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If you’ve ever sat on a train or an aeroplane and longed for some distraction from the boredom of a long journey, or tried to occupy the minds of youngsters in the back of a car long enough to avoid the almost inevitable, “Are we there yet?” question, a portable DVD player is something that you might like to investigate. Smaller, less complicated – and therefore less “hungry” in terms of battery life – than a laptop, a portable DVD player is also much less likely to suffer at the hands of young children who are not renowned for their appreciation of expensive electronic equipment. Portable DVD players are available in a number of styles and sizes and can be carried comfortably on your person, in your hand luggage, or mounted in a car as a permanent or semi permanent fixture.
Style, Size & Weight
In terms of style, many portable DVD players feature a so-called “clamshell” design, in which the two halves of the player – in other words the screen and the player body itself – fold neatly together for storage when the player is not in use. Others feature “pop up” or “flip out” screens which similarly reduce the amount of space that a portable DVD player takes up in your pocket or bag when you are not actually watching it. Each of these styles is highly portable and which you choose really depends on how often and where you want to use a portable DVD player.
If, for example, you are intending to use a portable DVD player in your car for the entertainment of children on a regular basis, you may prefer a model that is specifically designed for that purpose. These are usually mounted – using mounting kits and accessories that may or may not be included in the price – on or between the front seat headrests in a car or other vehicle. As such, a flatter tablet DVD player may be a better option than one of clamshell design, which obviously needs to be mounted in an “open” position so that its body juts out from the seat back. Portable DVD players of durable, rugged construction are a necessity for in-car use – particularly if children are involved – and you should also look for anti-shock or anti-skip, devices which prevent DVD playback from being interrupted by rough road conditions when using your portable DVD player for car. If you have more than one child, you may want to consider a dual screen portable DVD player, a twin DVD player setup or at least one with a screen that is large enough be viewed comfortably by two or more children without squabbling. In this situation, do not forget that you will also need twin headphone sockets – or a headphone “splitter” which allows two sets of headphones to be connected via one headphone jack – and, of course, two sets of headphones.
The size and weight of a portable DVD player is unlikely to be a major issue in a car – provided, of course, that a player fits unobtrusively into the interior without distraction to the driver – but may soon become one if you want to physically carry a portable DVD player. A slim, lightweight portable DVD player – with an equally slim, lightweight battery – may weigh in at as little as 2lbs or so but its small screen size may not be to your liking. If that is the case, you have the option of choosing a larger screen size but this, in turn, will also increase the dimensions and weight of the player as a whole. Inevitably, a portable DVD player involves some kind of compromise and you need to weigh the amount of space you have available and the weight that you are prepared to carry against the visibility of its screen. The Nextbase DVM235 model, as an example, is less than 2 inches thick and features a 3½ inch, pop out screen.
The whole object of a portable DVD player for car is to allow you to enjoy films and other content while on the move. Part of that enjoyment is being able to see what you are watching as clearly and brightly as possible. The smallest portable DVD players have screens which are typically 4, or 5 inches across, measured diagonally. While these are suitable for occasional viewing, they may become tiresome if viewed for longer periods. This is particularly true in the case of children and they – and you – may find the whole experience more enjoyable if you opt for a slightly larger screen at the outset. A screen size of 7 inches is typical for a “standard” portable DVD player – if indeed such a thing exists – and look, too, for “active matrix” or TFT (“Thin Film Transistor”) technology which allows more precise control of each picture element or “pixel” in the display.
Pixels are important – a “megapixel”, incidentally, is just 1,000,000 pixels – because the total number of rows and columns of pixels determine the vertical and horizontal “resolution” of the display of a portable DVD player. Generally speaking, the higher the pixel count – and the precision with which each pixel is controlled – the better the picture quality in terms of clarity, brightness and colour depth. The Nextbase SDV185S model, for example, features an 8 1/2 inch TFT screen with a total resolution of over 300,000 pixels.
Aside from, rather obviously, its size and weight, the other factor that determines the portability of a portable DVD player is its ability to operate away from mains power – that is on batteries – for adequate periods. If you consider that a typical Hollywood feature film has a running time of at least, 2 hours and often longer and is best enjoyed from start to finish without interruption, it is easy to see why a battery life of less than 2 hours is unacceptable to most travellers. Those travelling by car, of course, have access to a mobile power source and can plug in their portable DVD player – via an in-car charger – for the duration of their journey. Elsewhere, a portable DVD player needs to operate for 3 hours or longer on batteries in order to provide maximum benefit. Failing that, the other option is to acquire a secondary, replacement rechargeable battery pack, although these are not cheap and mean that you have something else to carry around. Portable DVD players and battery technology – especially that based on lithium chemistry – are improving all the time, however and most portable DVD players, nowadays, offer battery life that is adequate for all but the longest – a la Michael Palin – trips.
DVD & Other Formats
All portable DVD players will play back commercially recorded DVDs but if you are in the habit of burning your own DVDs – in DVD+/-R, or DVD+/-RW, format, for example – you need to make sure that your selected player actually supports the formats that you want. Not all do, but many also provide additional support for audio CD, including MP3, VCD (“Video Compact Disc”), SVCD (“Super Compact Disc”), and DivX. The Nextbase SDV47 model, for example, is a tablet style portable DVD player which supports all of these formats and more.
You may use a portable DVD player exclusively as a portable unit, but one of the advantages of many models is that you can connect them to a television – in your home or hotel room, for example – or a home entertainment system as a substitute for a standard domestic DVD player. If you have access to an “HD Ready” or “Full HD” television with “progressive” scan, look for that same feature in a portable DVD player. Progressive scan works by creating a single frame of video in single pass, every 1/60th of a second and allows DVD content to be viewed flicker free, with fewer jagged diagonal lines and other motion artefacts than the inferior “interlaced” scanning method. Look too for the best available video and audio connections appropriate to the other components of your home entertainment system. Video connections range from basic analogue RCA connectors, to SCART – which handles audio as well as video – S-video, and component video. Later models may also offer HDMI for HD video. Audio connections, on the other hand, may again be RCA phono but high quality digital – coaxial or optical – audio outputs are also available. These can be important for the accurate reproduction of a film soundtrack on a digital surround sound, or other audio entertainment, system.
Nextbase, operating out of its headquarters in Hong Kong – but with manufacturing and research and development facilities in mainland China and Taiwan, a European sales office and a global network of distributors – is respected in the AV products market. The company has more than 15 years’ experience and specialises, in particular, in the design, development, manufacture and distribution of portable DVD players and more specifically its portable DVD player for car range. Indeed, Nextbase was responsible for the first portable tablet DVD player in the world and has since filed numerous patents for innovative, high quality, portable DVD players – for use indoors, outdoors or in the car – worldwide.
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