Are Blu-ray players region free?

Are Blu-ray players region free?
(Image credit: Blu-ray)

Are Blu-ray players region free? A Blu-ray player might be a portal into another world but it can also be restrictive. If your Blu-ray player isn't region free you might only be able to play discs from certain regions.

If you pick a deck from the best Blu-ray players it's likely you'll be getting one that's able to play any region disc. But for those that aren't able to do this you may find that buying a disc from overseas leaves you out of pocket as you end up unable to play the disc on your player.

The short and sweet answer to this question sis that some Blu-ray players are region locked, while others can play Blu-rays from any region. Newer Blu-ray players tend to be region free, so it's mainly older models you have to worry about, but that's not a hard and fast rule. To make sure this isn't a problem you have to face read on to learn all you need to know about regions and Blu-ray players.

DVDs and Blu-rays

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Why are there Blu-ray regions?

Blu-ray regions, or region coding, was put in place as a way for companies to control release dates on an international scale. Movies get released at the cinema then onto disc in certain regions at certain times. This is in part down to the fact that physical films are expensive and sending the same one to multiple cinemas is a money-saving technique.

Another factor is that the copyright for a title can be held by multiple holders across different regions. This can help those rights holders keep their royalties within their region.

What Blu-ray regions are there?

From video tape to DVD to Blu-ray there have always been regions for media. These have largely stayed the same and are broken down into two major categories: NTSC and PAL. 

NTSC and PAL have different Hz signals meaning that unless the player is built to support that, it won't play. 

NTSC applies to regions including the US, Canada, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and more. PAL regions include most of Europe, Africa, China, India, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, North Korea and more.

DVD player

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Are Blu-ray players region specific?

Blu-ray works like DVD in that there are region codes but these are different. The regions codes are letter based and separate areas into three section.

  • Region A includes North America, South America, U.S. Territories, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and other areas of Southeast Asia.
  • Region B is for Europe, Africa, Middle East, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • Region C refers to Asia (except for Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and other areas of Southeast Asia)

Then there are region free discs. These sometimes have a lack of flag or they have all the region flags, so can easily be spotted.

If you're ordering online, be sure to check the region of the disc before you buy, if you Blu-ray player isn't able to play all regions.

What Blu-ray players are region free?

Lots of the newer Blu-ray players are now released with an ability to play all regions meaning you can buy any disc and enjoy it right away. 

Some examples of these players can be found on the best Blu-ray players list. One stand out model is the Sony X800M2 which is region free and offer 4K and HDR quality that's looks very impressive on the big screen.

Luke Edwards

Luke is a veteran tech journalist with decades of experience covering everything from TVs, power tools, science and health tech to VPNs, space, gaming and cars. You may recognize him from appearances on plenty of news channels or have read his words which have been published in most tech titles over the years. In his spare time (of which he has little as a father of two) Luke likes yoga, surfing, meditation, DIY and consuming all the books, comics and movies he can find.