The best DVD player I’ve ever owned: Philips DVP-642

A few days ago I posted a note about how I had to give my first negative feedback after a poor eBay auction experience trying to buy a set of Tintin DVDs (see After six years, I just left my first negative feedback on an eBay seller…). As part of that process, I decided that what I really wanted was a DVD player that would let me play NTSC and PAL DVDs from any region of the world. Not a radical request, since there are a number of online stores — including Amazon — that list region-free DVD players for sale. After doing some online research, however, I decided that I didn’t want to pay the often $100 or more surcharge for turning a regular DVD player into a region-free unit, so I went back to eBay…

This time, I was in the market for a Toshiba SD-4900, a DVD player that has coherent, tested instructions for transforming it into a PAL-compatible multi-region DVD player online. The going rate on eBay, as far as I could ascertain, was about $75 plus shipping, which wasn’t too bad.

I bid on one, won it, and had the seller ship it to me via FedEx Ground. A big mistake. The unit arrived completely bashed in and the seller and I have spent about three weeks going back and forth with FedEx trying to file and process a claim against their standard insurance for shippers. Someone from FedEx came out to my house, took the box away for two days, then returned it and told me that the first phase of the claim was complete. Two weeks ago. Now we’re waiting for any additional steps at all, and about 75% of the time when the seller or I call to inquire about what’s going on, FedEx Ground’s team says that there’s no claim filed against the shipment and that it’s too late to file a report anyway.

We are persisting, and I’m expecting to get a full refund from the seller within the next few days. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, since that was destroyed, I went back to eBay (can you say “glutton for punishment”?) and purchased another Toshiba DV-4900, from a different seller with a very good rating. She shipped promptly (actually, as far as I can tell, she sent my order to an overstock fulfillment house) and when the box arrived, this time via UPS, it was the wrong DVD player she’d sent. Instead of the Toshiba DV-4900, it was actually a Toshiba DV-3950. The clever hacks to make the DVD player both PAL compatible and multi-region didn’t work. I tried it.

The very next morning, sick of all of this, I did yet another round of research and identified the Philips DVP-642/37 as an out-of-the-box PAL and NTSC compatible all-region DVD player. I purchased it through Amazon’s marketplace so I’d have a guarantee it would be the right unit and work, and ended up buying it from The Electronics Marketplace for about $80 plus $10 shipping.

This morning I sent the Toshiba DV-3950 DVD player back to the seller asking for a full refund: she hadn’t shipped what I’d purchased. This afternoon, while making latkes for Hannukah, UPS knocked on the door and the Philips unit was delivered. I plugged it in, marveling at how tiny the unit was, less than half the size of my older Toshiba DVD player, and then we watched The Bourne Supremacy and were impressed by all the Philips features.

What most impresses me is that my new Tintin 75th Anniversary DVD collection (not bootleg, the real thing!) that’s only for region two and in PAL format, worked perfectly on the player. Even more impressive, a data DVD that I’d burned from my Mac played fine too. And the unit also supports DivX, MPEG4, PhotoCDs, MP3s, VCDs, SVCDs, and just about anything else. Philips isn’t kidding when it says “you have it, we play it.”

Philips DVP-642

Assuming that all the refunds work out, this will have been a long but interesting journey, with a really wonderful, highly recommended DVD player at the end of the path. Oh, the only lame thing is that the Philips included DVD remote control is the cheapest, most poorly designed remote I’ve seen in years…

Ready to buy one so you can finally watch all those PAL and foreign region NTSC DVDs sitting on the shelf, collecting dust? Please use this link: Buy A Philips DVP-642/7 from Amazon.com

31 comments on “The best DVD player I’ve ever owned: Philips DVP-642

  1. My miserable DVD player experiences on eBay, with a great ending

    A few days ago I posted a note on my personal weblog about how I had to give my first negative feedback after a poor eBay auction experience trying to buy a set of Tintin DVDs (see After six years,…

