The world's best 4K Blu-ray player sells for over $1,000 online — here's why

The Oppo UDP-203 in a media cabinet.
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Fans of physical media are gluttons for punishment. (I'm speaking from experience here.) Not only does physical media tend to cost more than its digital equivalent, but the hardware required to play it can often cost hundreds of dollars. 

That is, unless you want the very best 4K Blu-ray player ever made — then you should be prepared to spend at least $1,000. 

The model I'm referring to is the Oppo UDP-203, a 4K disc player that was made in the mid- to late-2010s and has since been discontinued. The average price on eBay is $1,000, with some pristine Oppo UDP-203 models selling for between $1,500 and $2,000. It's also available on Amazon brand-new for $4,598 — but, in spite of all the good things I'm about to say about it, DO NOT pay that much for it as second-hand models should work just as well for a fraction of the price.

There are cheaper alternatives out there — the Panasonic DP-UB820-K chief among them — but the Oppo UDP-203 is the Holy Grail for cinephiles for a reason.

Meet the Holy Grail of 4K Blu-ray players

Oppo UDP-203

(Image credit: Oppo / Shutterstock / Tom's Guide)

What makes the Oppo so special? Well, it does a few things better than any other Blu-ray player. As long as you downloaded the last firmware update, the UDP-203 can switch between Dolby Vision and HDR10+ modes on the fly and, thanks to its support for the Rec2020 color gamut, it offers a wider color gamut than some cheaper alternatives. Inside, it uses Oppo's own Balanced Universal Disc Loader for error-free reads and a specialized 4K UHD Blu-ray decoder that has never been matched by any other manufacturer.

Its other many talents include the playback of DVD-Audio and SACDs, a feature that's harder to find than it ought to be, and support of the two major spatial audio formats, DTS:X and Dolby Atmos. There's even support for 3D Blu-ray for those that invested heavily in the short-lived display technology and still have a 3D TV alive and kicking.

That doesn't mean the Oppo UDP-203 has all the latest and greatest technology — it only has HDMI 2.0 ports, for example — but it has all the necessary specs and features to make modern 4K Blu-rays and older HD Blu-rays look their best.

It's the only 4K Blu-ray player I trust when I test TVs for Tom's Guide.

Ultimately, the result of this symphony of specs, features and format support is an uncompromising picture, one that offers fully detailed images befitting of the name Ultra High-Definition. The Oppo UDP-203 is designed from the inside-out to deliver the best possible experience. and in my experience, it's the only 4K Blu-ray player I trust when I test TVs for Tom's Guide.

The cheaper alternatives

The Panasonic DP-UB820-K on a white background.

(Image credit: Panasonic)

In a twist of cruel fate, Oppo stopped making Blu-ray players in 2018, making the existing units a rare and coveted item for cinephiles. That's why it's selling for an absurd amount of money online. (For reference, when it was released, Oppo sold it for $549 and now the Oppo UDP-203 routinely sells for double or triple that amount.)

The main manufacturers of 4K Blu-ray players haven't found a reason to release new models so what's left are holdovers from a few years ago.

So what are your other options? Well, unfortunately the main manufacturers of 4K Blu-ray players haven't found a reason to release new models, so what's left are holdovers from a few years ago. 

The one I mentioned earlier, the Panasonic DP-UB820-K, is probably the second-best choice out there. It doesn't have the picture processing chops of the Oppo UDP-203, but it provides most of the same support minus SACD and DVD-Audio formats. An Xbox Series X will work in a pinch, too, but the results can sometimes be laughably bad.

If I didn't have an Oppo leftover from the last decade, the DP-UB820-K would be my first port of call with the likes of the more affordable Panasonic DP-UB420-K and Sony UBP-X800M2 as my second and third stops, respectively.

That said, if you're an obsessive collector — and most 4K Blu-ray collectors certainly are — then there's no substitute for the now-defunct, but still top-of-its-game Oppo UDP-203, the GOAT of 4K Blu-ray players.

More from Tom's Guide

Nick Pino
Managing Editor, TV and AV

Nick Pino heads up the TV and AV verticals at Tom's Guide and covers everything from OLED TVs to the latest wireless headphones. He was formerly the Senior Editor, TV and AV at TechRadar (Tom's Guide's sister site) and has previously written for GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade. Not sure which TV you should buy? Drop him an email or tweet him on Twitter and he can help you out.

  • Stainless29
    Well... the best apart from the 205 which is better, or the Magnetar players which are essentially upgraded players in the spirit of Oppo and are available new.
    If I was buying now I would get a Magnetar because of the more modern DACs for audio use. They also look lovely.
    Having said that I still have an old Oppo BD 83 in my audio system which I use as a transport for SACD, DVD Audio and Blu-ray audio.
  • jcabadi
    Panasonic pd-ub9000?