While other devices like laptops and tablets have edged onto the portable DVD player's turf, there are still some good reasons to consider one for your mobile video viewing needs.
There are some compelling arguments in favor of getting a portable DVD player. First, you still have a lot of DVDs (go on, admit it). Second, a portable DVD player is inexpensive. Relative to a tablet, a laptop or even a netbook, portable DVD players are a bargain. They can usually be had for under $150 and you'll find plenty under $100 and even a few below $70. Good luck finding a $70 table.
Third, they offer better battery lives than many laptops. You can expect about six hours from many portable DVD player batteries and, unlike laptops, some of these portable players include a car adapter in the box, so you won't have to fork over extra money to purchase one. Others include car headrest mounts, so you can pacify your children during the cross-country trip and still easily pop out the player when you have to fly for business. Even if you don't have a mount out of the box, chances are you'd feel more comfortable handing over a portable DVD to the kids rather than your brand new iPad (unless you're ready to buy a new iPad).
Where can you find them?
Finding portable DVD players is easy: You can find dozens of them in the Adorama Portable DVD Player department.
More connectivity, more options
Technologically, portable players have made some improvements from the days when they just played DVDs. Today you'll find memory card slots (typically a slot for the popular SD card format) that allow you to view digital photos and some digital video files, and so you can listen to MP3 music. Portable DVD players won't be able to play back a lot of the high-definition videos you record with a camcorder, but they can handle standard definition fairly well, as long as it's in the MPEG-4 format. You'll also find USB ports for connecting a USB drive for similar digital media playing purposes.
Audio options have improved as well. Most higher-end portable players can decode Dolby Digital audio and incorporate two stereo headphone jacks, so you and a partner can listen in on the action without bothering those around you.
You shouldn't expect high-definition displays here, but the widescreen LCDs on today's portable DVD players are bright enough to provide a good viewing experience for standard definition fare. The size of the screen is usually a good indicator of price - larger screens up to 9-10-inches tend to command a premium, while the 7-inch or smaller range tend to mark the more budget-friendly choices.
When you return from your trip, a portable player can be connected to your TV or home entertainment center via an A/V output. Some (but not all) will include a remote control as well, to make it easier to operate a player that's connected to another display. If you want a player that is more dual purpose - capable of delivering a good experience on the home TV as well as on the road - be sure to select a model that supports virtual surround sound or Dolby Digital audio decoding. Also scout out a model that uses an S-video or Component/Digital Audio output instead of plain old A/V (this is a bit harder to find these days but still possible).
Portable Power Houses
Here's a look at some of the latest portable DVD players on the market:
One of the full featured offerings out there is the Panasonic DMP-B200 Portable Blu-ray Disc Player. This $219.99 Adorama-priced player has multi-format playback capabilities with 1024 x 600 resolution that supports high definition 1080p images. It has an 8.9-inch LCD monitor, and can double as a photo display device with its built-in JPEG support and as an output device for home videos shot with a camcorder or smartphone.
The Naxa 7" TFT LCD Display Portable DVD Player has one of the more unique designs out there for a player capable of handling everything starting with playing back DVDs. The player, available at Adorama for $148, has an integrated Digital TV Tuner for capturing and playing over the air broadcasts as well as being capable of serving as an AM/FM stereo radio. It features a 7-inch display and has a full function remote control.
To replace the The Audiovox D9104 player
Another player with an interesting design is the entry level Audiovox 7" Swivel Portable DVD Player, a device that provides flexibility to its users and has a $63.95 Adorama price. It includes a 7-inch display that supports 480 x 234 resolution and which can rotate 270 degrees so that users can share videos and images . It has a four hour battery life and can play your DVDs, CDs and also supports MP3 and JPEG photo files, making it ideal for playing music and showing off personal photos as well as playing videos.
Toshiba's SDP95S is another 9-inch player with a memory card slot (SDHC) and USB port for enjoying other digital content. The unit ships with three different power supply options: a six-hour battery, an AC adapter, and a car adapter. It also includes a remote capable of operating the player from up to 10 feet away (in the event you attach it to a TV or just want to squint at it from a distance). Built-in speakers support Dolby Digital audio decoding while a pair of stereo headphones offer a privacy option for couples. It costs $105.35 at Adorama.
If you're on a tighter budget, Coby offers a 7-inch "tablet-style" player for the Adorama price of $77.99. You won't find memory card slots, but the unit can play back photos and MP3 music files saved onto CD or DVD discs. The "tablet" design means you can sit it on your lap or mount it to your car's headrest to quiet the kids (a headrest mounting bag is included in the box). There's anti-skip buffering in addition to a Dolby Digital audio decoder and a pair of stereo headphone jacks.
Coby also offers a traditional flip-open player for $58.34 at Adorama. It has a 7-inch display, stereo speakers, a single headphone jack and anti-skip circuitry.