  2. My Miserable DVD Player Experiences On eBay, With A Great Ending

    A few days ago I posted a note on my personal weblog about how I had to give my first negative feedback after a poor eBay auction experience trying to buy a set of Tintin DVDs (see After six years,…

  3. I’ve only had one major bad deal on Yahoo auctions, where the seller did not send PS2 at all. No refund, nothing!! A few videos I bought through auctions were rentals, but otherwise I’ve had good luck with both Ebay and Amazon auctions. Rc

  4. I have purchased dvds from ebay and got burned twice.They took the money and ran.They both had all positive feedback but after inquiring to ebay about being taken ,ebay responded that they are no longer registered users.I have been rereplying to ebay because I know they must know who these people are.Have you ever been burned? Why is ebay letting these guys get away with it.
    The people who burned me:mailto:nobeltan@hotmail.com,mailto:suite150@hotmail.com

  5. Don’t want to rain on your parade but you could have purchased the sam DVD player at your local Wal Mart for $66.50 and save about $25.

  6. Not sure how knowing that the same DVD player (Wal-Mart’s selling the region-free, PAL-enabled version of the unit? I’m surprised) can be purchased for less elsewhere is raining on my parade, actually. My goal wasn’t to find the very best price in the world, it was to get a DVD player that would work with PAL region 2 DVDs. I accomplished that. And, frankly, given the retailing juggernaut that Wal-Mart is nowadays, I don’t mind giving my business to someone else anyway…

  7. I’ve bought MovieCD disks not realizing that they no longer play (and there are no hacks to make them do so) in anything beyond win95. Of course, the seller failed to include that tidbit of info in his/her product description.

  8. Be glad you had 6 years of good ebay. I won’t use ebay. Out of my first 5 experiences 3 were bad. Sent broken stuff, fighting for months to get money back. I am up to almost 20 purchases, but I have had to leave at least 7 negative reviews and ended up losing a good $200 on “Bad goods” where if I would have just bought it from a repitable online site I would have only been down $100. Live and learn.

  9. That’s a definite drag. eBay isn’t the same trustworthy environment it was five years ago, unfortunately, but I have to say that I feel pretty lucky. Of the maybe 150 things I’ve bought on eBay, I’ve really only had one or two clunkers to date.

  10. “CAVEAT EMPTOR” is not new, gang. Getting something for less than what it’s worth is unlikely to happen often.
    A few years ago when some thought the web was going to be the panacea that fed, clothed and housed the world, we all made a profit here and there (and some became inexcusably wealthy) BUT someone had to pay for it.
    (Check your parents’ retirement fund)
    I do remember Chris posting (and me acting on) buying an HP printer and an online postage system that netted me a printer, $50.00 in stamps AND rebates that totaled $10.00 more than I put on the credit card initially. My cost was to wait about 5-6 weeks for the credits to be posted.
    I thought, “GREAT DEAL”, but like I said, someone had to pay for it.
    I also got this cool little internet only laptop. It initially directed itself to the vendor’s home page. After that initial page, surfing was unlimited and FREE! The agreement was first year free, then $50.00 second year and $50.00 third year, after which it would be mine. That box is still around here someplace, but the company has long been kaput and the laptop hasn’t been usable since maybe 4-5 months after I got it.
    It came to me free but somebody had to pay for it.
    Then there was the free keyboard with all the extra keys that pointed to the vendor’s sites. Those keys don’t work anymore but I still use the keyboard when I’m repairing someone’s old system. I suppose I could program it to redirect those keys if I wanted. (If I had PAID for it, I probably would.)
    And once again, someone had to pay for it.
    E-Bay is great for some things (and a gold mine for some people) but if you plan on getting something for nothing or even something for less than it’s worth on a regular basis, you’re just the kind of user the ones who made it a gold mine are looking for.

  11. “Looking for something for less than it’s worth on a regular basis” isn’t the same as “seeking bargains”, so I am not entirely sure I agree with your rather pessimistic assessment of eBay. 🙂

  12. I have a problem with the worldview of anyone who refers to anyone as “inexcusably wealthy”… while I do not disagree that there are inexcusable methods of attaining wealth, who are you to say what level of wealth, attained through honest means, is just enough?
    And Dave, thanks for the good word on the DVP-642, I have had my eye on it as an “inexcusably” capable player in a marketplace of otherwise limited models and think I’ll pick one up when putting my home theater system together.

