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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [03.12.07]
Manufactured by: OPPO Digital



Depending on the type of movie-watcher you are, you may like different types of DVD players. Some players have quite a few options that allow you to tweak every last setting, making for exactly the type of output you prefer. Others have only very basic settings, and are only meant to be 'plugged and played'.

If you're the type of person who reads this site, I can be pretty sure you're from the former group. So I am happy to report that the DV-981HD has plenty of options at your disposal, but not so many that it becomes confusing. The interface is quite nice as well:

The interface is clear and with very little lag, and the manual does a fairly decent job of explaining what each setting does. The most important page is probably the "Video Setup Page", which allows you to change brightness, contrast, saturation, etc. You can also enable Faroudja's TrueLife mode.

Faroudja TrueLife

TrueLife is one thing that really sets the DV-981HD apart from other upconverting players. It really makes full use of the upsampled output by further enhancing the high frequency components of the material being displayed. This brings out the finer details in textures, particularly skin textures, giving DVD films a more "3D look" that we are used to seeing from true HD video. However it should be noted that it tends to add quite a bit of noise if the reference material is of low quality. If you are watching a DVD with a poor transfer, or one encoded to fit on a single layer disc, I would recommend turning this setting off.

Light Control

As I mentioned on the previous page, the front of the DV-981HD is emblazoned with several bright blue LEDs and a blue timer as well. Personally, I can't stand having bright lights of any colour on my AV equipment, so I am happy to report that the DV-981HD can be toned down from its default settings. Four individual settings are given:

With Light Control: On, you will get the full light-show which may distract from the movie you're watching. From there, you can disable the three control button LEDs, but keep the timer running at full brightness. You can also dim the timer, which is the setting I use. Not by choice though; as you can see, you have the choice to turn all lights and the timer off (with the exception of the Power LED, which is dimmed). However, this setting is not saved when you turn the player off. Instead, it will go back to the default setting of having all lights on! Doh! Hopefully this will be fixed in an upcoming firmware update.

Player Performance

Once the DV-981HD gets into playback of a DVD, its responsiveness is great for the most part. Pause, fast forward, chapter advance, and menu navigation are all very good, and the DVD layer change takes place within the blink of an eye. However, the initial loading of a DVD is very slow. I have timed the DV-981HD in two scenarios starting a movie; with the power on, and inserting a disc into the tray, it takes about 25 seconds to get to the first FBI Warning screen. With the power off and turning on the power with a disc inserted, it also takes about 25 seconds.

It is even slower with some DVD-RW's in my experience. Sometimes it can take up to a minute to start playing the movie, and re-playing the movie after pausing it can be delayed by up to 10 seconds as well. Writeable discs are so hit-and-miss however, that I won't hold it against Oppo in this case.

The DV-981HD is very quiet, with the disc tray opening and closing smoothly and quietly. The disc spins silently, and there are no mechanic noises or vibrations to speak of.

DivX Playback

I did some quick tests comparing DivX playback to that of my personal HTPC. In all tests, the Oppo performed... not bad. Mind you, I am using quite a bit more than $229 worth of PC equipment, and the latest version of DivX features good deblocking settings. Unfortunately, I could not get the DV-981HD to play higher-resolution XviD files (such as 960x528) at all, even in 1080 mode. The sound would play, but the video would not leave the file browser screen. Of course, these videos are not standardized, and anything that adheres to the DivX Home Theatre Profile will certainly work. It's just too bad that it won't play higher quality videos that don't necessarily adhere to such standards.

If you don't have an HTPC, and still want to be able to watch downloaded TV shows, the DV-981HD is quite capable. Just make sure to get caps that are released in lower resolutions (a standard 42 minute show will be about 350 MB instead of 700 MB). High resolution caps that won't work on the DV-981HD will be labeled as "HR" in the file name in most scene caps.

The DV-981HD is certified and compatible with DivX Video On Demand. Once you register the serial number, you can then purchase DivX VOD videos from certified partners. After a tiny bit of research, I have absolutely no idea where to buy or rent these VOD videos however. I guess it just hasn't taken off yet...

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