We tested DVD playback on two televisions, a Pioneer plasma and an LG. On both, we found the picture quality to be excellent. The Pioneer in particular seemed to love the Oppo and made our Blade 2 DVD look almost like it was a high definition disc.
Our other test discs, MI:II and Twister, both looked impressive, too. There were times that you can forget you're watching a DVD and think you're playing an HD DVD. The only time you tend to remember is when there is a long shot, which in HD would have loads of detail, but on DVD looks significantly less detailed.
Although we didn't notice any picture problems on DVD material, we were slightly less impressed by the DivX and MPEG-4 picture quality. We noticed that these videos were not deinterlaced properly, leaving this job up to your TV. This is fine, in theory, because all TVs should be able to do a good job of deinterlacing, but we aren't sure why the Oppo doesn't do a better job of it.
Sound performance was great, via our TV speakers. Obviously far better performance can be had by hooking the player up to a 5.1 system, either via the digital outputs or even the analogue RCA jacks.
The Oppo DV-981HD isn't the cheapest DVD player on the market but it is certainly a decent one. It's possible to spend a chunk of money on the humble but versatile disc players from companies like Denon and Arcam, but the Oppo certainly adds a little something to your movie viewing and is certainly a distinct improvement over a standard definition player.
If you are after a great upscaling HDMI DVD player, then this might very well be the machine for you, although you could consider the cheaper Samsung DVD-HD860, which we also rated highly.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday