In car DVD players review and compare

In-car DVD players may seem like a good idea for keeping kids occupied, but read this report before buying one — for safety’s sake.
 
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  • Updated:5 Oct 2007
 

01 .Introduction

In car DVD

Test results for 8 in-car DVD players, priced from $294 to $499

We tested in-car DVD players of two different configurations: a separate, unrestrained, screen-less player with two remote screens, and a player with built-in screen plus one remote screen. Both types of models attach to the rear of the headrests of the front seats.

We tested them for:

  • Picture quality
  • Sound quality
  • Ease of setup and use
  • Faulty DVD handling

CHOICE tests are different. We buy the products we test - no freebies from manufacturers. Companies can't buy ads on our site and our work is funded by people like you.

Please note: this information was current as of October 2007 but is still a useful guide to today's market.


Findings:

  • German tests have shown that in-car DVD players could cause serious injury to the occupants of a car in the event of a crash.
  • None of the tested models are particularly outstanding — and all decrease the safety of the car.
  • Testers also found that they can bring about an unpleasant sensation like motion sickness in the viewer, which worsened if the screen flopped around as some do.

Models tested

  • Axion LMD-4702RU
  • Coby TF-DVD7750
  • DSE G7123
  • Luminaura DJV-706BA
  • Omni PDV742
  • Philips PET708/75
  • Teac DV-P380G
 
 

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The following models scored the best results in our test 

What to buy
Brand Price
Next Base SDV47-AM $320
Luminaura DJV-706BA $349
Philips PET708/75 $370

Note: even though we have listed some 'What to buy' models above, in our opinion any of these in-car DVD players could have a negative impact on passenger safety in the event of a crash. See Safety concerns.

What about the rest?

  • The Axion LMD-4702RU was the easiest to use but its sound quality and faulty disk handling were poor.
  • While the Axion LMD-2708QE fared slightly better in terms of picture and sound quality, its ease of use was very poor.
  • The Coby and the Omni both had very poor faulty DVD handling. Also, the COBY wouldn’t play region 4 (Australian) DVDs until our testers obtained a code sequence from the distributors to enter via the remote control.
  • The Teac and DSE models appear to be clones, differing only cosmetically from one another. Both were unable to play our faulty DVD at all. But the Teac did come with an AC adapter. The DSE is the only model that doesn’t.

Results table

Full results for all models are shown in the table below 

  Performance
Brand / model (in rank order) Overall score (%) Picture quality score (%) Sound quality score (%) Ease of use score (%) Faulty DVD handling score (%) Price ($) RRP
Next Base SDV47-AM
www.next-base.com
63 64 73 60 58 320
Luminaura DJV-706BA 56 60 45 40 84 349
Philips PET708/75 www.philips.com.au 54 59 77 52 28 370
Axion LMD-4702RU www.axiontv.com 52 54 44 68 31 249
Coby TF-DVD7750 www.cobyusa.com 50 56 69 52 18 298
Axion LMD-2708QE www.axiontv.com 47 56 58 34 41 198
DSE G7132
www.dse.com.au
45 61 53 54 0 * 299
Omni PDV742 www.galas.com.au 45 60 52 42 18 399
TEAC DV-P380G
www.teac.com.au
45 61 54 54 0 * 399
 

  Features and specifications
Brand / model (in rank order) Type Headphones (H) or earbuds (E) supplied Carry bag AC adapter Games Regions playable ** Player dimensions (H x W x D, mm) † Weight (kg) ††
Next Base SDV47-AM
www.next-base.com
Player with screen + 1 remote screen E Y Y All 45 x 210 x 175 1.4
Luminaura DJV-706BA Player + 2 TVs E Y Y Y All 30 x 220 x 140 1.8
Philips PET708/75 www.philips.com.au Player with screen + 1 remote screen Y 2, 3, 4 40 x 205 x 150 1.5
Axion LMD-4702RU www.axiontv.com Player + 2 remote screens Y Y 2, 3, 4 30 x 165 x 140 1.3
Coby TF-DVD7750 www.cobyusa.com Player with screen + 1 remote screen H Y All 45 x 180 x 165 1.3
Axion LMD-2708QE www.axiontv.com Player with screen + 1 remote screen Y Y 2, 3, 4 40 x 200 x 150 1.4
DSE G7132
www.dse.com.au
Player + 2 remote screens E Y Y 2, 3, 4 35 x 210 x 175 2.4
Omni PDV742 www.galas.com.au Player with screen + 1 remote screen Y Y All 45 x 210 x 150 1.3
TEAC DV-P380G
www.teac.com.au
Player + 2 remote screens E Y Y Y 2, 3, 4 35 x 210 x 175 2.3
 

