When my Cyberhome unit died, I went looking for a new machine that was region- and macrovision-free, like the CH-500, but which also included more features (like incremental zoom to correct overscan), and better overall functional integrity. I was surprised to find almost no consensus, either in on-line fora, or among well-informed friends, about the best region-free player. Some friends replied that they were ambivalent about their machines, others hated them, and all intended to purchase a new one sometime soon. None had identified an obvious make or model to replace their old players. After a full dayï¿½s research, I didnï¿½t find the perfect player either, but I found a pretty good one, and thought Iï¿½d share the information that would have saved me a lot of time and effort.
The Philips DVP 642 is widely available at stores like Target, Best Buy, Wal-Mart (grrr), etc., where it retails for $60-80. It is rendered permanently region-free by entering a code, once, on the remote, after which no further action is required to watch non-R-1 discs. (The CH-500 requires that a code be entered each time one plays such a DVD.) The Philips plays R-2 discs better than did the Cyberhome, and most, so far, have played with perfect clarity. The R-2 Carlton edition of ï¿½A Canterbury Tale,ï¿½ which was unwatchable on the CH-500, plays right well on the Phillips. The lone exception, thus far, has been the Eureka edition of ï¿½M,ï¿½ which is as marginally ï¿½pixilatedï¿½ on the new player as on the old one. The new Eureka/MoC disc of ï¿½Pitfall,ï¿½ however, plays flawlessly on the 642.
The older version of the Philips (VER0531 642/37 01 E 1) was, and is, macrovision free right out of the box, while a newer version (VER1109 642/37 01 E 1) has been altered to enable macrovision. No means has been discovered to disable macrovision on the newer version, and firmware updates of the older version will install macrovision on the player. The region-free hack works on both the old and new versions of the DVP 642.
The older, macrovision-free, version of the Philips is still available in some locations. The old version is packaged in a large blue and black box, while the newer version, with macrovision, is sold in a thinner white box. Older versions have been marked on the back of the unit with a manufacture date as late as November 2004. Or so I have read, mostly at this website
, which provides a pretty thorough history of this model:
The Philips doesn't, unfortunately, include incremental zoom or many other deluxe amenities, but I trust it will serve me well until the arrival of a better machine.