Will long term use of a voltage converter damage electronics?
July 22, 2014 6:42 PM   Subscribe

If I buy a portable region 2 DVD player and use it in the US with a plug adaptor and power converter, will that damage the electronics in the long run?

So I was in the UK last year and bought a pile of my favorite BBC shows on region 2 DVDs. My original plan was to buy an inexpensive region 2 portable DVD player there and bring it home. I don't quite remember what happened to that plan but I think it had to do with it needing a plug adaptor and a voltage converter. I may have also been thinking it would be simpler to use my old laptop and just leave it permanently on region 2.

That laptop is nearly dead and I haven't been able to find another way to watch my DVDs. We happen to be heading back to region 2 shortly. I was thinking about the DVD player/converter/ adaptor plan again.

I don't think there are any region 2 players made with US power in mind and I don't want to fool around with trying to find a region 1 player that maybe has a code that I can enter to maybe make it region-free or anything along those lines. And in any case, those that can be made region-free seem to be the counter-top plug-into-a-TV style and I'm looking for the small, portable type. I don't imagine I will ever watch anything other than region 1 or region 2 so I don't even need a region free player. I really just want a portable region 2 player but I'm concerned about adapting/converting the power supply.

Thanks for any advice/input!
posted by Beti to Technology (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can get a DVD player from Best Buy that you can region unlock for like 40 bucks. Just go to a website that lists unlock codes and compare it to your favorite shopping source and you're in business, no need to import or convert!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:47 PM on July 22, 2014

There are loads of region-free DVD players -- that's how I can watch Japan World Cup Horse Racing!

(Just google "region-free DVD player")
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:53 PM on July 22, 2014

That said, a portable unit from England, with converter setup, should be fine (if unwieldy). We had plenty of international students using converters for their devices at my old college.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:54 PM on July 22, 2014

Yea, finding a player to unlock is much easier than you might think. I bought one for $45 at a supermarket that took less than 2 minutes to make region-free, and that was almost 13 years ago.
posted by Venadium at 6:59 PM on July 22, 2014

Oops -- add "portable" to your search string.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 7:00 PM on July 22, 2014

Best answer: I agree that buying a cheap player in the US you can unlock is the best answer.

To specifically answer the question that's in the title of the post, I bought a transformer when I moved to Australia three-and-a-half years ago, and have been running my TV, PS3 and tuner/amp through it every day with no negative results.
posted by GamblingBlues at 7:04 PM on July 22, 2014

Oops - I just realized I didn't actually answer the question either. As long as the converter is of a decent quality then no, you shouldn't have any issues with using it over an extended period of time
posted by Venadium at 7:07 PM on July 22, 2014

Mod note: Edited post to include the word "portable" above the fold. Carry on.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:11 PM on July 22, 2014

Best answer: Why use a voltage converter*?

Any portable DVD/BR player will likely have a plugpack. Buy a R2 portable player in the UK, and when you get back to the US take the plugpack to your local Fry's or whatever and say "I'd like one of these, please, except for proper US voltage". Or AskMetafilter ;-)

(* The voltage converters sold for portable electronics, as opposed to proper step up/down transformers for larger things like TVs etc, are usually cheap nasty horrible shitty things with cheap nasty horribly shitty voltage regulation and waveform quality. Many UK/EU/AU -> US versions are nothing more than a single diode rectifier cropping one-half of the AC waveform; the reverse are usually cheap square-wave inverters with minimal regulation. Both result in a clipped waveform of vaguely the right voltage which is terribly hard on most device power supplies…)
posted by Pinback at 8:11 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

In your shoes I would rip the dvds to mp4 or xvid or whatever your other devices are happy playing.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:58 PM on July 22, 2014

Best answer: Similar situation here. I got an Orei branded multiregion DVD/Blueray player last year and love it. It plays everything I throw at it, including DVDs brought back from France. But, not portable.

If I were in your shoes, Plan A would be to keep looking for a region free player, Plan B would be to bring a portable home, either would probably work okay.

I think your intuition that fiddling with recoding/reprogramming a regular player to make it region free would be a hassle is correct. My experience with several players is that it sometimes works, but often not. There's a lot of bogus advice floating around out there.

When I was researching my purchase, I did notice a lot of "region free" players being offered on Amazon, but on many, the reviews said it was just a regular player where someone had stuck a paper inside the box with instructions on how to reprogram it. And sometimes, even that didn't work. (Not the case with my player, it worked perfectly out of the box.)
posted by gimonca at 6:20 AM on July 23, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the input. In my question, I think I maybe didn't emphasize enough that I don't want to try and reprogram a region 1 portable player. And I also left off the final draft that I don't want to try and rip them and put them on an iPod or other device (I need to use subtitles and they don't reliably transfer over.) I'm not sure about the legality of either of these and I just don't want the hassle besides.

I don't mind carrying along the converter/adaptor. It will really only sit on a desk so that's not a problem. I just don't know enough about electronics to know if the converter will have a detrimental effect over time.

I wouldn't have thought about it but the company that makes my white noise machine sells an EU model and says that using a US model on a converter is bad for it.
posted by Beti at 9:32 AM on July 23, 2014

Why looky here. This one is region free and multi-voltage. Reviews on it do seem to vary, though.
posted by gimonca at 11:06 AM on July 23, 2014

Best answer: I used a voltage converter from Radio Shack (similar to this, http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3932593) for a US laptop in Northern Europe. It worked great for about 2.5 years, although it would get fairly hot. Back in the US, my laptop suddenly wouldn't turn on and after much troubleshooting, I was about to give up and buy a new laptop. Lucky for me, I walked by a computer repair shop that happened to have an adapter that would work with my laptop; I plugged in the new adapter and everything worked miraculously. My best guess - seconded by the computer repair guy - was that somehow the constant voltage changes (even with the converter) fried the adapter.
posted by ashworth at 11:13 AM on July 23, 2014

Best answer: ashworth: "I used a voltage converter from Radio Shack (similar to this, http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3932593) for a US laptop in Northern Europe."

That's one's a (I believe) slightly more sophisticated version of the first type I mentioned. They're sorta-OK for resistive loads (e.g. that one says it's suitable for "non-electronic heating devices"; think curling iron etc.), but pretty nasty for anything else (e.g. anything with a motor, transformer, or switchmode power supply).

Beti: "I don't mind carrying along the converter/adaptor. It will really only sit on a desk so that's not a problem. I just don't know enough about electronics to know if the converter will have a detrimental effect over time."

Short version: yes, cheap voltage converters probably will.

The other thing to remember is it's quite likely that anything bought in the UK with a switchmode power supply will run fine at a range of voltages. If the power supply has something like "input: 85 - 250VAC" printed on it, you should be able to get away with keeping the original plugpack (aka 'wall wart') and using a simple pin-converting travel adaptor back home, rather than a voltage converter.
posted by Pinback at 4:54 PM on July 23, 2014

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