Table notes 

  • * A zero for this score indicates that the player would not play our test disc at all
  • ** Instruction manual may state otherwise.
  • † Rounded up to the next 5mm, all protruding parts except the cord included, unit closed, and battery pack attached if supplied.
  • †† With the player/monitor in a bag if it's supplied; with its rechargeable battery (if supplied); without any disc or accessories.

Scores

The overall score is made up of:

  • Picture performance tests: 30%
  • Sound quality: 20%
  • Ease of use assessment: 30%
  • Faulty disc handling: 20%

Code regions

The global DVD marketplace is divided into eight zones, listed below:

0 - Will play in any player.
1 - The US and its territories and Canada.
2 - Japan, Europe, South Africa and the Middle East.
3 - Southeast Asia and East Asia.
4 - Australia, NZ, Pacific Islands, Central and South America.
5 - Indian subcontinent, former Soviet Union and Africa.
6 - China.
7 - Reserved for future use.
8 - International territories such as aircraft, cruise ships, etc.

How we tested

Our testers assessed the picture quality of each player by viewing standard patterns and both still and moving pictures. Most of the assessment was done in our lab, but testers also viewed the players in a car, to see whether there was movement of the screen, if it skipped or whether the screen was affected by reflections.

For sound quality, testers assessed technical quality of sound produced through the analogue stereo headphone socket using an audio analyser. They measured level linearity, total harmonic distortion, signal-to-noise ratio and channel separation. Listening tests were also done on the sound delivered through the in-built or included loudspeakers, and through a good-quality pair of headphones (they didn’t test the supplied earphones or headphones).

For ease of use, testers checked that the on-board controls and remote controls were a good shape and were adequately sized and spaced, and that any labelling was easily understood and in a contrasting colour. They looked at how easy on-screen menus and indicators were to read, understand and navigate, whether installation instructions were easy to follow and if the players were easy to both install in the car and remove.

Faulty DVD handling assessed how well the players can handle a disc with imperfections. Testers used a commercial-test DVD with interruptions in its data layer.

Next Base SDV47-AM

Price: $320 Next base

Good points:

  • Comes with two pairs of earphones.
  • Good sound quality using decent earphones.
  • Good on-screen menus.
  • Easy to install in car and easy to remove.
  • Digital audio output.
  • Can play divX movies.

Bad points:

  • Poor remote control.

Luminaura DJV-706BA

Price: $349 Luminaura

Good points:

  • Comes with two hand-held game controllers and a games CD.
  • Very good faulty disk handling score.
  • Screens are TVs with in-built antennas (though can’t be used in moving car).
  • Good on-board controls.
  • Can play divX and QuickTime movies.
  • Digital audio input.

Bad points:

  • No means to restrain player in car.
  • Poor sound quality, although OK when headphones are used.
  • Screens are very poorly restrained and flop around a lot when driving
  • Player skipped during in-car testing.
  • Poor remote control.
  • Very time-consuming and fiddly to install and remove from car.

Philips PET708/75

Price: $370 Philips

Good points:

  • Player comes with a rechargeable battery.
  • Very good sound quality using decent earphones.
  • Screens have viewing angle and height adjustment.
  • Very good on-screen menus.
  • Easy to remove from car.
  • Digital audio output.

Bad points

  • Screen mounts (especially the player’s own), allow the screens to move and vibrate a lot.
  • Poor remote control.
  • Difficult to install in car for the first time (subsequent installation is easy if you don’t remove the mounting bars, but that means you can’t lower the seat headrests all the way).

Axion LMD-4702RU

Price: $249 Axion

Good points:

  • Good remote control.
  • Easy to install in car and very easy to remove.
  • Digital audio output.
  • Can play DivX movies.

