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Portable DVD Player Buying Guide


Most buyers of portable DVD player are looking for an inexpensive model to entertain children on long journeys.

Others, who want a good quality portable DVD player, demand better image quality.

Like most consumer electronics, the best portable DVD player for you is the one that best suits YOUR needs, within your chosen budget.

To be able to differentiate feature need-to-have from wants, you need to know what standard features to expect and understand basic DVD player terms and how they impact the viewing experience.

This buying guide helps you select the most suitable:


Form Factor

Most portable DVD players are hinged and open like a laptop computer, but a select few come in a tablet design. Tablets can be easier to watch when resting on your lap, but there aren't many benefits of one format over the other. It's really a matter of individual user preference.

Robustness is an important part of the form factor. A sleek, slim, stylish model looks great at the airport but will not go the distance out camping or on rugged roads.

For outdoor or rugged environments, look for a portable DVD player with a sturdier, more rugged construction. Also look for an anti-skip feature to eradicate skipping during playback when driving over rough roads.

Dimensions & Weight

In spite of their relatively small size, portable DVD players can feel rather cumbersome due to large rechargeable batteries to extend playing time. Weight can vary by several pounds so make sure to check the side of the box before you buy.

Screen Size

Screen size varies but if weight is not a consideration, then larger is definitely better.

With portable DVD player screens generally ranging from 7 to 11 inches, the DCP850's 8.5-inch, 16:9 display is of average size. Below 7 inches is too small.

Generally, the weight of the device increases with screen size.

Obviously, a unit with a large 10-inch adjustable TFT screen costs more than one with a smaller 7-inch screen. Expect to pay a higher price for larger screens [$50 more for an 8.5 inch from a 7 inch] .

Always try out a new player to see how the screen looks before you buy it.

16:9 Aspect Ratio or Widescreen Aspect ratio

Aspect ratio is the effective width and height of your TV screen. Most films are in 16:9 AR. You can use a 4:3 set to watch movies in the standard aspect ratio but you will have black bars on the top and bottom of the screen.

Look for Adjustable aspect ratio from wide-screen 16:9 to standard 4:3 to support both video [wide] and photo images.

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Functional Features

Portable DVD players are not just for watching movies. Most double as portable CD players.

Consider how you want to use your portable DVD player, to guide you in the functions you require, such as:

  • A/V connections,
  • Hook up a game console or a camcorder to view home movies.
  • Play home-recorded CD as well as regular audio CD, including those encoded with MP3 or WMA digital audio files.
  • Insert a disc encoded with JPEG images
  • Create digital slide shows.

If you want use your portable to view home movies or shows recorded from TV, opt for a player that is compatible with your home DVD recorder.

Progressive Scan

Progressive scan provides superior quality image when connected to a digital TV.

If you are planning to only use your portable DVD player outside of the home, then progressive scan output won't make much difference to the picture quality on the small screen.

However, if your portable DVD player will double as a home DVD player or will frequently be used to watch movies in hotel rooms, opt for a progressive scan model.

Battery Life

Battery life on a portable DVD player is an important feature, especially on long trips and more so if there is no alternate car charging or powering adapter.

A projected battery life of less than 2 hours is inadequate, an average-length movie is 2.5 hours.

Longer-life batteries are both heavier and cost more, but are worth the extra dollars in usability.

Check to see how heavy the player is both with and without the battery attached. There is a big difference in the weight of battery packs, and if too heavy, all the fun and practicality is taken out of portability.

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Media Supported

Many portable players today can double as CD players as well, eliminating the need to take one extra device on your trip.

Standard media supported by portable DVD players includes:

  • MPEG-4 - standard movie format
  • DVD-R - home storage of movies
  • CD-R,CD-RW - music formats

In addition, some portable DVD players support

  • DivX playback
  • Home Movie formats

Check the DVD Player supports all the type of media you wish to display or play.

Media Extension

To display and/or play media located on other devices, check for:

  • SD card slot - for JPEG photo viewing and playing MP3 files
  • USB jack - allows you to connect thumbdrives and other USB mass-storage devices to view JPEG images and play MP3s
  • Game Port - allows you to play retro games built into a third-party optional controller.


If you share discs with friends or family from overseas, look for a portable DVD player that offers multiregion disc compatibility.

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Connectivity options provide for enhancement of the media stored on the portable DVD player when connected to an external viewing or sound system.

Standard connectivity features include:

  • Composite video outputs
  • Digital audio outputs for connecting the unit to a 5.1 home theater receiver.
  • Dual headphone jacks - the ideal is to have one on each side of the player to facilitate cable distance and handling.

The best quality playback possible is from:

  • S-Video for video
  • Component video outputs
  • Optical Out for audio

Audio/Video Inputs and Outputs

These are connections to other components to allow more versatility in signal switching of multiple VCR and DVD players. You can either the TV or your A/V receiver for video switching, depending on how you set it up.

Component Video Inputs and Outputs

Also called Color Difference or ColorStream. These are similar to RGB (red/green/blue) connections, to give images superior to S-VHS images.

Most step-up DVD players now include component video outputs [also included on most HDTV set-top boxes and many TVs. These inputs provide resolution of 500 lines or better.

S-video Inputs and Outputs

S-video separates the luminance (Y) and chrominance (C) signals to give a better picture quality than standard video inputs and higher resolution.

It also improves color reproduction and reduces jitter at scene transitions.

Dolby Digital [Built-in]

Having a built in Dolby Digital decoder is the next step beyond Dolby Pro Logic, offering 5.1 channels of sound.

  • Dolby Pro Logic mode - sound comes from the front left and right speakers, the center speaker, and the mono rear speakers.
  • Dolby Digital mode - the rear channel is now stereo and a separate channel (the .1 in 5.1) is included for the subwoofer. This localizes sound to a specific area or speakerto give full stereo surround.

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Most portable DVD players offer built-in speakers, but they generally do not provide much more than basic audio reproduction. If you are an audio aficionado, consider adding a set of external speakers to your player. For most people, however, a set of quality headphones is a more important consideration.

Headphone Jacks

Multiple headphone jacks will enable more than one person at a time to enjoy a movie. Alternatively, you can purchase an inexpensive Y-adapter to achieve the same result. Another handy audio feature is Dolby Headphone, which creates a simulated surround sound effect in a set of headphones for a more realistic audio experience. If the unit comes with a set of headphones, try them on for comfort and make sure that you're the only you who will hear all the explosions from that action blockbuster you plan to watch during your flight.

Virtual Surround Sound

Virtual surround sound will improve the audio when connected to a TV or home theater system.

Since most portable DVD Players are used out of the home, away from being able to connect up to a home entertainment system, consider a model which has virtual surround sound. This enhances the sound quality of the movie, giving it a more realistic edge.

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Remote Control

If you plan to frequently use the portable as a home player, select a model that includes a remote control.


Standard accessories you need are:

  • AC Cigarette lighter car adapter is also a good power source and recharge option.
  • Carry Case
  • Seat Attachments - to stabalize the platform in cars
  • AC Adapter


Parental Lock-Out or Channel Block

All DVD players let you control what your children watch. You can override these controls by punching in a special code set by the parents.

Universal Remote

Many models now feature pre-programmed universal remotes with the ability to control a TV and cable box. Some even control satellite systems.

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