DVD player review: Oppo OPDV971H

I’ve had it for over a month now, and I have to say the Oppo OPDV971H is great. If you dislike censorship, like obscure movies, or download unavailable TV shows and movies from the Internet, this is the player for you.

In a nutshell: It will play any DVD from any country in the world, on any TV in the world. It’ll also play XviD and DivX Pro MPEG-4 files on CD-R, CD-RW, or DVD-R, at resolutions up to 720×480. It runs at 110 or 240V, 50 or 60 Hz, so you can plug it in in any country.

If you have an HDTV, it has HDMI/HDCP and DVI output. If you have a reasonably new non-HD TV, it has component output and S-video. If you have an old crufty TV, it has plain old composite video too.

It has a Faroudja DCDi chip in, which is pretty much the state of the art in consumer upscaling. What does that mean? It means your regular DVD can be interpolated up to a proper 720p or 1080i signal, so you don’t see pixels or scan lines on your HDTV. It also does cross-color suppression, so your classic black and white movies stay black and white. It also does 3:2 and 2:2 pulldown, to turn movie DVDs into 24 fps progressive signals.

There’s the usual optical digital output for the audio, or coaxial digital if you prefer. It handles DTS as well as Dolby Digital 5.1. The onboard digital circuits are 192KHz 24 bit, and there’s a 3D virtual surround encoder for those who don’t have 6 speakers and don’t have a receiver that’ll do the job. There’s an adjustable delay to deal with lip sync problems caused by the advanced video processing; I find 30ms is about right.

It supposedly plays DVD-Audio. I haven’t tested that, because DVD-Audio is crippled into uselessness by its DRM—you can’t rip it for your iPod, car, or computer, and you need three extra cables because the music industry won’t allow the signal to travel digitally.

It also does slideshows of JPEGs burnt on a CD, and plays MP3s if you make sure the filenames are short (12 characters + extension).

Yes, it handles anamorphic just fine. Play anamorphic PAL region 2 releases on your NTSC TV, play PAL DivX rips scaled up to 720p, play NTSC DVDs on a PAL TV.

And the best bit: it’s $200, including the cables.

There are a few tiny downsides. The remote’s a bit crap (all the buttons look identical and the labels are hard to see). The disc drawer feels disturbingly flimsy. Sometimes the DivX decoder can’t quite keep up the frame rate at high bitrates, and you get a visible tear in the bottom third of the screen—but that doesn’t seem to affect DVDs. Oh, and it’s a bit slow to boot (you have to wait 3-4 seconds after power up before the tray will eject).

So: I say get one and give the finger to the MPAA. Watch the uncensored Region 3 version of Eyes Wide Shut. Watch UK comedy and Japanese Anime. Download bizarre 50s educational movies from the Prelinger Archives and view them from the comfort of your couch.