Bad points:

  • No means to restrain player in car.
  • Screens are not well-restrained and can flop around.
  • Poor sound via in-built speakers.
  • Very poor sound using decent earphones.
  • On-board controls are poorly labelled (low contrast).
  • On-screen menus are difficult to read.

Coby TF-DVD7750

Price: $298

Good points: Coby

  • Comes with a cassette player adapter, two pair of headphones, and a rechargeable battery for the player.
  • Good sound using decent headphones.
  • Good on-screen menus.
  • Good remote control.
  • Digital audio output.

Bad points:

  • Poor sound via in-built speakers.
  • Screens are reflective and sensitive to viewing angle.
  • Player skipped during in-car testing.
  • On-board controls are poorly labelled.
  • Difficult to install in car.
  • Needed adjustment before it would play a Region 4 (Australia) DVD.
  • Has no carry bag so there’s nothing to contain the various bits when you remove them from the car.

DSE G7132

Price: $299

Good points: DSE

  • Comes with a game controller with 25 games, and two pairs of earphones.
  • Screens have viewing angle adjustment.
  • Easy to install in car and easy to remove.

Bad points:

  • No means to restrain player in car.
  • Poor sound via in-built speakers and earphones.
  • Very poor on-board controls.

Omni PDV742

Price: $399

Good points: Omni

  • Comes with two weeks DVD rental voucher.
  • Good sound quality using decent earphones.
  • Can play divX movies

Bad points:

  • Poor sound via in-built speakers.
  • Poor remote control.
  • Difficult to install in car

Axion LMD-2708QE

Price: $198

Good points: Axion

  • Comes with a rechargeable battery for the player.
  • Good sound quality using decent earphones.

Bad points:

  • Poor sound via in-built speakers.
  • Poor on-board controls.
  • Very time-consuming and fiddly to install and remove from car.
  • Doesn’t play Video CDs or Super VCDs.

Teac DV-P380G

Price: $399

Good points: Teac

  • Comes with a game controller with 25 games, and two pairs of earphones.
  • Screens have viewing angle adjustment.
  • Easy to install in car and easy to remove.

Bad points:

  • No means to restrain player in car.
  • Poor sound via in-built speakers and earphones.
  • Very poor on-board controls.

While a safety score was determined for each model, it has not been incorporated into the overall score as it’s CHOICE’s opinion that any of the devices could have a negative impact on passenger safety in the event of a crash.

The DEKRA Technology Centre in Germany simulated a collision at 32km/h and found that a DVD monitor strapped to the seat’s head-rest by a belt came loose and went flying into the head of the crash test dummy sitting in the child-safety seat.

During in-car testing, our tester noted the following:

  • Tested products that have a player and two remote screens don’t provide any mechanism for the player to be mounted. It’s up to the user to decide where it‘s placed — therefore it could easily become a missile in the event of a crash.
  • A player or screen could come loose from its mount in an accident.
  • A player or screen presents a hard surface for a child’s face or head (rather than the padded rear of a headrest) if they’re thrown forward by heavy braking.
  • In the case of the Philips, the player and remote screen are mounted so they stand away from the headrest, bringing them even closer to the user’s face.

What to look for

If you've weighed up the safety risks and decide you still want to buy an in-car DVD player, here are some of the features you may want.

Carry bag

All models except the Coby come with a carry bag, which is useful to contain all the separate parts when removing the system from the car.

Player with screen

Although none of the machines is actually safe, a player with an in-built screen is somewhat better than an unrestrained player with separate screens, as an unrestrained player can become airborne in the event of a crash. The Next Base, Philips, Coby, Axion LMD-2708QE and Omni all have players with in-built screens.

Earphones or headphones

For most of the players, the sound can be improved if you use earphones or headphones — and it’s also less distracting for the driver. Check whether they’re provided with the machine (see the Results table).

Games

Both the DSE and Teac come with a single game controller with 25 in-built games, so only one child can play at a time. The Luminaura comes with two games controllers and the games are provided as software on a CD. It claims '300 games', but our testers found a lot were repeats of the same game.

TV

The Luminaura’s screens are also TVs with in-built monopole antennas. Although the antennas won’t allow you to watch TV while you're travelling, they do allow for an external aerial connection to receive analogue TV.