The first hints of region free Blu-ray?

When I took receipt today of a review Pioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray player, it still had firmware 3.0 installed. This lead to a previously mentioned problem with Die Hard 4.0. I tried to update the firmware over Ethernet using the built in function, but the unit claimed that it was already using the most up to date firmware.

So I downloaded the latest firmware (v.3.2) from the Pioneer UK website and installed this, dealing with this problem.

In searching this down, I stumbled across the website for Stegen Electronics which, amazingly, offers a modification kit for the BDP-LX70A to make it kind of region free. By ‘kind of’, it apparently offers switching between DVD regions 1 and 2, and between Blu-ray regions A and B. The kit includes a hardware addition in the form of a logic board and chip which have to be physically added to the unit.

All this brings back ancient memories. These days the only people who take DVD region codes seriously are the film studios and their distributors. In Australia, most DVD players come already region free, or are easily made that way by running a firmware upgrade (sometimes available from the manufacturer) or entering a remote control code. But back when DVD players were first introduced, everyone took them seriously.

My first DVD player was a Sony DVP-S725, then a high end unit. To make it region free required a similar hardware modification.

Could the availability of such a hardware modification for the Pioneer herald a similar path for Blu-ray? I hope so.

In the meantime, if you are considering such a modification, remember it will probably void your warranty.

Also, similar modifications are available for the Sony BDP-S300 and Sony BDP-S500 Blu-ray players at the same site (these are heavily based on the Pioneer unit).

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