Tips for Choosing a Portable DVD Player

How to pick the best portable DVD player for your needs

In today's mobile world, smartphones and tablets have turned into de facto portable movie players for most folks. However, for a lot of people, being able to watch their DVD collection on the go remains an important source of entertainment.

Whether it be jet setters and frequent fliers or road-tripping parents who'd rather not hear the four dreaded words "Are we there yet?" from the back of the car, a portable DVD player can go a long way in alleviating the more mundane aspects of being out and about.

Here's a look at things you should think about before buying a portable DVD player.

What Kind of Portable DVD Player Do You Want?

You should carefully consider if you’ll be primarily using your portable DVD player as a carry-along device or, say, a car player.

If you want the former, pick a laptop-style portable DVD player that would rest comfortably on your... well, lap. If your goal is a portable DVD player that serves as a car player, think about getting one designed for vehicular use.

Most of these, like the Philips PET7402A, come with two screens that can be installed behind the headrest of the front seats so passengers in the back can comfortably watch the same movie. Ideally, you’ll want both screens to have earphone jacks as well, for greater flexibility.

Otherwise, you can just have a car DVD player installed, like a Boss Audio or an in-dash DVD receiver, such as the Pioneer AVH-280BT, as well as screens for your car's back headrests if you have money to spare and don't need a player you could take with you in and out of the car.

Speaking of flexibility, some “regular” players also come with mounting straps for car use. These are great for folks who want to buy a portable DVD player that they would mostly carry around but still want the option of being able to mount it inside a vehicle should the need to entertain the kids arise.

Just make sure you strap them properly. You don't want your reasonably-priced-to-mighty-pricey investment crashing on the floor or hitting some poor passenger in the back.

Dimensions of Compatibility

Are you planning on using your portable DVD player as a device that you can carry around from room-to-room at home? Maybe you just need sanity insurance during the occasional family gathering in case the relatives start talking about the horrors inflicted by your evil aunt?

If so, you can go with one of the bulkier ones with a bigger screen and enjoy the larger, face-shielding viewing experience that comes with it.

What If I Fly a Lot?

If you want a frequent flying companion, however, then you may want to consider going for a smaller player.

Not only does weight easily add up when you’re cramming stuff into your carry on, but you also don’t want to be fiddling around with a honking-huge player when you're taking off your shoes and emptying your pockets as other passengers give you the evil stare while going through airport security.

Media Savviness

Do you love watching Korean or Asian dramas? Then you’ll likely want a portable DVD player that can play video CDs. Maybe you like watching Japanese anime that you’ve downloaded from the web. Then perhaps you’ll want a player that plays DIVX or AVI files.

If your video files are primarily formatted in MKV, which is a bit of a challenge to find a portable DVD player for, you can always convert the videos to another file format with a free video file converter.

Newer players that can play Blu-ray discs are also starting to pop up. Some can even play non-video content such as MP3s or JPEG photos if you want something that doubles as a media player.

Does It Have the Juice?

As with any portable device, battery life is a prime consideration. After all, there’s nothing more horrible than running out of juice just as your favorite beach volleyball scene with the lowered nets from Top Gun gloriously plays on your portable DVD player’s screen.

Ideally, you'll want a device with a battery life of at least 3.5 hours to 4 hours so you can watch two regular-length flicks or one of those extended cuts of the Lord of the Rings movies. Well, that or being able to rewind and rewatch the Top Gun volleyball scene with Tom Cruise over and over.

Maximum Outputs

Portable DVD players aren’t just about taking your movies on the go. Sometimes, it’s also nice to have the option to connect it to your television at home.

If you like that capability, make sure you get a portable DVD player with audio-video connectors that plug into any standard television. Devices such as Panasonic’s DMP-B15 Blu-ray player even have an HDMI port that lets you connect it to a high-definition TV.

For audiophiles, some players also offer surround sound capability.

Extras and Cost

Extra features can go a long way in adding a bit more enjoyment to your portable viewing experience.

Some players, for example, feature screens that can swivel around for easy viewing, fold into a tablet-like shape or even stand up like a picture frame. Others throw in YouTube access via wireless connectivity.

As far as cost goes, the good news is that portable DVD players are available at pretty much any budget. Naturally, devices with bigger screens and lots of features will come with a higher price tag, but you can still get some pretty solid devices under $200 if you shop around.

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