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The Perfect DVD Player
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Every once in a while you come across something that seems like it was made just for you. I found something like that recently. I am in love!
Imagine this: You own an HDTV, but you don't really feel all that gung-ho about the new HD movie formats. It's not a strange concept, really. HD may be a beautiful thing, but when you have the likes of Microsoft supporting one HD format, the likes of Sony supporting another, and all the rest of the movie and tech industries taking sides, it's easy just to sit back and stick with DVD. And really, DVD is still a pretty darn good format, no matter what the bleeding edge technophiles would have you believe.
Still, you'd like to have something that takes better advantage of your HDTV, particularly when it's a nice Samsung 40" display, capable of all HD formats including 1080p. You bought a progressive scan DVD player, but even then you could still see the jaggies that come from trying to show a 480p picture on a 1080p display. The idea of an upscaling DVD player, one that actually does some processing on the picture to make it look decent at 1080p, is appealing. Being able to use the digital HDMI connector doesn't sound so bad, either.
Now, imagine this also: You're a geek who likes playing with computer media files. You know what things like MP3, AVI, DivX, and Xvid mean. Every once in a while you drag your computer or laptop into the living room to play these files through the TV, but really you would love to have a dedicated machine with support for all those formats. You've toyed with the idea of setting up another computer for the living room, but really that's just one more system to keep up to date, not to mention computers don't always have the fastest power-up times.
Next let's say that you were roped into the last format war, and now you have a few of those HD audio discs, DVD-Audio and SACD, laying about. Despite owning the discs, however, you never actually bought a player capable of all the features those formats had to offer.
Finally, imagine you found a single disc player that takes care of all the above, and more. A whole lot more. And it does its job very, very well.
I don't have to imagine. I found the perfect player: the Oppo DV-981HD.
With the obvious exceptions of Blu-ray and HD DVD, this thing plays just about every major disc format under the sun. CD? Of course. DVD? Obviously. DVD-Audio and SACD? Yep. VCD? If you want. SVCD? It's there. HDCD? Believe it or not, it's covered. DTS-CD? Yes, and not only that, it actually recognizes DTS-CD's as such, and doesn't blindly assume they are regular audio CD's, unlike other DTS-capable players.
So, what about CD's and DVD's full of computer media files? MP3 audio files, JPEG picture files, MPG movie files, and AVI movie files using the popular MPEG4-based video formats, DivX and XviD, are all supported (I haven't tried H.264 yet). For added goodness, the player supports AVI subtitles using separate SUB files. That's not all, though. I was very surprised and happy to discover this player also plays Ogg Vorbis audio files, and even OGM movie files, including those with multiple audio tracks! There is room for improvement, to be sure. JPEG is the only picture format supported, leaving
GIF and PNG out in the cold. I would have liked to see support for OGM subtitle tracks as well. However, the DV-981HD has upgradeable firmware, so support for more formats is certainly a possibility!
What turns a good product into a truly excellent product are the little details that prove the engineers actually thought about how people would use their product. The DV-981HD really shines here. The HD upscaling feature is the obvious draw, producing a 1080p picture from DVD-quality (480i or 480p) video, and doing it in a much better way than mere stretching and blurring; you might not be fooled into believing you're watching an HD movie, but you just might pleasantly surprised at what your old DVD's still have to offer. As for other features, support for recordable and rewriteable discs is excellent; even dual layer DVD+R's play without a hitch. Also, support for 16x9 displays is the best I have seen in any stand-alone player; when the player is set for 16x9 but the video is supposed to be 4x3, the DV-981HD has an option to pad the sides of the screen with black bars, keeping the video properly sized instead of just stretching it the way other players do. Next, support for the high-definition audio formats provided by DVD-Audio and SACD is phenominal. Even now, most people don't have equipment capable of handling these audio formats digitally; the amount of data is too great for the optical and co-ax digital connections available on most modern audio systems. So, for those of us not lucky enough to own an HDMI-capable receiver, the DV-981HD does its own digital decoding, and offers high quality stereo and surround-sound audio through six analog audio jacks, letting even us old fashioned types enjoy the extra clarity these formats are supposed to offer. True, digital connections preserve quality better than analog connections, but with a set of good, shielded cables that aren't too long, the music sounds just fine.
Then there is what turns a truly excellent product into a must-have product: a cheap price! Oppo sells the DV-981HD for a paltry $229.00, less than what I paid for my first DVD player! If you're a cheapskate like me, Oppo sometimes offers refurbished units with full factory warranties for even less, making the price, including shipping, below $200! Whether you buy new or used, Oppo even throws in a 6' HDMI cable, which by itself could cost $20 or more elsewhere.
But hey, even if you're not into making recordable discs full of MP3's and other computer media files, and you don't have any DVD-A's or SACD's on the shelf that you've been wanting to play, this player is still more than worth the price. Simply put, this player unleashes the best quality video your DVD's have to offer. If you have an HDTV and you're not yet committed to a "next generation" movie format, then buy this player!
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