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Sure, there are plenty of run-of-the-mill portable DVD players that'll do an adequate job of playing back DVDs on screens ranging from 7 to 10 inches diagonally. But only a few models stand out from the crowd, and they tend to cost a bit more than the usually generic competition. Count Panasonic's DVD-LS90 among this select group. It originally retailed for $400 when it debuted in April 2005, but this still-current model now has a street price that's closer to $300.
Weighing in at 2.75 pounds with battery and measuring 2.06 by 9.25 by 7.22 inches (HWD) when closed, what sets the Panasonic DVD-LS90 apart is the swiveling armature design for its 9-inch screen. It allows you to easily adjust the angle and height of the display to cut down on glare--and you can fold the screen down to where it's almost flat, though not flat enough to truly qualify this model as a tablet-style portable.
Because of that armature, which meshes with the detachable battery on the back of the unit, the player looks a little funky when closed, but when it's open, it's one of the more stylish portables we've reviewed. Its buttons are also well placed, with the main transport controls (chapter forward and back, repeat, stop, play, and pause) lined up along the front of the player where you sometimes might see speakers. The DVD-LS90's speakers are further back, near the armature's base. The player ships with a cigarette-lighter adapter and a nicely designed remote that's a cross between a standard-size DVD remote and a credit card-size model.
Unlike the Philips PET1002, the Panasonic DVD-LS90 doesn't support playback of MPEG-4 or DivX video files, but if you happen to be an aficionado of Panasonic's DVD-RAM format, you'll be happy to note that it offers support for that rerecordable disc type. You can also play back CD-Rs filled with MP3 and WMA audio files or JPEG images. And it's worth mentioning that Panasonic has thrown in a few faux-surround modes that slightly augment the listening experience. The player cranks out a decent amount of volume through both its internal speakers and connected headphones.
As far as connectivity options go, the Panasonic DVD-LS90's selection is pretty standard. There's no component-video output; however, most people will make do just fine with the composite-video out when they need to hook the player up to a TV. Neither does it offer a video input, which is becoming more common in portable DVD players with larger screens. That said, the DVD-LS90 has a digital audio output for connecting to an A/V receiver, as well as dual headphone jacks so that two people can watch a movie at once.