The name won't be particularly familiar to regular readers, but Oppo's DV-981HD universal disc player packs quite a punch.

With the exception of the HD formats, it spins almost everything and it offers some of the best standard-definition video processing available at less than £200.

Play any non-HD disc

When you see what this Swedish multiregion DVD player can do for a flatscreen TV you'll be searching online to grab yourself a bargain. Not only does the DV-981HD play all DVD formats and regions, it also extends its compatibility to Super Audio CD and DVD-Audio discs.

Watchers of DivX video files will also rejoice that this Oppo can play almost any file from DVD or CD media; it's this kind of versatility that enables the deck to fill a gap in any AV setup.

It comes at a price - £180 is perhaps a lot for what appears to be a slimline upscaling DVD player - but the provision in the box of a six-foot HDMI cable, a glow-in-the-dark remote control and even a fabric storage jacket helps make it feel worth the spend.

Powerful processing

Powering the unit reveals a setup menu that's straight out of the Shenzen bargain bins. But this is not a Chinese-made supermarket cheapie. Its video processing is top-notch. Beneath the bonnet is a Genesis Faroudja LSI that does a marvellous job of deinterlacing SD material.

The player can also scale up to 1080p 50/60Hz via HDMI (not in itself unusual) but offers a clean, stable image that outperforms much of its opposition.

Out of interest, we tested the Oppo alongside Panasonic's new DMP-BD30 Blu-ray player (in DVD mode), and it out-performed it in almost every regard.

Fantasic picture quality

The Oppo sailed through a raft of jaggies tests, offering clean, smooth diagonals on moving objects.

It also has superior noise reduction filtering (dubbed Motion Adaptive Noise Reduction). Horizontal and vertical crawl tests also proved excellent, with no image break-up on text.

The only area where the Oppo is weak is in absolute detail reproduction, a fact born out by its average frequency response at 5.8MHz. However, this lack of bite is compensated for by the sheer integrity of the image.

Colour fidelity is above average and stability is high. Predictably, DivX files are not treated with the same care and end-up looking a tad shoddy on the bigscreen.

A high-quality DVD player

The fact that the player spins multichannel SACDs and DVD-A discs, delivered via its 5.1 analogue outputs, should be considered a bonus really. This is not an audiophile-grade player. CD playback is only functional.

We measured audio jitter at a nerve jangling 5903ps. Our advice is steer well clear of the phono stereo outputs and opt for either digital coaxial or optical.

For those with a large DVD collection (that'll be all of us then?) this Oppo proves conclusively that there's still a real benefit in having a high-quality DVD player in the rack.

That it can handle pretty much everything thrown at it is the clincher. Highly recommended