Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pathetic Portables

There are a lot of good reasons why you'd buy a portable DVD player. My kids enjoy being able to tuck themselves in a corner with their favourite movie and a pair of headphones, and I tend to watch a movie or an episode of Star Trek at bedtime every second day. They're particularly useful for people with contact lenses - you can take your lenses out before going to bed and still watch a bit, because you sit so close to them.

But... and its a big but... don't expect value for money or long-term use, or you'll be disappointed. Mine is a Shinco SDP-1750A, cost $185, and 9 months after I bought it, the screen died completely. I took it back to Harvey Norman and 3 weeks later, instead of repair, it was replaced with an entirely new unit. That one lasted 3 more months, and died 3 days after the original 12-month warranty ran out. Harvey Norman wouldn't come at replacing it because the warranty had expired, and the replacement one hadn't come with its own 12 month warranty - that applies from the date of original purchase, not the date you got this particular unit. So on average, for your $180, you get 6 months use, or in other words, one of the cheapest portables costs you $1 a day.

I bought both kids a Dick Smith branded portable. These were a little more expensive, and given the experience with Shinco, I took the option to extend the warranty to 3 years, which added considerably more to the cost. In the 4 months they've had them, no problems so far with the units, other than the extremely poor design and function. All the basic things the kids want, like cursor keys to select a particular episode, aren't on the unit, only on the remote, and the remote often isn't anywhere to be found. I have often found that I put a movie into one of theirs, and can't play what I want. Picture zoom, screen ratio changing, even chapter skipping are all unintuitive or not on the actual unit at all. To top things off, the screen is mounted high on the flip-up panel with a large blank space between it and the hinge, so that lying on the floor watching it, the kids are bound to get a sore neck from craning forward too much. Overall, the Dick Smith ones are poorly designed for their intended function. If the designers had actually bothered to put a disc into the player and watch it, these faults would have been evident. As for the long-term reliability, I'll post an update if and when one of them develops a fault.

The lesson here is evident - if you want a well designed, reliable portable DVD player, pay the extra money and go with a good brand name like Sony.

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