Editors' note (February 17, 2010): Panasonic has affirmed that this 2008 model will remain in its product line for the 2010 model year.
As gadget categories go, the portable DVD player is a rather commoditized lot, with plenty of no-name brands available for $100 or less. To rise above the sea of mediocrity, a player needs some distinguishing characteristics: say, a large screen, improved digital file support (something beyond plain old DVD and CD), or long battery life. The Panasonic DVD-LS86 offers all three: a fold-down 8.5-inch wide-screen display; the capability to play DivX and MPEG4 videos as well as WMA and MP3 music files; and a battery that Panasonic claims will deliver enough juice for 13 hours of playback time. Alas, it didn't come close to hitting that number in our testing, but it still went longer than any player we've tested in recent memory.
The first thing you'll notice when you pick up the DVD-LS86 is its size. It's by far one of the widest portable DVD players we've reviewed--primarily because Panasonic chose to mount the speakers on the sides of the screen as opposed to below or above it. Weighing 2.5 pounds, the player is covered in a black plastic casing while the top of the screen is coated in a faux-leather design.