Life can be a little boring sometimes. Generally it's most tedious when you're sitting on a delayed train, waiting for any information about the possibility of one day arriving at your destination. If you find yourself in this or a similar situation, the best thing you could do is break out a portable DVD player, sit back and watch a movie.
The LG DP391B is aimed at exactly this market. It's designed to be portable at a touch under 1kg, with a depth of 40mm and a width of around 230mm. We took it on some public transport to work out if it was worthy of our adoration, or only capable of earning our scorn.
There are plenty of things to like about this machine. For a start, the styling is really gorgeous -- it looks a little like a tablet PC at first glance, because the screen faces upwards. To watch a DVD you can either hold it like you would a computer, or a PSP, or if you have a table handy, you can flip down the battery and use it as a sort of kickstand.
The reason LG has designed the player in this way is so it can be used as a digital photo frame as well. We're not sure how many people will actually end up doing this, but it doesn't add anything to the cost of the player, and it's bound to suit someone, somewhere.
We love the support for DivX and XviD too. You can play these files back from either DVD, CD or memory stick. If you decide to go down the memory stick route, you'll need to use the supplied converter, because the USB socket is the miniature type.
In the pack you get a carry case, which you'll need to use if you want to avoid mucking up the player with scratches. There's also a 12V car adaptor too, which will be a life-saver in the car, especially if you've got children who insist on watching Disney movies over and over on long journeys.
So what of important things like picture and sound quality? Well, the sound from the built-in speakers is weedy and pathetic, which might be an issue if you want to share viewing with another person. Fortunately LG has thought of this, and there are two headphone jacks to keep more than one person entertained at once. That will be great news to parents of the aforementioned Disney junkies. Sound via headphones is very good indeed -- clear and free of distortion. Even music sounded pretty good to us.
On the other hand, picture quality is superb for a device like this. We recently tested a Toshiba player and were not especially impressed by the ropey image quality. On the LG however, DVDs are sharp and clear and the colour, brightness and contrast are all pretty good -- with a caveat about the reflective screen, which we'll talk about later in more detail.
DivX content also looked brilliant, and unlike other players we've seen, the LG didn't seem to have much trouble getting the aspect ratio right from the outset. On other machines we've had to mess around with settings for ages to see a film or TV show in the right ratio.
In terms of AV quality, we're giving the LG a big, happy thumbs up, it's a true gem. Battery life is also decent. We watched all of Jurassic Park, plus an hour-long documentary on the making of the movie. We still had power left at the end, and we hadn't quite charged it to full power when we started. So the company's quote of three and a half hours doesn't seem unreasonable.
One of the problems we found with the LG DP391B was related to the playback of DivX files from memory stick or DVD. In order to play these files, you have to select the sort of file you want to play, either photo, music or video. If you don't select the right type, the file you're trying to play won't show up. The only way to select the type you'd like to play is to press the 'title' button on the remote controller.
Although we like the styling, there are two problems with the reflective case. Firstly, it's a fingerprint magnet. The second you touch it, it's covered in vile hand gunk and you have to polish it to remove it. We can live with that, because you can avoid getting fingers on it -- unless you've got kids, that is. We find it harder to forgive the reflections you get on reflective screens, though. In a bright environment this can be a real pain.
The other problem we encountered is there's no lock on the disc tray (such as it is), which means you can open it when trying to fold out the battery/stand thing. This isn't a major issue, but we did it a couple of times, so it might annoy you occasionally. We also noticed that it was possible to knock the player in such a way as to dislodge the disc as it was spinning, resulting in a fairly horrendous noise.
At around £199, the LG DP391B isn't the cheapest portable DVD player out there, but it has a great screen, the styling is lovely and it's easy to use. Battery life is good, although we'd have been happier if you could swap batteries, for longer trips.
Still, this little player shows others how it's done, and has plenty to offer as long as you accept its limitations. If LG removed the reflective screen covering, and made the battery a little more capacious we'd have given it an even better score. Alternatives such as the Toshiba SD-P91S don't stack up as well, but Panasonic and Sony both have players that should impress too.
Edited by Nick Hide