Oppo has kitted out its flagship DV-983H with enough firepower to blow its impressive stablemate (the DV-980H) clean out of the water.

At over £300 it's certainly not cheap, but when you look at the packed spec sheet, that inflated price starts to become more understandable.

Understated Design

Usually, expensive DVD players are thicker than a telephone book, but this one packs everything into a surprisingly slim frame without compromising on build quality.

It features a classy and understated brushed black finish and an uncluttered fascia that does away with the menu controls found on the DV-980H.

Meanwhile, the USB port is found on the back of the unit, which is a little inconvenient when it comes to plugging in a removable storage device.

Upscaling technology

At the top of the bill is the inclusion of Anchor Bay's Video Reference Series (VRS) technology, which is driven by the respected ABT102 and ABT1018 chips at the heart of this player.

The former offers precision deinterlacing and progressive cadence detection, while the latter handles video scaling, frame rate conversion, aspect ratio control and zooming.

The ABT1018's 10-bit Precision Video Scaling engine converts DVD pictures to 720p, 1080i and 1080p in the best possible quality, making this a good choice if you own a particularly demanding bigscreen TV or projector.

Region-free DVD deck

As per OPPO's previous machines, the DV-983H is truly universal handling DVD, CD, DVD-Audio and SACD discs, as well as a wide range of compressed media formats.

This universality even extends to discs from other parts of the world, because it's region-free from the box.

Apart from the strange absence of a Scart output (revealing its American origin), the rear panel is very well stocked.

As well as upscaled video, the HDMI output offers bitstream and uncompressed multichannel hi-res audio output, but unlike the DV-980H it doesn't support native DSD output from an SACD disc over HDMI – the signal has to be converted to multichannel PCM beforehand.

Another feature found on the 980H, but missing here is the ability to output 480i and 576i via HDMI, so you won't be able to use it as an external deinterlacer, but with the quality of the onboard deinterlacing you won't need to.

Surround sound options

The 7.1-channel analogue audio outputs offer an alternative way of sending DVD-A and SACD signals to your amp, and also allow you to take advantage of the deck's built-in Dolby Digital Surround EX decoding – something of a rarity in the DVD player world.

Alternatively, you can pipe Dolby Digital and DTS bitstreams to your amp using the optical or electrical digital outputs.

The ABT1018 chip also puts a range of picture tweaks at your disposal, covering familiar settings like brightness and contrast through to more advanced areas like sub-pixel Y/C delay and colour space.

For audio, you'll also find bass management and some pointless sound field modes.

Basic menu system

Here we encounter the first chink in the OPPO's armour: the operating system. Not that it's particularly hard to use, mind, but it's a lot more basic and clunky than you'd expect for a player at this price.

The onscreen menus, for example, are crude and dated, and the fact that you can't select an option by pressing 'Right' on the control pad instead of 'OK' is a small but frequent annoyance.

In fact, the remote is generally a chore to use due to the awkward rubbery buttons and their cluttered layout, but on the plus side the keys glow in the dark and the unit responds quickly whenever you press a button.

Superb pictures

The DV-983H delivers some of the best pictures we've seen from any DVD player.

The ABT1018's upscaling capabilities are sublime, boosting the DVD signal to 1080p without a trace of edge noise or moiré patterning, resulting in movie images that look clean, bold and, best of all, utterly cinematic.

Detail handling is top notch, as demonstrated by playback of the demanding King Kong DVD. Skull Island's scenery looks razor-sharp, while the textures and patterns of clothing and skin are eminently visible.

You can also see the advantage of having the competent ABT102 chip at the helm, as there are no jaggies, juddering or other artefacts to sully the picture.

Excellent detail

The strength and purity of colour reproduction also plays a big part in the picture's success.

King Kong's varied palette looks utterly realistic at all times, from delicate skin tones through to the verdant island plant life.

Bring all of these elements together and the resulting picture is the closest thing you'll get to hi-def without buying a Blu-ray player.

Stunning audio quality

OPPO has lavished almost as much attention on the audio side as the video, with the DV-983H proving adept with both movie and music material.

Let the deck decode Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks internally and it delivers cleanly separated front and centre channels, deep punchy bass and dynamic rear channel effects.

The scene where Ann Darrow tumbles down a chasm with two T-Rexes perfectly demonstrates these qualities; it's simply breathtaking.

The wow factor continues with DVD-A and SACD playback, which draws you in with crisp highs, but keeps you in its clutches with a solid and engaging midrange and bass.

Impressive player

With an awesome spec sheet and some serious video electronics, this is the sort of player that DVD
die-hards will give their right arm for, but at over £300 you wouldn't expect anything less – as you can get a Blu-ray player for similar money.

But if you've already got an HD deck and want a dedicated machine for DVD upscaling duties you won't find many better this.