After enjoying the performance of the Oppo BDP-83 from the first EAP, I jumped on the invitation to be a beta tester for the Oppo BDP-80, officially released today. As a brief preface, I was impressed by the performance of the 83 in basic A/V parameters and also the thought and detail into the function of the player on softer issues.
The BDP-80 is the 83’s little brother still offering universal playback and blazing speed, but lacking the ABT 2010 video processor and a number of other higher end features such as 24fps conversion of dvds, dedicated stereo outputs, high end DACs, aluminum front fascia, backlit remote, etc. The 80 has a lower profile in its case and in faux feet similar to the Pioneer BDP-320. I mention this in part to look, but also due to the nature of cooling in this player. The vents are found on the bottom of the player and I do not believe there is a fan. That said, after many hours of use, I never found any heat issues, but some might want to consider avoiding placing this above another component emanating heat.
Like the 83, the disc tray is center-mounted, but the display is located to the left with similar light blue led display. The display is a bit more limited, but very much adequate in displaying relevant information. In addition to the rear USB point, a second more access-friendly port is on the left of the front fascia. I used this to play jpegs numerous time and found it as intuitive and easy to use as the 83. One can update firmware via this port or via Oppo’s servers from the internet. I found both methods easy and quick.
The player is not as heavy and the tray has a bit more give than the 83 as one would expect, but still feels substantial and is far from noisy. It does not exude quite the visual stature of the 83 – partly due to its lower profile. The design of both Oppo blu ray players is conservative and under-stated, but might not have the outright sex appeal of some of its marantz and pioneer competitors. That said, Oppo’s focus appears to be less on the look of the player and more the raw performance, which is a perfect segue into performance.
The player is nearly immediately responsive when powered off. I timed two to three seconds for the tray to eject when powered off. The Oppo logo splashes on the screen shortly thereafter and is ready to begin loading after roughly 11 seconds.
The GUI is identical in basic layout to the 83, but lacks some of the submenus of the 83. Some of the lacking features like dvd 24fps conversion do not appear in the menu and some of the video adjustment menu options are lacking (limited to Brightness, Contrast, Hue, Saturation, and Sharpness). Good news is it can be overlaid of the video, but does lack the cool side-by-side mode of the 83.
In respects of pure blu ray performance, the player offers excellent playback as most other blu ray players. I am of the school that bd at 1080p 24fps is nearly identical to all players for most people in normal viewing conditions. DVD is obviously another story and that is the $54 question – how does dvd upconversion performance compare to the 83 and other players? The short answer is excellent. While I think most folks will be able to spot differences between the 80 and 83 on larger displays, the 80 is an incredibly capable player on dvd. I will mention that motion is very fluid, which I believe most people will feel gives the image the realistic perception to the point of trite terms like 3D-like. The Player avoids deinterlacing errors in synthetic tests, and most importantly, in real world content. I will mention that the player did fail my Killshot screen door test like its big brother, showing significant moiré from the screendoor. That said, the I struggled to find any jaggies in realworld content and can confidently say this player offers nearly error-free playback. Were I to attempt to separate the two siblings in respects of dvd performance, I believe the 80 lacks some detail reproduction and edge enhancement the 83 offers. Once again, the benefit of the 83 is directly correlated to the size of your display in my opinion. I connected the two players to the 40” sony lcd in my bedroom and struggled to spot differences. On my 50” kuro, there were differences, but they were more incremental than clear and distinguishable. Overall, the dvd upconversion is excellent without a doubt and I will qualify that statement that the quality is excellent regardless of pricepoint. I would not lament the loss of 24fps conversion on dvds – I have this feature disabled on my Oppo 83 and opted not to use it on previous Panasonic players with a similar feature.
Compared to other players in its price range (Denon DBP-1610, Pioneer BDP-320, and LG BD390), only the Pioneer could keep pace on dvd with the Oppo BDP-80 in my humble opinion. The Pioneer BDP-320 and Oppo have slightly different images – the Oppo’s native image is more similar to the Pioneer with the progressive motion option dialed up. Both images are very good, but algorithms must take different turns in the way they get from 480i to 1080p. The Pioneer looks more film-like, the Oppo adds more fluidity that provides a greater nuance of depth. Keep in mind, the differences overall are a lot more subtle than I have described. I did notice that in realworld material, I ended up dialing up the brightness of the oppo and the Pioneer ever so slightly. For example, disc three of Deadwood Season 3 offers a few scenes in the interior of the saloons in dark lighting. The dialing up of brightness revealed hair that was really slicked, dark brown and not just jet black. This may have been more display oriented as my 9G non-elite Kuro lacks a lot of tweaking menus outside of the service menu. Overall, I would consider the dvd upconversion of the Oppo 80 and Pioneer 320 both as excellent, only surpassed by the Oppo 83.
