For technology fans, portable DVD players are becoming distinctly unfashionable when compared to the new kid on the block -- portable media centres. Heck, even the iPod is getting in on portable video. Portable DVDs still sell well though, particularly in places like Woolworths for under £100, but they're clunky and you have to carry discs around with you wherever you go. But if you have the time to choose DVDs and CDs before you take that cross-country train journey, who could resist brightening it up with their favourite movies?
Panasonic's player sits at the premium end of the market, but it's still relatively cheap compared with its predecessors. It has a 9-inch LCD screen that's highly adjustable thanks to its articulated neck, and it will play DVD-RAM discs. The lack of DivX playback is annoying, especially as this can be found on most cheaper players. Most troubling is the poor video quality, which shares a 'screen door' effect most commonly seen on LCD projectors. There's not much to choose between this and the Toshiba SD-P1600 other than the DVD-RAM compatibility and large screen from Panasonic, but despite its high-quality look, the Panasonic ultimately feels lightweight.
The screen on the DVD-LS90 tilts at two separate points thanks to the spine that holds it to the player. This means that you can perfect the viewing angle with ease and you can even bend the screen back against the player if you want to make a neat form factor. The viewing angle of the screen is relatively good from side to side, so two people can share the player without a sore neck, but the vertical angle needs to be adjusted accurately.
The screen itself is one of the biggest we've seen at 9 inches on the diagonal. Despite its size, the player isn't thick, and it's easy to fit into a bag without it being a burden to carry around -- especially as the battery doesn't protrude. There are two headphone outputs -- a necessity if you don't usually travel alone (or if you have two kids in the back of the car), but there isn't a carry case to keep the player protected on the move.
There are video and audio outputs, but only the cables for analogue outputs have been included in the box. So if you want to output Dolby 5.1 or DTS, you'll have to stump up for the adaptor separately. While we doubt most people will use the TV out as a regular feature, it's disappointing to see Panasonic cashing in on the accessories market like a videogame console manufacturer, or dare we say it, Apple.
The package does include a flat, credit card-sized remote control, with watch-style batteries included for power. This is useful if you are hooking the DVD player up to a TV and want to sit away from the player itself. If you're using the player on the move, you'll find most of the important buttons are located to the right of the disc tray. It can be annoying to rewind and fast forward as you need to hold down the chapter-skip buttons -- some annoying jumping around is inevitable at first.