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Lifewire / Tom Fiske
Light and portable
Quality image and sound
No menu button on the control panel
Poor balance on soft surfaces
The SYNAGY A10 10.1" Portable DVD Player has a decent screen and sound, but a missing menu button makes it a dud.
Devices like the SYNAGY A10 may seem like they’re on their way out. With everyone watching movies on their smartphones or tablets, is there still a niche for portable DVD players?
For those who have a big collection of DVDs at home, or simply aren’t interested in buying a mobile device for streaming and digital movie downloads, a portable DVD player might be a good option. We tested the SYNAGY A10 10.1” Portable DVD Player by watching hours of DVDs—on the couch and in the car—to see what this device can do.
The Black SYNAGY A10 is 7.25 inches long, 10.25 inches wide, and 1.6 inches tall when closed. Opened to 90 degrees, it is 8.5 inches tall.
Weighing only 2.1 pounds, the SYNAGY A10 is easy to hold in one hand. And while its small size makes it easy to carry, you might find it uncomfortable to set on your lap if you’re tall. The 10.1” screen opens like a laptop and swivels clockwise 180 degrees and counter-clockwise 90 degrees. The screen flips over, too, so you can slip it into a car headrest mount for your backseat passengers to watch.
The missing menu button means that even this device’s low price is too much to pay
The back of the screen has a reflective black finish with SYNAGY printed on it. Inside, the bezel around the screen has a matte finish while the DVD cover is almost as reflective as a mirror (an odd choice for the part that gets touched the most). The control panel sports a horizontal grain design in the black plastic. It’s all nice looking, but the reflective surfaces quickly pick up a lot of smudges.
Set up couldn’t be easier. We just plugged in the adapter, opened it up, and turned it on. The same for the USB port and MMC or SD memory card—you can just insert your device and press a single button. If you want to use the AV in/out ports, just plug the ends into their respective inputs/outputs.
Unfortunately, there was little in the way of instructions and troubleshooting help in the box—if a problem comes up, you’ll have to go to the internet for answers.
Except for a couple of problems, the SYNAGY A10 is easy to use. The disc tray holds the DVD securely while making it easy to insert and remove. The controls on both the remote and the base are straightforward and intuitive. The buttons are a little hard to press, but they’re so loud that we heard complaints from people in another room.
There were two major flaws worth noting. There is no “menu” button on the base unit, which means you need the remote for this very essential function. If the remote goes missing, you’re out of luck. In our opinion, this flaw in basic functionality is a dealbreaker.
Second, when you flip the screen over, the IR sensor for the remote faces up, so you have to crane your arm around the device to work the remote. It would be especially annoying if you’re using it in a car headrest mount.
The SYNAGY A10 has a USB port and a memory card slot for playing digital files on the go. Once you insert the USB drive, you have to switch over to USB mode by pressing a button. A menu appears, and you select “USB.” The device brings up a very clunky 1990s-style file menu, which is fairly simple to use. From there, you can play video, audio, or a photo slideshow.
It doesn’t support all the file types it claimed to support. We tested every digital format, and most of them worked just fine. When we tried MP4 files, it only played audio and not video, and we could only get some AVI files to play.
We also tested the photo slideshow, and it was extremely slow. In the slideshow, every photo took seven seconds to load, which meant that it took longer to load than the photo was displayed. Plus, every time the slideshow moved to a new photo, it displayed a track number in the upper left corner, which was distracting.
MP3 files played easily, so you could at least listen to your music if you wanted.
While the image quality is good, it’s not great. The screen resolution is less than HD, but regular DVDs can’t play HD quality anyway.
Out of the box, screen images looked very washed out. We had to turn the brightness all the way down and the contrast all the way up to get the colors to look accurate.
Viewing angles are also pretty poor—when you twist the screen horizontally, it looks great in the full range. Tilted forwards or backward, however, the screen washes out quickly. And with a light source at our backs, we couldn’t see the picture at all.
We had to turn the brightness all the way down and the contrast all the way up to get the colors to look accurate.
When it comes to the SYNAGY’s screen, you get what you pay for. This screen seems par for the course for this device’s price tag.
The SYNAGY A10 can also connect to your TV through the AV-out port. We tested it on a 50-inch HD LCD TV, and the image quality was good enough that we didn’t notice much difference between the A10 and our usual player. We do wish there was a way to turn off the screen when we’re using the big TV. Instead, we had two screens running, which was a little distracting.
You expect small speakers, like the A10’s 1.25 x 0.72-inch speakers, to be tinny without much bass, and they were. Still, no one’s looking for a home-theater-quality system when you’re on the go.
We were disappointed that there are no equalization options to balance the default sound. It would be nice to add some bass boost given the small speakers’ focus on the high end of the spectrum. But the only customizable option was a choice between stereo and mono.
We were disappointed that there are no equalization options to balance the default sound.
When we connected the SYNAGY A10 to the big TV, we heard a delay caused by our sound system that was just enough to be super annoying. If you use sound equipment for your TV, the SYNAGY A10 isn’t a good choice for playing DVDs on the big screen.
The SYNAGY A10 10.1" Portable DVD Player generally goes for between $50 and $60, which is comparable to its competitors. Most people don’t want to take a high-end portable system in the car or hand it to accident-prone or messy kids.
For the price, the SYNAGY is a portable device with a decent screen and sound. But with a bevy of competitors that offer similar performance at the same price, the missing menu button means that even this low price is too much to pay.
DR. J Professional 14.1" Portable DVD Player: There are few distinguishing features among the various low-cost portable DVD players in the field. The biggest difference between the DR. J Professional 14.1" Portable DVD Player is the size. Screen size is a matter of taste, but we preferred the 10.1” screen since most people watch portable DVD players from within arm’s reach.
The DR. J Professional also has an unstable base on hard surfaces. When you touch it, the whole device rocks back and forth a little. It has a menu button which gives it a huge advantage over the SYNAGY A10.
NAVISKAUTO 12" Portable DVD Player: The NAVISKAUTO 12" Portable DVD Player is just a bit larger than the SYNAGY A10’s 10.1” screen. It’s still a nice size for close-up viewing.
Sound options give the NAVISKAUTO an advantage over its competitors. It has several menu options including a basic equalizer that features two kinds of bass boost and a treble boost, as well as settings for different styles of music. There’s even a 3D processing feature with options like Hall, Concert, or Cave. It gives a pleasant depth to the sound that adds a lot to the watching experience. But these features come with a price—the NAVISKAUTO usually costs about $20 more than the SYNAGY.
No menu button makes this player a no-go.
While the screen and sound are decent, they couldn’t make up for the fatal flaw: no menu button. On top of that, the digital features were poorly implemented, and some didn’t even work. The SYNAGY A10 10.1" Portable DVD Player has the potential to be a great affordable option, but these flaws make it more of a disappointment than anything.