The 80 offers a zoom function that allows one to stretch an image either horizontally by a third or vertically by a third. The function also allows for complete magnification of the image by a third, a half, and possibly one more size that my memory has neglected. The 83’s zoom function is superior in my humble opinion in options alone and possibly video quality.
Operational speed on this player is excellent. Hands down, it is one of the fastest I have tested. It loaded Casino Royale and Dark Knight in the 16-18 second ranges. These times are identical to the 83 and are only bested by the LG 390 and Samsung 3600. The player’s response to remote commands is excellent as well. The speed section is where there is little comparison between the Pioneer 320 and Oppo 80.
In respects of audio, the BDP-80 offers 7.1 ch analogue outputs and can decode internally lossless codecs. I found that I preferred two channel music on the 83, but the difference was slight and not apparent on every cd I played. I find the analogue section to be very competent – I will defer to some of the audiophiles for more commentary – audio is too damn subjective to wade too deep for me.
One can easily imagine the question will arise of “should I get the Oppo 80 or the 83? Is the 83 worth the extra $210?” Like most things, there is no easy answer. Oppo’s website’s product page is very clear that the Oppo 80 is not intended for large displays. While the term large is not quantified, I can offer that the differences apparent on my 50” plasma were less distinguishable if not indistinguishable on my 40” bedroom lcd. The 83 offers some features that might be critical for potential buyers outside of the overall video improvement the ABT 2010 might offer and the audio quality the higher end DACs bring. If your primary use of a player is BDs in a purely digital setup, the cost of the 83 might not be the best allocation of funds. If you have a considerable dvd library, a larger display, or a legacy receiver, the Oppo 83 (or even 83SE in the case of the last) might be the best bet.
There were many that hoped for an HDMI only version of the 83 in the 80. Candidly, I think Oppo gave most of us a lot more in the 80. It is a player in its own right with more versatility for a larger market of users. While the ABT2010 would be wonderful, its benefits are limited on normal displays and Oppo has enough sense to realize a transport only player would either cannibalize 83 sales, or with the cost of the abt chip, offer only a slightly less expensive player that would be out of reach for many buyers.
I feel this mini-review would be remiss if I did not mention market position and value. The latter is clear – there are few other players that offer the dvd performance, speed, and universal playback of SACD and DVD-A at this price point. When you factor in industry-leading service and product support, the Oppo 80 is a very compelling product for folks who can appreciate what it offers. That said, this product is not for everyone – a lot of the marketplace is comprised of folks sitting behind uncallibrated lcds in torch mode that will never showcase the video quality of this player. The wider marketplace of $300 players is marked by what I would consider non-core features like streaming and wifi connections on which mass-market reviewers like Cnet sometimes place too much importance in my humble opinion.
The basic reality is that while these features are not of utmost importance to those looking for excellent A/V performance at the $500 mark, they might be more critical for your average consumer whose budget is limited. While this might be a bit apostate to most A/V sensibilities, I would honestly rather have Pandora streaming over SACD/DVD-A playback in most cases…kids and wives tend to shift the paradigm from dark side of the moon to Christmas Rock Mix on Pandora.
All in all, this player is an exceptional value. Its video performance, speed, universal playback, and softer Oppo-esque features make this one of the leaders in the under $300 mark for those looking for high quality video and audio at a reasonable price. The only other player I would say that offers so much feature for such little cost is the Pioneer BDP-320, which is painfully slow compared to the Oppo and lacks DVD-A and SACD playback for roughly $60 less. These two remain my top picks in the under $300 market. I point this out solely because the biggest complement paid to Oppo’s work has always been BDP-83’s (and now the BDP-80) role as the venerable benchmark against players ranging from $250 to $5000. This player’s entrée at $290 will inevitably put pressure on more well-known brand name manufacturers like Onkyo, Denon, Marantz, Harman Kardon, and Yamaha to release players that offer more value, better performance, or both.
Oppo, well done on the BDP-80.