Experts have been calling portable DVD players a dying breed for some time, and the number of models on the market does appear to be shrinking. However, the flip side of this is that prices are dropping. You can find a good portable DVD player for less than $150, and there are even a few good budget options for under $100. Most portable DVD players have screen sizes of 7 to 9 inches and weigh just a few pounds. While they can do little more than play movies, some models come with extra features like SD card slots for playing MP3s or browsing photos. Though options aren't plentiful, and what's available is relatively expensive, some portable players play Blu-ray Discs as well as DVDs.
Reviews indicate that parents with young children are the primary market for portable DVD players. Compared with other electronic gadgets, portable DVD players are a relatively inexpensive way to keep children entertained on long car or plane trips. Many players can be mounted on a car headrest, and most have dual headphone jacks so two people can watch.
One DVD player that gets good recommendations for this purpose is the Sony DVP-FX970 (*Est. $125). This player offers a lot of features for a relatively modest price. It has a 9-inch, high-resolution widescreen display that can flip or swivel a full 180 degrees, offering a variety of viewing angles. It also has a six-hour rechargeable battery, and includes a car battery charger. In addition to DVDs, the Sony DVP-FX970 can play back audio CDs, MP3s and MP4s, as well as display JPEG image files. Also, the included AV cable lets you hook the player up to your TV -- so the DVP-FX970 could serve as your main DVD player for home use but also detach as needed to accompany you on trips. Other features include dual headphone jacks and a full-function remote control. The player comes with a fairly standard warranty for portable DVD players; it covers parts for one year but labor for only 90 days.
We found nearly a hundred reviews from (generally) satisfied users at Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Buzzillions.com. Most owners say this DVD player offers very good sound and picture quality, the construction is solid and the controls are easy to use. Many reviewers also mention that at about 2.3 pounds, the player is very light and portable. We did see a few complaints that the player's touch controls are too sensitive. One user on Buzzillions notes that it's easy to accidently hit some buttons due to their positioning. We also saw some complaints about reliability, with owners saying their players broke down after anywhere from a couple of weeks to a year and a half. However, this seems to be a common problem with portable DVD players; we did not encounter any models that did not receive at least a few complaints on this score, and the Sony DVP-FX970 received fewer than most.
Sony's smaller and more basic DVP-FX750 portable DVD player (*Est. $80) also scores its fair share of happy owners. This petite player weighing in at less than 2 pounds has a smaller 7-inch screen that does not swivel, and its battery will only hold a charge for up to three hours. Also, it cannot play MP4 files like its pricier cousin. However, the lower-cost model does include dual headphone jacks, a remote control, an AV adapter and a car charger. It has the same one-year, 90-day warranty as the DVP-FX970.
The DVP-FX750 has received nearly 200 reviews at Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Buzzillions.com. Like the higher-priced Sony DVP-FX970, it gets good feedback on its sound and picture quality, solid construction and easy-to-use controls. Many users, however, are disappointed with its lower battery life, and a few are perturbed that the battery does not recharge while the player is running off the car battery charger. We also saw more complaints about reliability for this model, with numerous users saying theirs broke down within a year -- in one case, after just a few uses. On the plus side, several owners note that the Sony DVP-FX750 does not tend to skip on bumpy roads or during turbulent patches on plane trips.
The Coby TFDVD7052 (*Est. $80) is another budget-priced portable DVD player that bears consideration. This 7-inch, tablet-style device can play DVDs, CDs and MP3s; it can also display JPEG files. Like the lower-priced Sony, it comes with a remote control, a car adapter, dual headphone jacks and an AV cable output for connecting the player to a home theater system. In addition, the Coby TFDVD7052 includes a kit for mounting the portable DVD player on the back of a car headrest. This Coby model has a 90-day warranty for both parts and labor, which is shorter than the warranty on the Sony players.
More than 100 owners comment on the Coby TFDVD7052 at Amazon.com, giving it an overall rating of 3.9 stars out of 5. Most users praise the sound and video quality. "Picture quality is very good, rich and vibrant, even when viewing from different angles," one owner writes. Estimates of the Coby's battery life vary; owners report getting anywhere from two to five hours of use from it before needing to recharge. While the car mounting kit is a nice inclusion, many users are annoyed that you have to remove the player from the bracket to change the DVD. One owner also expresses concern that the headrest mount does not hold the player securely and that it could become a dangerous projectile in an accident.
We saw more complaints about durability for the Coby TFDVD7052 than with the Sony portable DVD players profiled above, and owners who had problems with their DVD players are generally disappointed by Coby's short 90-day warranty. One user even reports returning a player to Coby within the warranty period and being denied service anyway.
Most of the portable DVD players covered in our sources play standard DVDs rather than Blu-ray Discs. Although portable Blu-ray players have been around since 2009, they do not seem to have caught on in a big way. The only one to earn a strong recommendation in our sources is the Panasonic DMP-B200 (*Est. $250). This player has an 8.9-inch, tilting LCD display with a resolution of 1,024 by 600 pixels. In addition to playing Blu-ray discs, DVDs and CDs, the player can read JPEGs, MP3s and AVCHD video (from home camcorders) via its SD memory-card slot. An HDMI output lets you hook the player up to a high-definition TV, allowing the Panasonic DMP-B200 to double as your main Blu-ray player for home use (though the cable itself is not included). The player comes with a standard one-year, 90-day warranty.
At TrustedReviews.com, a British review site, the DMP-B200 portable Blu-ray player earns an overall score of 8 points out of 10. Reviewer Danny Phillips praises the player's video quality, saying, "images look positively resplendent, offering sumptuous, nuanced colour reproduction, solid blacks and lots of detail." Sound quality is subpar through the speakers, he admits, but it's fine with headphones. He also finds the operating system "blissfully simple," with excellent onscreen menus, and the four-hour battery life decent. The remote control, however, is a disappointment, with its rows of tiny, identical buttons that make it too "fiddly" to use while traveling. Phillips would also like to see more connectivity options for this player, such as USB, Ethernet and Wi-Fi. Still, he concludes, when you consider that this machine can serve as the main Blu-ray Disc/DVD player in your living room and also go on the road, it's a pretty good value.
The market for portable DVD players is shrinking, and we found few professional reviews of them. There are thorough, detailed reviews at the British site TrustedReviews.com, but most of the players covered there are discontinued or unavailable in the United States. CNET.com and TopTenReviews.com also cover mostly discontinued models. Overall, we got the most useful information from users posting comments to retail sites such as Amazon.com and Walmart.com. Both these sites have hundreds of reviews for the most popular players. Buzzillions.com, which pulls comments from a variety of user-review sites, is also a handy resource.