  13. Hey, Chris, I want to be inexcusably wealthy! What’s wrong with that? 🙂
    Seriously, I should give everyone an update on this Philips DVD player now that I’ve actually watched a half-dozen movies with it. The good news is that it plays everything I can throw at it, from Mac-burned DVDs that are just data disks with a VIDEO_TS folder to PAL DVDs from the UK.
    The bad news is that not only does it have the worst piece of junk remote control and not only does it not seem to be compatible with my universal remote, but its overall usability is poor too. Try to skim forward within a track and suddenly you’ve jumped to the next track. Try to move back a few tracks and suddenly you’ve jumped to track 0. Very frustrating when my wife and I were trying to back up a few seconds and read some prop newspapers in “Ella Enchanted”, I must say!
    My final conclusion is that I’m glad I got the Philips DVP-642 DVD player for its flexibility, but I’m going to leave my US-only Toshiba SD-3800 DVD player for regular DVDs, and just use the Philips for DVDs that won’t play on the Toshiba.

  14. HI!
    I came across this site doing some search on google. I own 4 of those philips players. I do alot of DVD to XviD/DivX conversion, that player works wonderfully in playing these movies back. I’ve been doing this encoding for several years and have quiet a collection now, So it’s very refreshing to be able to watch them on your television, take them to a friends house and watch them… Whatever you like, fliexability. Not only can I take my music with me, but now my divx/xvid collection is also portable.
    Incidently, to the person who is having the search problems, the Philips includes a reflashable eeprom for upgrading it. You should upgrade the firmware, it will most likely resolve that issue. I believe one of my units did the same thing. It turned out being older firmware.

  15. I would have to say that most of the PHILIPS DVD players are hackable from the remote-so you buy a ‘regular’ one for pennies and program it yourself-just go to any DVD hack page

  16. does someone know what comes next after DVP-642… seems like it has been out for 1 year:
    on amazon.com
    Date first available at Amazon: April 27, 2004
    would be cool if there is a player than can play RealAudio and QuickTime too.

  17. I also purchased a Philips DVP642/37 from my local BestBuy.
    The only downside to it is the fact it doesnt play any of my burned DVD-RW discs, but, a simple conversion to +RW format did the trick.

  18. I bought a Philips 642/37 Model
    Ver 0531 642/37 O1M1
    Tried every posible th8ing but i cannot make it show me a PAL region 2 movie. So do I have the wrong player?????

  19. I don’t actually know model numbers that well, but it’s possible you do have the wrong unit, or that you haven’t applied the “internationalization patch” to it. I’d poke around on Google to see what you can find on turning your unit into a multiregion player. Good luck!

  20. The second worst player I’ve ever owned. Completely non-intuitive remote and menus make the thing frustrating to setup. Even on-screen menus are a bit difficult to use. Produces prodigious amounts of heat from the power supply. Difficult to scan backward and forward accurately. Shaky FFD and Rev. Does play pretty much everything I’ve thrown at it, even computer data discs, so that’s good. Easy to recode for region-free playing. PAL to NTSC convertor is only 8MB which produces an inferior picture. Sound is adequate but not great. I bought it specifically to play region 2 PAL discs which it does. Certainly an inferior player overall but for the $60 price it does what I require it to do. As I’ve read much about this player’s tendency to break down and completely stop functioning I couldn’t recommend it to friends and family. I’ll stick with Panasonic, JVC, and Toshiba from now on even if they cost a little more. Also Philips is no help at all, but I discovered that a few years ago when I mistakenly bought one of their 27″ TVs. Worst set I’ve ever owned. So bad I sold it within 2 months.

