anyway, especially if you're forced to deal with HDCP (copy-protected) content.

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This DV-981HD is an improvement over its predecessor, the highly-regarded DV-970HD which I've favorably reviewed. That player upscales DVDs to 1080i or 720p over HDMI or component, and even though its video output looks better than any DVD I've ever seen, it's still nowhere near the quality of HDTV.

Jump for more pics, including the nice ass-end of this mofo, and a bit of pointed editorializing.

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This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.


Thank goodness this new model loses the useless SD card reader of its predecessor, which was pretty much a joke. We're looking forward to reviewing this DV-981HD, though, which will probably be the best way to watch plain ol' DVDs on a 1080p HDTV.

Product Page [Oppo Digital]

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DISCUSSION

When Santa brought an entry-level 32 inch LCD flat TV for the holidays, of course we had to replace the entry universal DVD player from Pioneer (DV-563A) which had had one channel finally bite the dust. After looking around, the Oppo obviously stood out. While trying to sort between the 970 and the 971, the 981 came out which seemed to combine the high res audio of the 970 with the high res/upsampling video of the 971. It was new but starting to get editor's awards of the year. When the New Year's bonus money arrived, we ordered it pronto. The company shipped in a day, and the player arrived in three days. It was easy to set up, connect using the extra HDMI cable already purchased in anticipation (though a good cable is included in the box), and get going on video and sound. The LCD flat TV from Insignia had a couple of problem moments before being able to lock onto the upsampled 720p signal. But one locked, the video looked just fine - from regular dvd movie discs at least. Haven't been able to compare with a full HD TV signal yet. Meanwhile, regular dvd video has never, ever looked so good. High res audio is also very good. SACD's and DVD-audio discs yield you-are-there realism and power and, just love, love, love it - subtlety. A direct audio SACD comparison with an entry level Sony player reveals that the Oppo is putting out a brighter sound, suggesting that maybe Sony rounds the upper frequencies off in the name of their preferred frequency profile. At first that seems to make the Sony audio sound warmer, but over time the crisper highs of the Oppo offer their own appeal. Bottom line: Highly recommended, this 981 player, for both video and audio quality at a price point that only raises the value to outstandingly good bang for your bucks. While I haven'thad any tech problems yet to speak of, the Oppo support folks have a very good reputation for assistance, via email and via phone. Does it get better than this at this price?