Tag Archives: Modding

The Quest for Multiregion Blu-ray

Oh, for the good old days when I could just buy the DVD and know that it would work on my multiregion player…

The biggest thing that still hurts about the death of HD DVD has to be the fact that the market collectively eschewed a format that completely did away with the ubiquitous region codes of DVD. Thankfully it’s less of an issue on Blu-ray, but it’s still annoying that faithful UK film fans have to miss out on stuff like the Criterion Collection or are just now getting films that came out Stateside in November. I’ve got around it by combining a UK region B standalone player with my US PS3, but it was far from ideal, and coupled with some issues with my Samsung, I dove in to see what multiregion options we’ve got.

Given the more stringent licensing terms on Blu-ray, the current state of multiregion BD is a bit messy, either involving hardware mods or questionable firmware, and none are as simple as a multiregion DVD player. If you’re like me, with a large collection of films from all regions, it’s quickly apparent how spoilt you can become with that situation, not having to think about it at all when dropping a disc into the player.

I ultimately went for a modded Oppo BDP-80, which is a slightly cut-down version of the BDP-83 – generally considered one of the best Blu-ray players on the market.

The mod makes it completely region-free for DVD playback, and switching the Blu-ray region is as simple as putting it into standby, holding down the blue button on the remote, and pressing 1, 2 or 3 to flick between regions A-C. The majority of my BDs aren’t region coded and out of those that are, it’s about an 80/20 split in favour of region A, so I leave it set to A and flick it over before I go to watch a disc that’s locked to B. Again, not ideal, but it works and it works well, and it’s likely to be the best we’ll get until the budget Asian manufacturers start making multiregion players.

From what I’ve seen so far, I’m extremely impressed with its performance. It’s fast – this review of the 83 puts it on top of the PS3 in every test there, easily fitting my criteria of performing like a DVD player – and the picture is excellent, with lots of lovely options to fiddle with, and I particularly liked the ability to access the setup menu without quitting playback. I’ve left it on the defaults as far as picture tweaks go and it looks lovely, with some of my favourite demo discs – Apocalypto and Cars remain my go-tos – really shining.

Upscaling performance was something that concerned me, with the Oppo website recommending the 80 for “small or medium display screens”, but after being assured that my 42″ TV fell into that category – apparently you need to be in the 60″ and upwards bracket to qualify as a large screen these days – and testing it, my impressions are favourable. I’d put it ahead of my trusty old Pioneer DV-400V, which may now actually be retired given that its multiregion functionality has been matched. Oppo has quite a reputation for the quality of its upscaling – its first player, the OPDV971H, famously came out for $199 and proceeded to outperform a $3,500 Denon in objective tests – and this would seem to extend to efforts without the high-end hardware. I’d be interested to check out the 83 for myself, because I can only see so much that you can do with the limitations of DVD and would love to be proven wrong there.

So, then, it is possible to find a multiregion Blu-ray player, from the very good to the lower end, and the £50-odd premium on stock models is, in my opinion, worth it. I’m back to the good old days of DVD buying, getting new releases early and uncut from the States while simultaneously taking my pick from the cheap deals for UK catalogue titles that are available online. Now, if only somewhere had a version of Gladiator that wasn’t shit…

PSP Themes: My First Attempt

Having shared some of my favourite custom themes for the PSP in the previous post, I now bring you what I have to show for the last couple of days.

I don’t think it’s half bad for a first attempt, although perhaps I could have gone for a bit more consistency with the logos I used to mark options. And it is, of course, yet more proof that I need something more productive to do with my time.

Feedback is welcome.

PSP Theme Showcase

The recent 3.70 PSP firmware (also in the 3.71 M33 custom firmware) added support for custom themes to personalise the XMB. Using this utility it’s possible to make your own, and since the homebrew community has been customising the XMB for months through less legitimate means, it naturally hasn’t taken long for some good, highly professional ones to show up.

