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Buyers Guides > Getting the Most from Your Portable DVD Player

Take a look at our range of portable DVD players

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Introduction

The DVD ("Digital Versatile Disk") player has all but replaced the VCR – that's "Video Cassette Recorder", for younger readers – at the centre of home entertainment systems, and, in its portable form, is now an affordable, but nevertheless high quality, alternative to a laptop computer, for video and audio entertainment whilst on the move. Portable DVD players are available in several designs, and a range of sizes, and weights – perhaps the most important characteristics of any portable electronic device, together with the life of its batteries – and the choice of the most appropriate player, for you, is not altogether easy. If you're intending to use a portable DVD player on train, or aeroplane, journeys, for example, a compact, lightweight model may fit the bill – in terms of being slipped, unobtrusively, into your hand luggage – but you'll want it be durable enough to cope with any knocks, or bumps, and possibly equipped with an anti-shock mechanism, to prevent "skipping" when the player is in use.

Portable DVD Player Features & Benefits

The secret to getting the most from your portable DVD player is choosing the right player, for you, in the first place, so you need to think carefully about how, and where, you intend to use it.

Perhaps the most obvious characteristic of any portable DVD player is the size of its screen, which determines no only how well – from how far away, from what angle – DVD content can be viewed, but also the overall weight of the player. Screen sizes vary, from a miniscule 2½" to a giant 15" – measured diagonally, as is customary – and each screen size is best suited to a particular environment. If, for example, a portable DVD player is to be used by children in the back seat of a car, while a 4" screen may be suitable for a single child – who can hold the screen as close to his, or her, eyes as necessary – two, or more children may have difficulty seeing such a small screen. The solution, therefore, may be a portable DVD player each, or a single, larger screen – perhaps 10", or so – model. Bear in mind, too, that a so-called "transflective", or "glossy", screen is the preferred type for watching films, or viewing photographs.

If you are considering the use of a portable DVD player as a permanent, or semi-permanent, fixture in your car, portability if likely to be less of an issue than if, say, you are intending to use a player for your own personal entertainment. Indeed, some portable DVD players are specifically designed for use in a car, or other vehicle, and are equipped with screens that can be securely attached to the front seat headrests in a car, for viewing by backseat passengers. DVD players of this type are usually "tablet" style – or have completely separate screens – as opposed to "clamshell" style, where the screen and the player, itself, fold together when not in use, very much like a laptop computer. This means that no part of the player extends into the passenger, and so it is more economical in terms of space.

Headphones, or earphones, are likely to be a necessity for using a portable DVD player in a car. The volume level produced by the loudspeakers in a typical portable DVD player is insufficient to be heard above engine and traffic noise, and is likely to cause a distraction to the driver, in any case. Remember that you'll need dual headphone jacks or a headphone "splitter" cable – available as an accessory – and, of course, two sets of headphones, or earphones, if a portable DVD player is to be shared. Many portable DVD players, nowadays, are equipped with adaptors that allow them to be powered by a standard car cigarette lighter socket, hence preserving the life of their batteries.

If, on the other hand, you are intending to carry a portable DVD player with you, for use on 'buses, trains, aeroplanes, or any other situation in which the mood takes you, the portability of a player – governed by its size, weight, and battery life – become much more important. A portable DVD player needs to small, and light, enough to fit into a briefcase, or bag, and to be used comfortably in a restricted environment. A smaller unit, in which components are tightly integrated, is likely to be less susceptible to damage, if dropped, than a larger unit, and a smaller LCD ("Liquid Crystal Display") screen is less likely to break, in such an eventuality.

The positioning of a battery pack – to the back, adding width, or to the bottom, adding height – along with its weight, may be a determining factor in your choice. Most portable DVD players, today, offer a battery life of at least 3 hours – more than sufficient for most DVD films – but, if you're travelling on a very long journey, consider an additional battery pack, and the additional weight that this adds to the total weight you need to carry. Lithium ion ("Li-Ion"), and lithium polymer ("Li-Po") are the latest developments in rechargeable battery technology, and although more expensive, at the outset, than older battery types – such as NiMH, or NiCd – they do offer up to 40% more energy capacity, on a single charge. Most portable DVD player specifications quote a typical battery life, but bear in mind, in any case, that the number, and brightness of screens have a bearing on battery life, and that the use of headphones – as opposed to an integral loudspeaker, or loudspeakers – draws less power from a battery. Correct battery care, and "cycling" – the frequency with which a battery is charged and discharged, and to what depth it is discharged – is necessary to achieve maximum potential battery life.

Of course, the brightest, most colourful screen and the longest battery life are of little consequence if a portable DVD player won't play your favourite DVD content, in your favourite format. This is unlikely to be too much of a problem, in most cases, because even fairly inexpensive players play back commercial DVD media, plus the recordable DVD+/-R formats, and the rewritable DVD+/-RW formats. In addition, it should also be possible to play back audio CD media, in MP3, or WMA ("Windows Media Audio") and some portable DVD players can also display digital images in JPEG format, from disk, or memory expansion card.

Some portable DVD players also include integral television tuners, and other features – such as high quality video, and audio connections, or "progressive" scanning capability – which allow them to function not only as portable multimedia devices, but as substitutes for fully fledged DVD players in the home, or elsewhere. This functionality adds value to a portable DVD player, meaning that you can be entertained en route to your destination, and when you arrive, by connecting the player to an available television, or entertainment system, in your holiday hotel, for example. Most portable DVD players feature at least one set of traditional, A/V sockets for the connection of external devices, but some also include S-video, or component video, outputs for superior video quality, and digital audio outputs for the connection of a digital surround sound system. The connection of a video games console, and controller, directly to a portable DVD player may also be a possibility, in some cases.

Other features – and additional extras, which may, or may not, be included in the purchase price – which can extend the functionality of a portable DVD player, and enhance your enjoyment of it are a remote control unit, a protective case for the player, headphones, or earphones, and a high performance, long life battery. In the case of a remote control, if you're buying a separate unit, do try to make sure that it is justified, and not just a gimmick, and in the case of other items, keep an eye on your budget. An additional, or replacement, battery can easily cost £40, or £50, and headphones can cost much more. Earphones, in the style of iPod "earbuds", are popular, although perhaps not as comfortable as some other styles of headphone, for some users. Around-the-ear, or over-the-ear, headphones are a more comfortable alternative, and provide a effective method of eliminating extraneous noise, although they are, obviously, more conspicuous than earphones.