I have to admit that a portable DVD player wasn't really at the top of my Christmas list. In fact, I'd never even really considered getting one. However, on receiving one from by partner this Christmas, I didn't complain...especially when I did some research into the prices for this review! These days, thanks to the increasingly appalling TV coverage, I've found myself watching more and more DVDs. One problem that I've always had is watching subtitled DVDs in bed at night when I've taken my contact lenses out, and this has certainly been one solution to the problem. Yes, I know I could just buy glasses, but I'm lazy...
The first thing that really surprised me was the size. I suppose I was expecting it to be laptop-sized - at least the size of my laptop which is about four years old now, but it is actually quite small - more like the size of one of these new-fangled laptops. The screen is 9 inches (23 centimetres) Weight-wise, it is reasonably light, certainly much lighter than my laptop, although the battery is quite heavy. The battery is relatively easy to fit onto the player, although it did take me a couple of attempts - it needs to click into place and it needs a bit of gentle force to do so.
I suppose the DVD player itself is quite neat, although the arm that enables you to adjust the LCD screen does make it look a bit chunky. This is great though, because you can pull the screen towards you or push it away to adjust the angle of the picture. I can imagine this would be particularly convenient in a car if the sunlight is shining full onto the screen.
The flip-up lid and the operating switches are easy to use; child-friendly in fact, so no problems there. I've operated it in the dark. I found the screen to be in perfect colour balance already, although it can be adjusted as necessary.
Discs that can be played
It has multi-format playback for DVD-Video, DVD-RAM, -RW/+RW/-R/+R, CD, CD-R/RW and HighMAT and also has DivX playback (although I'm afraid I have no idea what this means). I haven't used it for anything but DVDs and am not likely to, so I can't comment on the other uses.
Using in a car
Panasonic portable DVD players are apparently the best for in-car use. I've only used it the once, but it was very easy to set up. The player comes with a headrest mounting bracket, which was easy to set up in the car - although I would recommend that parents don't leave their children to do it because it is probably a bit to fiddly for little hands. I had absolutely no problem with watching a DVD in the car - there is shock protection that prevents the picture from jumping even going down country lanes.
Apart from the obvious, like don't place it next to lighted candles, it is worth noting that the unit shouldn't be set up in a confined location, such as a bookshelf or built-in cabinet because it can block the ventilation and can lead to fire or an electric shock.
Convenience and portability are the main advantages. I've only had the player for two weeks, but I've used it a lot already, mainly in bed, but also in the car, and I've had a great deal of pleasure from it. It is easy to operate and the picture is clear enough (athough not perfect as mentioned below).
I suppose the main disadvantage has to be the playback time. When the battery has been fully charged, the playback time is just three hours. I've not had a real problem with this as I have used it near a plug socket, but I can imagine that it would be annoying on a long car journey with restless children in the back. It can be recharged in the car, but this involves plugging it in to the cigarette lighter and would be fiddly as well as time-consuming.
The other disadvantage is the quality of the picture. Although it is clear enough, when you look at it closely, you can clearly see that the picture is made up of dots. I am not a techncial expert and I don't know how it compares with other models, but I am surprised that Panasonic haven't come up with a way to make the pciture better.
I was shocked when I researched the price to find that it is in the range of £200. The cheapest I found was online from 121Electricals (not a site I'm familiar with for £198.45. The Curry's price is £226.99. I would recommend shopping around for it, especially at this time of year, because I do think it is expensive at full price. I would have thought that a portable player would be cheaper than a full-size one, but as my Sony player only cost me £40, this is clearly not the case. But maybe that's just me being ignorant.
I certainly wouldn't have bought this for myself. It is a luxury item, albeit one I have got a huge amount of pleasure from. However, as a present, I am hugely grateful to my partner. I think it would be ideal for families with children who want to keep their children quiet during car journeys.