International DVDs you got for Christmas not play? $0-30 for an easy fix

DVD region codes are preposterously claimed by movie studios to be an anti-piracy tool. The vast majority of DVDs are encoded to play only on players enabled in one of six world regions. China, ever striving to be #1 in all endeavors, has its own region as the titan of piracy. Anyone who has encountered a pirated disc will be forgiven for not knowing about the regions because the pirates make their discs region-free. Instead, those inconvenienced by the regions are legitimate customers who acquire DVDs abroad in one region and take them to a different, home region. Robert Silva at About.com has a good summary, concluding, “The only entities that seem to be really benefiting from DVD Region Coding are the movie studios and the marketers of Code-Free DVD players.”

What to do with that museum DVD or gift set sent from an overseas friend for Christmas? There are computer hacks of varying complexity, such as this one featured by NYT’s David Pogue, and online vendors of varying reliability that sell region-free players, but a simple solution is to first look in your own living room. Take down model numbers of DVD players you currently have and check them on sites like Video Help and Multi-Region.net. There is a decent chance a few keystrokes will turn your player into a region-free delight.

If not, mosey over to a discount store like Target and scan the sub-$40 DVD players, taking down model numbers, checking them at the above websites. Many of the cheapest DVD players are not sold on discount store websites, so checking in person is best. It is well known among China hands that the most hardy DVD players for playing discs of varying quality are the cheapest, often no-name basic units, and these often have the easiest unlock methods. Best Buy’s long-discontinued Cyberhome 300 still commands a premium for its ability to vanquish all comers.

The Rapid Traveler today helped a friend who received an overseas DVD gift set that would not play on a region 1 (USA) player. The friend’s current player could not be unlocked after many attempts, so a trip to Target was in order. Of several candidates, the Memorex MVD2016BLK looked promising for its $29.99 price and the lack of superfluous features (hint: look for units with no display on the face). The unlock procedure was simple compared to some that require split-second timing or even third-party remotes. Setup and unlock was easy and in a few moments his friend was happily enjoying British humor.

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  • Oliver

    The only downside, in my experience, is that those cheap DVD players often don’t last very long.

  • James Pole

    Neither do the brand names ones. Philips in particular seems prone to failures. I agree that when it comes to DVD players the cheaper ones tend to be more reliable. Odd but my experience has consistently shown this to be true.

  • rob

    That seems like just as much trouble as ripping the DVD and burning it region free. It is not hard to do.

  • I agree ripping a few discs is ok but more than a few discs and it seems less hassle to unlock the player than burning discs over and over.