Region-free DVD playback on selected HD-DVD players

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HD-DVD might be dead but players are still available to purchase both second-hand and new and HD-DVD discs are selling for next to nothing online. My first HD-DVD player was the Xbox 360 add-on which I connected to my HDMI laptop. Playback would sometimes be jerky and the Cyberlink PowerDVD was simply atrocious; some titles would not play and it was generally full of bugs. With a growing HD-DVD collection I took the plunge and ordered a stand-alone HD-DVD from the US courtesy of MovieTyme. The HD-A20 was the cheaper alternative for full 1080p playback; a mid-range model of sorts. Apart from the slow load-up times, after all these are basically computers, I was very happy with the player. It was not until HD-DVD was officially declared dead that I decided to purchase another player, the EP30, at a budget price just in case the A20 was breakdown at any point. I set the A20 up at my parents so that I could make use of the player and made the EP30 my primary HD-DVD player.

I was aware that some clever people had manage to make the first generation models of HD-DVD players, American and European, region free by modifying the official Toshiba firmware. Several weeks later it was revealed that the A20 and EP10, its European equivalent, could also be made region free. Unfortunately, the third generation models such as the EP30 are not included. So, in need of a multi-region HDMI DVD player I decided to turn my A20 from an NTSC region one SD-DVD player into an EP10 multi-region PAL/NTSC SD-DVD player. As I mentioned before, HD-DVD players are effectively Linux computers, and in terms of build the A20 and the EP10 are the same machine.

After finding the region-free firmware through some helpful, friendly people on the AVForums I followed the instructions provided. First you need to downgrade the firmware on the A20 to an earlier version using a disc. Once this is done then you can load the modified multi-region software. It is as simple as that. You now have an American HD-DVD player that can play SD-DVDs of all regions. It is also a pretty good upscaler too, not anywhere near as good as Oppo’s dedicated upscaling SD-DVD players but still sound. Another bonus is that you can update the firmware and it will remain multi-region; Toshiba continue to release firmware upgrades even though the players are no longer manufactured. The only downside, and it is a minor one, is that RCE protected region one SD-DVDs require a remote control code to work. Otherwise, if you have a second or first generation HD-DVD player and would like to make it multi-region, head over to the AVForums and do some searching. You never know what you might find.

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