Having spent some days with the pana, and a month with the Oppo 203 time for some comparative thoughts,
Construction, Remote what comes in the box and initial impressions
the oppo comes in quite elaborate box, vs the much more compact panasonic which is packaged in a much more utilitarian manner. Both come with decent sized remotes and with ~2m 18gbps hdmi cables. The oppo cable is premium certified with the sticker to identify as such. not that cables at 2m really matters whether premium certified or not in my experience.
Some things blindingly obvious looking at the players... the Oppo is a very swish looking machine...full component width typical component depth. Nice solid case, stylish and polished looking piece of AV gear. Minimum of buttons. The styling overall I very much like vs the older 103. The pana... my god it is a tiny thing !
quite short in component depth but atleast component width, quite low profile. Very much a box mover style disc player but to be fair it is much better built than most of those. They are sure trying wiht a nice shiny top, metal case, with just one bit of useless form over function bling in the plastic crystal look front flap ..couldnt help them selves I guess ! anyways it does look better in the rack vs the sammy uhd player which was a bit more of a challenge with its curvy front and quite low profile case !
The remote on the pana is very nice... nice its back lit and the buttons have a positive feel to them.... using it ....I do miss the motion sensitive remote of the oppo though .... the oppo remote does seem cheaper and more generic by comparison though. these things do matter... in a projector setup and a dark room you want to quickly press a button on the oppo can do that ...on the pana have to hit the light button bottom left hand corner ... having used an oppo for a month...funny the things you get used to...
Getting going and basic settings
On first boot up of the panasonic...hey I could see a main menu ! and this straight through my marantz av8802a processor and through to either my jvc x7000 projector or pioneer kuro krp-500M. I noticed straight off the main menu on the panasonic was in 1080p50 res which is such a much better idea than oppo with their menu using max hdmi bandwidth that most people are going to struggle with existing hdmi cables and those longer than 7m. As some might know currently no premium certified hdmi cables exist over 7m to guarantee most will see the main menu with the oppo, but with the pana no one will have any issue with the menu. So out of box even switching on people are going to find things working with the pana but many I suspect will get caught out with the oppo and find they have to work around this crazy need of oppo to push a menu through at max hdmi bandwidth.
The first evening I spent with the Pana...I mainly just spent setting things up/basic calibration and a few test discs and such. I tend to like to do this with a new player to make sure things are right.
in initial use... the pana comes across as a very polished and sophisticated player...it does make the oppo feel like a beta release product. however the oppo does seem to have a plethora of options etc a lot more the pana. On the pana do also have quite a bit of tweak a ability however tends to keep out of the way but I would suggest still a little less in options than the oppo.
One thing I picked up straight off for instance ... and this might mean something to people and might not. the oppo like just about every brand blu-ray player in the last few years ... since the conception of 3D has a screen size setting. Not that it is totally clear what that does..and given my projector also has it appears a facility which I will explore. But have always without thought bunged in the screen size in the player...so bit of a surprise to not find it any place on the pana. Something will report through to panasonic.
I noted the pana by default going through the settings on the audio side has dynamic range compression as OFF and also bitstream enabled. As distinct from the oppo that leaves dynamic range compression and bit streaming in "auto" settings.
In initial viewing and on out of box video settings I ran through just one DVD (morcheeba brixton to beijing live concert - PAL), blu-ray (mr and mrs smith) and UHD blu-ray(life of pi) through the pana just to test things. and hey they all just play...through my marantz to either the pio kuro or the jvc x7000
another good surprise ! why a suprise ? well with the oppo out of box ... I couldnt get DVD to play through to my jvc...without some mucking about with settings...vs the pana that just works. Some very initial impressions...not sure there is much difference PQ between the oppo and pana on Blu-ray. With DVD the pana looks sub standard with jaggies and such. With UHD blu-ray the pana looks quite a step up in PQ ...this is keeping in mind with the pana on out of box settings and the oppo having put in quite a bit of work to get decent looking via all three formats. This was a little suprise to me to be honest. that the pana was visibly with issues for DVD...something I need to explore. that blu-ray was not jumping out PQ wise in differnece between them and such a differnece between them for uhd blu-ray particularly since that the pana out of box and not having been setup for looking better than the oppo ?. Which led me to do some further setup and calibration for the panasonic.
Further setup and calibration and further exploration
for DVD looking a bit more carefully its things like guitar strings for instance showing jaggies on the pana... I think I will bring this to pana's attention. perhaps they have something to suggest to improve on this. nothing I could see to improve. On blu-ray I did some basic setup using the wow disney blu-ray. I didnt find greatly too much in difference between in picture settings needed. but what I did find is the color setting I could crank right back to zero for the pana whereas tend to have crank right back for the oppo ? similarly when I came to doing setup for HDR...on the oppo I found I had to raise brightness to +3 in the player otherwise I found I was clipping blacks and not able to adjust with just the projector settings. not something I found on the pana...meaning I could leave the pana settings at zero. Not really sure what is the go with the oppo the way it is and I do hope something oppo can fix with regards clipping black issue.