  21. I was pretty disappointed, sad to say. It does play all regions quite easily and successfully, but the PAL-to-NTSC converter results in a picture with major anti-aliasing (picture broken up into horizontal lines you can practically count). Like the other guy said, it’s only 8MB, so there you go. Then again it seems to be free of herky-jerky motion problems and doesn’t distort the picture in any other way, which is far from a given in these matters. Sigh. If all-region is really your thing, I’d recommend looking around for a player that has a 16MB converter. And researching it a lot just to be sure it produces a good result. It will undeniably cost more than this player, and it will undeniably be worth it.
    As for the power problem, yes, this tends to die as quickly as six months after purchase, but the problem is fixable if you’re the type of person who’s willing to open the guts of a DVD player and use a soldering iron to replace a part. If you’re not, this is not the player for you.

  22. Might try the “oppo” 971H player: http://www.oppodigital.com. Except for the plug, it is a multi-voltage, multi-region, multi-encode (SECAM/PAL/NTSC/DivX/…) player. Can’t wait to see how they do for a DVD recorder…
    “All DVD Players shipped in the USA must be set to Region 1. It is not legal for the manufacturer to provide information or any other means of changing the region code to allow the playback of DVD’s from other regions. … It is however, quite legal for you to own a Region Free DVD player as it is legal for you modify it to become a Region Free DVD Player.” http://www.alkenmrs.com/codefreedvd/code-free-players.html
    The multi region set up on video help is:
    * Remove any discs from the player
    * Press “Setup” button on the remote control
    * Enter 9210 on the remote
    * A menu screen will pop up on your monitor
    * Select 0 to 6 in region code. “0” is the multi-region setting allowing automatic changing from one format and region to another.
    * Press Setup on remote again to exit
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00078GLJY/104-9473259-5016735?v=glance&n=172282 See also the manual in *.pdf format on the Amazon page.
    Without a disc in the player it is easy to change from NTSC to PAL to Multisystem Monitor. Each change is one push of one button on the remote.
    If their recorder works the same way, my friends in Europe can soon see my NTSC home movies on their PAL sets without having to fool with their computers.
    I like the Faroudja DCDi technology and the huge arrary of choices for audio outputs. Having a sound setting of “cave”, “auditorium”, and even one “bathroom” was unusual, to say the least…
    There are lots of ways to tweek the output including a mute button, which my last player did not have and a small graphics equalizer pull down screen.
    Just to cap things off, it is ready to upconvert for your HDTV with HDMI cables included. Look the manual over and see if $200 is in your budget. I think you will like the result.

  23. Hello Dave,
    Doing a google search, your article came up. I have some DVD’s that are Region 2 and I want to play here in the U.S. I see that the Phillips player worked for you but did you have a multisystem TV/Monitor?? I also have VHS Tapes that I would like to watch in case you knew of any good VCR’s that play PAL.
    Thanks again,
    Ozzie

  24. As an ironic postscript, my Philips 642 is no longer working: any disc I put in is reported as “NO DISC” when it loads. I am going to try and clean the laser lens but otherwise I’m quite frustrated. I can’t really answer your question about TV setup until I can get it happy again… :-\

  25. I purchased Philips DVP-642 through your link, but when it came it had a sticker on the box saying it was Region 1 only. Is there something to do to get it to play Region 2 or do we have to return it and buy a different model? Any help / direction would be greatly appreciated.

  26. QUOTE:
    “As an ironic postscript, my Philips 642 is no longer working: any disc I put in is reported as “NO DISC” when it loads. I am going to try and clean the laser lens but otherwise I’m quite frustrated.”
    Yep. This DVD player is a piece of crap. I’ve had 2 in 3 years. The motor on them just quits and gives you that message after about a year of light use.
    Listen to the player, you’ll hear the laser moving back and forth, but the disk isn’t spinning up.
    Just happened to me again on the second one of these I bought. Liked the Divx, hate the player.

  27. I just purchased the Philips P642. It is playing my PAL movies on my NTSC TV. However the picture quality is not very good. (watchable but less than bad VHS quality). Does this DVD player automatically convert from PAL to NTSC or is there a command I need to tell it on the menu screen? I am hoping for a better picture by doing something differently.
    Thanks

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