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Philips DVP642... Fun for movie pirates everywhere! Tim 
Posted by: Tim at 8:50 PM EST on 2/27/2005
File Under: Misc Tech -> Home Theatre

Okay, so, I download movies and TV shows. Yes, I am a dirty pirate, I know. I also have a legitimate DVD collection, so shut up.

Now that that's out of the way, I'd like to get to my point. There have been a few DVD players to hit the market in the last year or so that are also capable of playing DivX and XviD movies, the two compression formats of choice for dirty pirates everywhere (unless you're a total geek and prefer Ogg or Matroska). Considering one of my favorite uses for BitTorrent is downloading TV shows that I normally can't catch when they actually air (and the occasional movie), I've been tempted by such a player, considering my laptop has the unfortunate habit of overheating and skipping, or just plain shutting off, when I watch AVIs of any extended length. Indeed, the ability to watch reencodes of the widescreen HDTV feeds, commercial free and on my TV, has been an enticing proposition. That's where the Philips DVP642 comes in.

At $50 to $70, this is a handy little player that not only plays the standard DVD fare, but DivX and XviD videos, as well. (Really, it plays any MPEG-4 file.) This means that I can download shows and movies, burn them to a CD or DVD, and enjoy them on a home theatre system. Unfortunately, I'm living in the dorms, and just have a 12 year old 19" GE TV with Mono sound, and only the coax jack as any sort of input... D'oh. As a result of my piss poor setup, I can't comment on the picture and sound quality, but they're as good as I can expect from my TV. Assuming I did have a decent setup, though, this player would have all the necessary hardware. It's progressive scan, and has composite, s-video, and component video hookups, as well as digital coax and optical outputs for audio. The remote kinda sucks, but... Who really cares?

What really matters with this player, though, is media and video format support. It's DivX certified, meaning any DivX file is going to be supported, so that's a start. In terms of media, it supports DVD+-R/RW and CD-R/RW. For formats, it supports DVD, VCD, SVCD, MPEG-1,2,4 (XviD, etc.), JPEG, and MP3. I might be forgetting something, I dunno. Check out the Video Help page for it for more info.

But that's not all! (Hm, I suddenly feel like the announcer for a bad infomercial. [Wait, aren't all informercials bad? Boy, I'm really getting off-topic now.]) That's right, you ... Shit, I forgot what I was going to say. I went and distracted myself with that infomercial bit. Let's see, here...

Oh yeah! That's not all! Certain versions of this player also come without Macrovision enabled, and all sets are easily set to be region free with the push of a few buttons. So, all you anime freaks can import your super-kawaii-bento-whatever crap from Japan. Or, I dunno, Bollywood movies, if you're feeling saucy. I guess this is one feature I won't really be using much. Of course, I unlocked my player anyway, because I'm a geek like that. To be like me, do the following: Power the player on, open the tray, then hit 7, 8, 9, OK, 0, on the remote. A "0" will appear on the screen, and you'll be good to go.

A quick technical note: There are actually two models of this player. The DVP642/17 and the DVP642/37. They have different firmware. Mine came with version 0531. To find out yours, open the tray, hit 5, 6, 9, OK. A screen will come up with the model name of your player, and a few more details. Look for the part that says "VERXXXX" where the Xs are numbers. Mine says "VER0531." If you have version 1109, my condolences. Macrovision is turned on for your player. You could try downgrading to older firmware, but not everyone has been successful in doing so. But really, if you're trying to copy DVDs to VHS, you just suck in general. But, if you happen to need to run your DVD player through your VCR due to setup issues, this could be handy. Anyway, version 1109 has no other useful features, so don't bother upgrading if you don't have to.

Of note: Philips doesn't list the page for the DVP642/37 on its site, and it doesn't show up in a search. For some reason, they only link to the page for the /17. Here's the page for the /37: clicky, clicky. Here's the page for the /17: more clicky, clicky. Honestly, I don't know if there's really a difference, but if you're going to do something like flash your firmware, might as well be safe rather than sorry.

Okay, this is getting long, so I'm going to wrap it up. This is a sweet little device that will play just about anything you feed it, (it likes cookies) and is really cheap. My only gripe is the menu system, which only displays eight characters from the filenames at a time. Lame.

Summary and Tips:
  • There are two versions, the /17 and /37.

  • Firmware version 0531 is the one to have. 1109 is newer, but enables Macrovision.

  • To view your player's version info: Open the tray, hit 5, 6, 9, OK

  • To make the player region free: Open the tray, hit 7, 8, 9, OK, 0. A "0" will show up on screen.

  • To open the tray with the remote: Hold "Stop" for about three seconds.

  • Fast-forward and Rewind are mapped to the Left and Right arrow keys. This was really annoying, as I didn't discover it for a while, and kept trying to fastfoward with the chapter skip button, which skips to the next file when playing XviDs.

  • XviD files encoded with QPEL are not supported.

  • If you find your picture to be distorted and pixellated, hit the "SYSTEM MENU" button twice, while the movie is playing, and it might clear up for you.

Overall: This is a damn fine player for the price. You can get it for $70 retail, but I'd shop around online. I found a refurbished one for $50 on the Amazon Marketplace, and it works wonderfully.

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