Car owners guide to: Car Multimedia > DVD Players & LCD TVs

Choosing and using portable in-car DVD players and LCD screens to give you an in-car cinema experience.

Portable DVD Player Features, Benefits & Considerations

A portable DVD player is a compact, lightweight unit with an integral screen – typically between 7" and 10" or so, measured diagonally – which allows DVD content to be viewed "on the road", as well as in the living room. A portable DVD player can typically be carried unobtrusively in a bag or briefcase, or installed permanently - well, almost permanently - in a car or other vehicle. So, any business or family trip – whether by car, rail, air, or even sea – can be filled with interest and enjoyment, rather than monotony. It's a device that is likely to be used, and therefore possibly abused, on a regular basis. It may be knocked about in your hand luggage or by children, for example, so look for a player that is well constructed and durable; if a portable DVD player is too flimsy, or lightweight, it may not withstand rough treatment for very long without breakage or malfunction. Look, too, for a model that is easy to use; fiddly buttons – on the front panel or on a remote control – can be a problem for anyone, but especially so for children, so look instead for those that are large and clearly marked.

If you are choosing a portable DVD player for use in a car, you may find that a "tablet" design, which allows a player to remain flush against the back of the front seats, with no protruding parts, is more appropriate than a "clamshell" design. Some portable DVD players have a separate screen, or screens, which can be mounted on front seat headrests, using a harness or mounting kit. Headphones are a necessity for in car use; the level of audio reproduced by the small stereo speakers of a typical portable DVD player is too low to be comfortably heard above traffic noise, and cranking up the volume may distract the driver. If two or more people – children in the back seat of a car, for example – are to share a portable DVD player, make sure that it has sufficient headphone jacks, or that you invest in one or more headphone "splitter" cables, which allow two pairs of headphones to share a single headphone jack. The Nu WDP700 portable DVD player, for example, is supplied with a headrest mounting kit, headphones and a remote control, plus a car power adaptor.

You may, of course, want to use a portable DVD player in other situations – in your home or holiday hotel, for example – in which case its connectivity options become important. Most portable DVD players nowadays are equipped with composite video, S-video or SCART outputs, but some also offer component video, for enhanced picture quality. Some portable DVD players also allow you to connect an external device, such as a games console, through standard A/V inputs and use the screen of the player itself as a display. The Nextbase SDV47 is an example of this type of portable DVD player.

LCD Screens - Affordable Luxury

It wasn't so long ago that the idea of having video screens in your car seemed like something only the rich and famous could afford, but the latest products are now providing a way for the average family to live in harmony during a long journey. And anyone with children knows how priceless that is!

Once restricted to travel scrabble or card games, rear seat entertainment has changed; it now involves video games players or DVD movies shown on headrest TVs or drop down roof-mounted screens.

Having customised, fully integrated screens is the top-end of the market. It required MMSA members to acquire new skills in leatherwork and coach-trimming, but as demand increased, ready-made replacement headrests - ready to take a screen - became available. So while our members are skilled enough to build an LCD screen into your car's factory headrest, an off-the-shelf solution of replacement headrests pre-fitted with screens can be both quicker and more cost-effective.

In-Car Cinema - when it looks too good to be true

When selecting products, the usual cautionary message applies - beware of cheap imports. Because of the rise in the popularity of in-car cinema and the low cost of manufacturing in the Far East, the market is being flooded by what at first sight look like amazingly good value products. Some of these will provide reasonable results; others will offer poor quality screens and unreliable DVD playback.

If you've not experienced the better quality products, you'll not know what you are missing and how a little more money can buy you a great deal more in terms of performance and reliability. It's at least worth making the comparison before spending money and regretting it later. Good quality doesn't always mean it has to be expensive. There are some good entry level in-car cinema packages, and some don't even require much fitting. The portable DVD solution mentioned at the start, and entry level video traveller bags that simply hang over the back of the seat, are nice easy ways to provide in-car cinema or video game playing. They are the perfect solution if all you want is an occasional holiday peacekeeper!

However, nothing beats a bespoke, professionally installed multi-media car cinema system. It looks the part - no trailing cables or temporary add-ons - and will make you the envy of your friends. So take a demonstration at one of our members. But beware, once you taste it, you'll want one. If you don't want to be pushed into a decision, don't take the kids with you!