I downloaded a rather impressive theme pack and trawled some forums for the best, as well as a couple that are a bit rubbish really but I found funny. Here are some of my favourites, both official and fan-made:

Cookie (official)




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Topfield TF5800PVR Impressions

Another day, another new gadget. This time it’s a PVR funded, as always, by my good old student loan. Hooray!

Topfield TF5800PVR

Say hello to the Topfield TF5800PVR, known to its friends as the Toppy. By day it’s a mild-manned Freeview PVR with a 160GB hard drive to record 80 hours of material, which by my calculations is how much TV I watch in about three months. It also has component output which is a great boon for an LCD TV user. This thing has some real tricks inside that bland little case, however.

First up is the USB port on the back. It’s used not only for the obvious firmware upgrades, but also to pull the recorded video off the hard drive to the computer where it can be edited, burnt to DVD, stuck on the PSP/iPod, or whatever. Obviously this in no way encourages piracy and putting copyrighted material on YouTube. Never. Not even all the weekend’s goals like they show on Match of the Day 2 in a handy two-minute package.

It’s real killer app here, though, is that it can run its own little applications known as TAPs (Topfield APplications). With some judicious tapping mine now pulls EPG data for the next two weeks from the Radio Times site instead of the basic 7-day EPG that Freeview has (this means much more extensive information including mini reviews of every film that’s on) and has a number of searches running that record anything that matches them (e.g. it searches BBC1 and BBC2 at the weekend for names beginning with “Match of the Day” that are on after 10pm, catching both versions). It also allows me to browse the listings by genre, name, and even content summaries. And that pair is just the beginning. There are tons of the things.

I only got it last Thursday (from Superfi, who were pretty good and the cheapest on Pricerunner) so I’m still learning the ropes and doing that perpetual tweaking that I do – I’ve only just become happy with the setup of my Harmony remote that I bought in March – but I’ve been well impressed with this thing. It’s a decent box on its own merits, and when you factor in the ton of extra functionality that you can download for nothing, it’s brilliant.

Dual-Boot PSP

Yesterday’s news that a downgrader for the 2.71 PSP had been released was greeted with enthusiasm by a lot of people who had been keeping their PSPs updated since updating your PSP to play PSP games seems like a contradiction in terms at the moment. I know I bought three new ones in Japan but I wouldn’t call any of them essential.

So I jumped on this new bandwagon and, risking a brick, downgraded my PSP to 1.5 again. It worked fine – although the fact that it only initiates without crashing a tenth of the time is disconcerting – and set about using a handful of hacks to turn my PSP into a dual-boot machine. I can now choose whether to boot into 1.5 (for homebrew) or 2.71 (for new games) depending on where I have my wi-fi switch when turning it on.

I seriously recommend using the combination of Devhook and Harleyg’s Custom Firmware to do this with a PSP. You get the ability to play all the latest games on 2.71 and use great stuff like ScummVM on 1.5, all within the same PSP. It might actually get me using the thing regularly, even if the battery is still rubbish. How many other systems can give the double frustration of Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins? It’s violence guaranteed!


Just to prove there’s life in the old dog yet I’ve just had my SNES modded. It doesn’t do anything nearly as interesting as a modded Xbox, but it makes the PAL version not be shit anymore since it can run stuff in 60Hz and play 99.9% of import games.

It might seem odd to pour more money into a dead console when there’s the Wii virtual console coming soon, but for me you can’t beat the real controller in your hand and it’s a known fact that cartridges > discs > digital downloads. Throw a DVD disc down the stairs and tell me if it still works. Throw a digital download down the stairs and…well, you can’t.

Anyway, many thanks to chaoticjelly over on NTSC-uk for doing the mods for £20 including shipping. First of all the cartridge slot has been widened to accommodate both PAL SNES/Super Famicom games and ones from the hideous US version. Note the cool blue LED:

Modded cart slot and blue power LED

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