Anways post setup watching blu-rays back to back...I can definitely now see the image via the pana to my jvc is much sharper cleaner more defined ..vs the oppo image looks softer less defined. I did this using the Lucy blu-ray of which I have two so was easy to do comparing one vs the other switching between the inputs on my marantz.
Comparing uhd blu-ray I used THE Shallows UHD...goodness the difference picture wise between pana and oppo has to be seen ! the pana is really quite a step up indeed. its rich its vibrant its detailed...and more natural looking... eg blake lively when she is being driven to the beach look at her face looks vibrant natural..vs via the pana looks a bit flat and pasty. not that to say the image from the oppo doesnt look great ... its just the image via the pana just looks so much more real and natural. I tell you looking at the images coming off the pana you just sit there saying wow...a simply stunning movie the shallows on uhd. one very glaring and very disappointing thing watching the shallows wiht the oppo...god ... drop outs constantly ...little mini split second ones. cannot believe it.. I have watched the shallows wiht the oppo before and only had one drop out wiht it that time...at end titles... so why is it there is constant audio drop outs this time around . this aspect of the oppo is very frustrating.. Certainly the shallows is un watchable this time around for me via the oppo...with the audio drop outs ... and just simply amazing looking on the pana wiht the gorgeous stunning picture and absolutely no issue audio wise. the pana has wiped the floor of the oppo in this round.
Some general in use comments on more extended viewings
Since that initial setup have had much more extended use watched some more films in length on the pana to compare back to my experiences with the oppo, We watched Samba on blu-ray a french movie (made by same makers of The intouchables) lovely movie. With the pana it just looks so clean clear, such natural colours. Also other movies that have gone through there is an old favourite of mine in "the american" eg in the forest scene I've never seen detail on george clooney's face like this before. More extended viewings on uhd blu-ray with life of pi, good fellas, sicario, the martian and so on and so on. A gazzilion movies have gone through the pana... and there is one thing that has stood out to me out of all of it...
The pana at all times in use no matter the discs played has been faultless... no drop outs...no freezes... no reboots, no crashes no lock ups. With the oppo on the other hand...can be infuriating ... there are times with the oppo will get through a disc...and others like the shallows uhd with its continuous audio drop outs...at some times ...and then will just play through at others....the times when was trying to play the good fellas uhd where it kept freezing at the same point and then going back to the start of the disc... till eventually it would just play through and continue to play through at other times have checked it...this aspect of the oppo is very frustrating .. where can now sit there wondering when it would start mis behaving... and the pana by contrast is such a relief where can just watch a movie and enjoy...
With audio bit streaming off both players... I have not found ANY difference audio wise. and neither there should be. this is putting aside the audio drop outs of the oppo. and talking about sound quality here. Obviously the versatility of the oppo is there as a universal disc player and it does a wonderfull job with sacd and DVDA ...great to hear these discs again...however wiht a black mark of a audio drop out on the very lovely Steely dan gaucho DVDA that decided to have a drop out to interrupt enjoying it.
The oppo looks a lovely made player, solid in construction and with its conventional build it is perfect a player in sense for a system such as mine. With a player of its calibre and also in its capability with not only video and disc capability but also in multichannel audio. However it is badly let down in use. Frustrating infuriating when it interrupts the listening and viewing experience with its bugs and issues. I've been an early adopter of DVD, HD-DVD, Blu-ray owning first of players in all these formats and while have put up with some aspects of their first release as players its a first for me to own a player such as this in the oppo where its issues actually is so interfering in what should be enjoying music and movies. So while the pana was a very reluctant purchase for me... and perhaps while not a perfect fit in form or capabilites (lacking multichannel ability) - where the pana wins big time is on two fronts...that it works and works seamlessly that it doesnt get in the way of the experience ...instead lets you enjoy it...and immensely with the picture qualtiy its capable off.
So on that note I said good bye to the oppo today. I returned it to a retailer I bought from and is the first item I returned to that retailer in the 30 years of dealing with them ! Thank goodness have retailer like that, that are supportive in taking it back. Its a relief for me moving on form the oppo. And will enjoy the pana for what it is. The oppo will re visit perhaps in 6 months time, its just not ready for prime time right now. perhaps they rushed it to market. Perhaps too many firsts for them. Perhaps oppo will get over the kind of issues they have with this player, not just the bugs but also improve the picture side of things to bring on par with the pana. I'd love them to get there ... as for sure I would love to have the oppo back in my system and have it do all the things I hope it will....