The overall design of the DV-970HD isn't inspiring and definitely has a low-end feel. The front panel is made of plastic, and the flimsy tray that extends outward feels as if it could easily snap off. There are a few basic controls on the front, but they're very small and not clearly labeled. We also would have liked chapter forward/back controls on the front for when the remote goes missing. To the right of the button is the LCD display; it's somewhat small but easy enough to read from a distance. Further to the right is a flip-down panel that reveals the USB port and a memory card reader. One slight annoyance is that the front-panel display uses unorthodox naming conventions that can lead to confusion--for example, the display reads r00t when you're on a DVD's main menu screen.
We aren't fans of the remote either. Buttons are similarly small, which makes it hard to navigate by feel; we found ourselves constantly needing to look at the remote to visually verify the controls. Rather than a proper backlight, it has glow-in-the-dark keys--enough to see labeled buttons such as Play, but no good for those with tiny descriptions above them. On the upside, the remote is comprehensive, in that you can access many functions with just a click of the button instead of drilling through various menu levels. Our recommendation: use the money you've saved by buying the Oppo and invest in a universal remote.
Despite the design having a somewhat cheap feel, the DV-970HD does come wrapped in a black cloth that gives it the impression that it's something special. And they also manage to throw in a six-foot HDMI cable, which is a relatively uncommon treat.
The graphical user interface is a little utilitarian, but we love the level of customization it provides. It's relatively easy to make fine adjustments such as adjusting the picture controls or setting the delay for surround-sound speakers. We also give it credit for being able to handle non-anamorphic wide-screen DVDs--using a combination of the "squeeze" mode and the adjustable zoom, we were able to properly fill the screen while maintaining the correct aspect ratio, even when switched to HD outputs. That's a big plus, considering that aspect ratio flexibility is lacking on a lot of older and current HDTVs. There are even some pretty wacky options such as Audio Tone, which changes the key of the audio--supposedly useful for karaoke discs. Also, the Oppo offers the ultimate DIY option: updatable firmware. Just download to a PC, burn a disc, and install the upgrade.
The jack pack offers pretty much the maximum connectivity options that you can expect from a DVD player: HDMI, component, S-Video and composite video outputs; optical and coaxial digital audio outputs--many players only offer one or the other; analog stereo outputs; and 5.1-multichannel analog audio outs. The DV-970HD is able to upconvert DVD video over its HDMI output to 720p and 1080i, in addition to 480i and 480p resolutions. Around the front, the aforementioned USB jack and four-in-one memory card reader--it accepts SD, MMC, Memory Stick, and Smart Media formats--offer the promise of enjoying digital media that's not disc-based. On our review sample, both the memory card reader and the USB port were dead, but we have requested a replacement and will update the review when we have more information.