Panasonic's top-of-the-line portable DVD player, the DVD-LX9, seems to have a lot going for it at first glance. It's handsome, it has a beautiful screen, and it comes with a number of attachments to extend its utility. However, the player is not without a serious flaw, and the high price may leave you wanting more.
By itself, the LX9 doesn't look like it could possibly house a large, 9-inch-diagonal LCD. The sleek, handsome main unit measures just 1.5 by 9.37 by 7.19 inches (HWD) and weighs 1.5 pounds without any of its attachments. The screen tilts so that it can lie flat on the control deck if desired. The built-in speakers, mounted in the top corners of the base, fire upward.
Unlike many portables, the LX9 allows access to most functions without recourse to the remote. The Picture Mode button, which brings up the sliders for brightness, color, sharpness, gamma, and other options, was particularly welcome. We also noted a jog/shuttle dial and selectors for monitor mode, audio mode, and media source, in addition to the usual buttons. However, we found the recessed buttons to be stiff and unresponsive, requiring prolonged or multiple clicks before the player responded. The crowded remote control is not particularly well laid out, but its buttons, including a thumb stick for menu navigation, worked well.
Aside from the remote and requisite cables and AC adapter, the player also comes with a pair of minitower speakers and a docking cradle. These extras really enhance its functionality at home, but they increase its bulk only if you take them on the road. Those who don't want all those extras should check out the .
The DVD-LX9 has stellar connectivity when you factor in the included docking station. Alone, the unit has merely a headphone jack and standard A/V outputs, as well as an SD card slot. The docking station adds about another pound to the carry weight and doubles the unit's height, but it essentially turns the portable into a full-service DVD player. It adds progressive-scan component and S-Video outputs, an optical digital output, and even a full 5.1-channel analog audio output for DVD-Audio. (Yes, the LX-9 plays DVD-Audio, MP3, JPEG, and Windows Media Audio discs.) The weakest part of the cradle is its stereo speaker connectivity: just two pairs of spring clips to accept the nonterminated wires of the included minitower stereo speakers. Bare wires don't belong on an upscale player like this.
Audio and video performance were great. We tortured the display with Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the changes from sunlight to torchlight to shadow didn't faze the unit. The video was always lush and beautiful as long as the AI video option was turned on. Without it, the various shades of black showed constant solarization and visible pixels. Audio was likewise impressive. The built-in speakers sounded more than good enough, but the included minitowers raised the bar considerably; they sounded wonderful for such a small player.
So what's wrong with this Panasonic? Battery life: it doesn't have any. When the battery light started flashing at 1:40, well short of the advertised 2.5 hours, we knew something was wrong. Perhaps we didn't fully charge the unit? We ran the battery dry, recharged it, and tried again, only to find its life to be even shorter--just shy of 90 minutes the second time around. It could be that we had a defective battery or that our battered review sample was worn down--or it could be that Panasonic wants to sell the auxiliary power pack ($199 list).
In the end, battery life was the only really sour note in our experience with the Panasonic DVD-LX9. If your plans don't include long stretches away from a wall socket or you don't mind the extra weight and bulk of the add-ons, this player will perform very well for you. However, those seeking the freedom to watch movies on an airplane without paying for extra batteries should look elsewhere.