Toshiba has built on the precedent set by its previous portable DVD player, the SD-P1000, by expanding the screen and tweaking a few features. It lacks the SD-P1000's progressive-scan capabilities, but it's still a fantastic choice for watching movies on the road--and even in your home theater. Toshiba has built on the precedent set by its previous portable DVD player, the SD-P1000, by expanding the screen and tweaking a few features. It lacks the SD-P1000's progressive-scan capabilities, but it's still a fantastic choice for watching movies on the road--and even in your home theater.
By itself, the SD-P1500 is an about average-sized portable DVD player--until you strap on the battery pack. Once you do that, you'll add 1.1 pounds to the package, causing the whole thing to tip the scales at 2.9 pounds and doubling its size. For all its mass, the lithium-ion battery doesn't last very long (just more than three hours).
But if you can get past the slightly beefy size and the anemic battery life, the SD-P1500 is a great portable. The 234x480-pixel, 16:9 aspect-ratio screen measures 8 inches diagonally, giving you a lot of picture, and the built-in antialiasing gives this player the best video of any portable DVD player on the market. There is absolutely no pixelization--even on non-16:9-enhanced DVDs. Scenes from Barbarella that showed noticeable jagged edges on other portable DVD players were as smooth as glass on the SD-P1500. The picture remains intact even when you utilize the three levels of zoom. In fact, it's so good that you can watch 2.35:1 aspect-ratio movies zoomed in to fill the screen. The only price you'll pay is a slight reduction in sharpness, but this trade-off is well worth it.
The big picture
Films that are 16:9-enhanced, such as Brazil, look great on the SD-P1500's crisp, active-matrix screen. The display really shines with excellent color balance and no noticeable artifacting. The 10-bit video converter with an antialias filter not only makes the picture on the SD-P1500's LCD screen look fantastic, it also does a great job on a big screen. Thanks to a complete set of composite video, S-Video, and component video connections, the SD-P1500 is very versatile. Hooked up to a Toshiba TN50X81 TV and a Harman Kardon AVR 20 receiver for home-theater tests, the player's redition of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon looked and sounded first-rate with minimal tweaking.
The SD-P1500 doesn't let you adjust the various picture aspects separately. Instead, you'll have quick access to one of five Enhanced Picture Mode presets to control the brightness, the contrast, and the color-level settings. You'll find an enhanced-black-level mode, an animation mode, another labeled Normal, and two separate movie modes. The Enhanced Picture Mode presets are a nice time-saver, and we found the range of settings to be fine for all but the most finicky videophile.
The sound from the built-in speakers is good, considering the often tinny sound that you get from small portable speakers, but even with the audio cranked, the sound isn't very loud. We recommend carrying headphones. There's also a karaoke audio function and audio-in jack so that you can turn any bar into a karaoke club. And the audio input is actually an audio/video input, so you can view photos from your digital camera on the SD-P1500's large screen if you like. You'll also find an optical/coaxial digital audio output to connect to your home-theater receiver for surround sound. The player also has Spatializer-simulated surround sound for a good imitation of 3D audio from two speakers or when using headphones. There are two headphone jacks that let you share the audio with a friend--a nice touch. And the dynamic range control balances Dolby 5.1 dialogue and ambient audio quite well.
The list price of the SD-P1500 is $1,199--$400 less than that of the earlier SD-P1000. In terms of value, the SD-P1500 is a great no-compromise solution for DVD enthusiasts wanting to take their home theater on the road. The only things that you might miss are a progressive-scan mode and an MP3 playback feature, but a portable player with a picture this good is hard to beat.