CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Apex PD-100 review:

Apex PD-100

  • 1
Hot Products

The Good Inexpensive; cigarette-lighter adapter included.

The Bad Hefty for a portable; disappointing LCD performance; may lock up during playback.

The Bottom Line You will not find a less expensive--or less sexy--portable DVD player.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

5.8 Overall

Apex is known for making some of the cheapest DVD players out there, so it's not surprising to see one of its models enter the expensive portable arena at less than $300. The PD-100 is as budget-friendly as portable DVD players come, and its price is clearly its strongest suit, particularly for parents looking for a way to appease their kids in the backseats of minivans and SUVs. For such a purpose, the PD-100 will do the trick, but since it's hefty and ungainly for a portable--especially one with only a 5.8-inch screen--we don't recommend it for frequent travelers. Apex is known for making some of the cheapest DVD players out there, so it's not surprising to see one of its models enter the expensive portable arena at less than $300. The PD-100 is as budget-friendly as portable DVD players come, and its price is clearly its strongest suit, particularly for parents looking for a way to appease their kids in the backseats of minivans and SUVs. For such a purpose, the PD-100 will do the trick, but since it's hefty and ungainly for a portable--especially one with only a 5.8-inch screen--we don't recommend it for frequent travelers.

Design
You know that an item is inexpensive when it comes in a blister pack--rather than a box--that hangs from a hook on the store wall. That said, you'd expect such a product to be fairly lightweight, but the PD-100's whole package is quite substantial. That heft is partly due to the fact that the unit, including the detachable nickel-metal-hydride rechargeable battery pack, weighs 3.5 pounds. But you also get a large AC adapter/battery charger and a credit-card-style remote that works well enough. In addition, the company includes a cigarette-lighter adapter.

From a distance, the PD-100 doesn't look too shabby, but upon closer inspection, you definitely get the impression that you're looking at a utilitarian product rather than one that's going to make a fashion statement. In fact, you probably won't think that it's the end of the world if this player gets a little dinged or scraped; it just doesn't scream handle with care.

Though the buttons are decidedly without frills, the player seems sturdy enough. If we had a concern, however, it was with the lid, which feels downright cheap and might snap off in a backseat spat among kids. And we weren't thrilled with the power switch, as it stuck a little.

As noted, the screen is a smallish 5.8 inches measured diagonally. That would be fine if the player were petite and ultraportable, but the PD-100 weighs as much as models with much bigger screens, such as the Samsung DVD-L100, the Panasonic DVD-LA95, and the Toshiba SD-P2000. Of course, those units all come with lighter, lithium-ion, rechargeable battery packs and cost substantially more than this Apex.

Features
As one might expect from a low-priced unit, the PD-100 isn't loaded with features, but all the basics are here, including rudimentary brightness and color adjustments, parental controls, angle and zoom functions, and a program mode. You can switch aspect ratio between 16:9 and 4:3 with the touch of a button below the screen, but nonanamorphic, letterboxed DVDs will have bars along the sides, the top, and the bottom. It is worth mentioning that there's a switch for toggling between NTSC and PAL, so if you take the unit overseas, you'll be able to play PAL DVDs.

In addition to audio CDs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs, and MP3 CDs, the PD-100 handles VCDs, DVD-Rs, DVD+Rs, and DVD+RWs--but not DVD-RWs. When playing back MP3 CDs, only the first eight letters of the track name are displayed on the onscreen menu.

On the connectivity front, the unit has standard RCA jacks for video and audio output; that's convenient since most portables use proprietary breakout cables, which are expensive to replace if lost. Flip a switch, and the same jacks can act as A/V inputs, so you can monitor video from an external source such as a camcorder. There is a separate S-Video connection, but the PD-100 lacks a component-video out--no great shock.

This Apex has only one headphone jack, so couples on long flights will do well to buy a headphone Y-adapter from RadioShack. The single digital-audio output is compatible with an optical digital cable, so it will pass Dolby Digital and DTS signals to virtually any audio receiver. Interestingly, that optical out is on the back of unit, so you'll have to remove the battery to access it. One warning: Attaching the battery isn't as easy as it should be.

Performance
In its favor, the small screen delivers reasonable brightness to viewers on either side, and the front-panel brightness and color controls are mighty convenient.

The first thing that we noticed when checking a few test patterns were the not-so-faint horizontal lines that scrolled downward on the screen; they were highly visible on lighter backgrounds. The screen's high-contrast setting had a tendency to wash out details, and resolution measured a subpar 300 lines.

We watched Insomnia, and the dramatic lighting in the first couple of scenes--where Al Pacino and Hilary Swank investigate a house--provided a good example of the contrast problem. The very bright, white light on one side of Swank's face contrasted unnaturally with the darker half, and the loss in detail was significant, even by LCD standards. Overall, the screen's performance was disappointing, although kids watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone probably won't care.

One thing that the tykes may notice, however, is the PD-100's tendency to lock up, freezing playback in the midst of a movie. The only solution to this problem is to open the lid and reload the disc.

The unit plays quite loudly through headphones--we didn't have a problem hearing our movies, even in places where a lot of ambient noise was present. Audio output from the PD-100's internal speakers is decent and offers adequate loudness for in-car viewing, though you'll probably want to keep the windows closed.

The reason that Apex went with a nickel-metal-hydride battery instead of a lithium-ion cell is because the former type of battery is cheaper. Ounce for ounce, nickel-metal-hydrides also don't have as much longevity, so while the included battery pack is fairly hefty, it delivers only about three hours of juice and takes nearly four hours to recharge. That's not bad, but players with smaller screens usually get closer to four hours of battery life. Also, we should point out that Apex says that the provided battery can be recharged about 300 times. Replacement batteries are available for around $190.

To sum up, the PD-100 won't win any beauty contests, nor does it have the best-looking picture that we've seen. True, this guy is a good $200 cheaper than most portable DVD players, and as long as you don't expect very much, you're getting a serviceable, in-car portable that comes with a cigarette-lighter adapter. (As with all Apex products, though, be sure to buy from a retailer with a good return policy.) However, unless you're really strapped for cash, you're probably better off stepping up to one of the lower-priced Panasonic players, such as the DVD-LV50, which can be found online for around $400. apex ad-100

Hot Products

This week on CNET News

Discuss Apex PD-100