The major brands have quite a job convincing you to walk away from the no-name models of portable DVD players. These are so commoditized now that you can easily get something from the no-name companies for as little as $50. What the major brands need to do is to convince you to put down the extra $30 or $40 it takes – for the extra features, the extra reliability, the better battery life and a screen that is perfect. Panasonic portable DVD players don't cost that much more than the no-name brands – the VD-LS86 8.5" player comes in at an eminently affordable $90. But do you really want to pay the few extra dollars for the Panasonic? Do you really get your money's worth for it?
The device's manual claims that you can get a full 13 hours of playback out of battery when you use headphones. In reality, you can consider yourself lucky if it lasts half as long. If you turn the brightness up on the screen or unplug the headphones (you can actually plug in two pairs), you'll find that the battery lasts even less. The player itself is a laptop-like design. You open the lid, and the screen is built into the underside, with speakers on each side. The whole thing weighs about 3 pounds, and the screen is designed to be foldable every which way, like one of those old tablet computers. The only problem there is, that when you completely turn the screen around and lay it back, it covers the buttons up, there are plenty on stores to purchase these devices such as a TV shop in Aberdeen.
So what is the performance like? You'll find competing players by Sony and others better in the video quality department (but not by a lot). In a time when disks seem to be on their way out and when it can be quite a hassle to burn your files onto discs to carry them around, restricting playback to just DVDs (this player is pretty versatile with DVDs, playing DiVX, MPEG-4 and other formats), does seem a bit anachronistic. Panasonic portable DVD players should just be updated to allowing flash drives and microSD cards to be plugged in.
It's not a problem restricted to Panasonic portable DVD players, of course, but using DVDs when traveling is always a problem. If you're traveling from the US, you will find that having a machine that's restricted to Region 1 DVDs can be a real headache. They have Region 2 DVDs in Europe, Asia is Region 5, and so on. If you hope to buy movies locally when you travel around the world to watch on your portable player, you'll be disappointed. You'll have to buy all the disks you want right at home so that they'll actually play.
In general, Panasonic portable DVD players seem a little sensitive about playing scratched discs. Some people even complain about scratching their discs while loading and unloading them in this player. You probably want to pay attention to this before you buy.