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Portable DVD Players

Monday, 5 May 2008

When youíve got kids and a long road trip ahead, a portable DVD player can be a life saver. They provide enough of a diversion for you to get from A to B without a lot of fuss. We find out more about these take-along entertainment systems.

   BUYING TIPS

The Basics

  • Portable DVD players are a screen and player in one.

  • Models vary by brand. Quite often, the features, quality, and price depend on the brand.

  • Common household brand names (E.g. Sony, JVC, Panasonic) are typically higher in price than unfamiliar brands. Less expensive brands get the job done, but you may sacrifice picture, sound quality, and durability.

  • Screen size is particularly important. For one to two people a 6-7-inch screen will suffice. For more people, you’ll want to go as high as your budget will allow.

  • A crisp display is key, especially the brightness adjustment, which allows you to perfect the visibility in many different light situations.

  • Most portable DVD players don’t have very powerful speakers, unless you look at high end systems. Some are near impossible to hear once you factor in engine and/or road noise. Consider purchasing additional speakers or a couple of headsets. Make sure there are multiple headset jacks, or you’ll also need to buy an adaptor.

  • Make sure the player comes with A/V plug-in capability, and a cable, so you can connect to a TV (e.g. in a hotel room).

  • Batteries are a sensitive topic. Many won’t even last long enough to watch a feature film. To avoid a dead battery riot, consider buying a back-up battery, or a car kit power adapter that plugs into your car’s dashboard.

  • Since you’ll be carting it around with you, consider the weight. Under 3 pounds is about right.

Be Aware

  • Don’t bother with extended warranties. They end up costing you about 50% of the player, which, in two years, might be more than a new one. However, buy from a store or manufacturer that offers at least a 3-month warranty on parts and one year on service, included in the price.

   TEST CRITERIA

We invited some families to help us test these four DVD players on a road trip:

  • Mustek (7” screen): $100
  • Centrios (10” swivel screen): $250
  • Panasonic (8.5” screen): $400
  • Audiovox (10” screen): $400

Battery Life Test

Before sending our families on the trip, we played each one non-stop to see how long the battery lasted:

  • Centrios: 2 hours 35 minutes (claims 2.5 hours)
  • Mustek: 2 hours 50 minutes (claims 2.5 hours)
  • Audiovox: 3 hours (claims 2.5 hours)
  • Panasonic: 4 hours 35 minutes (claims 5 hours)

Weight Test

We weighed each to find the lightest option:

  • Mustek: 2.3 lbs
  • Panasonic: 2.5 lbs
  • Audiovox: 2.8 lbs
  • Centrios: 3.9 lbs

Road Trip Test

  • Our kid testers liked the size of the Mustek and the parents liked its price tag. However, we found it had poor sound and picture quality.

  • The screen design on the Audiovox was the least practical. It was hard not to touch the screen when working the controls, which resulted in grimy fingerprints.

  • The Panasonic’s screen size and overall shape were good, and it was easy to use and lightweight.

  • We also liked the larger screen on the Centrios, despite the fact that it was heavier. It was also easy to use, with quality display and sound. It also had a handy remote.

   OUR TOP PICK

It came down to the Panasonic for its lightweight design, shape, and ease of use, and the Centrios, which was less expensive, a little heavier, but also easy to use and had good quality sound and picture.

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