Only a handful of budget portable DVD players offer an above-average picture, and this Initial is one of them. But you're likely buying a portable DVD player more for its ergonomics or, more specifically, its convenience. Unfortunately, the Initial IDM-1731, which can be had for less than $140, suffers from some convenience shortcomings that might negate its picture-quality advantages.
At 7.5 by 5.6 by 1.5 inches and just 1.5 pounds sans battery, the Initial IDM-1731 is about the size and weight of a typical hardcover book, making it among the smaller players with a 7-inch wide-screen display. The weight is almost doubled by the detachable battery, which is where this player makes some ergonomic wrong turns.
Instead of simply plugging either the player with the battery attached or the battery itself into an AC outlet for recharging, you have to disconnect the battery from the player and clip a separate pen-case-size attachment to the battery. You're not only left with a cable connecting the battery to this attachment, but the cable for the AC power cable. After you get everything hooked up properly, you'll need six hours to fully recharge the battery--kind of a bummer. More positively, however, you'll get nearly three hours of power--or about a half an hour more than the company's battery-life specification--from the lithium-ion cell. A cigarette-lighter adapter is included for in-car use.
As with many portable DVD players, most of the IDM-1731's nontransport controls are found only on the remote, including setup and screen zoom. Fortunately, the control array on the Initial IDM-1731's base was clean and easy to operate.
As noted, the biggest thing that the the Initial IDM-1731 has going for it, aside from its price, is its crisp and clean picture quality. Although it overaccentuates green and yellow tones, we appreciated the relatively deep blacks. You'll have to turn down the default brightness setting to avoid bleaching out bright scenes, and the lack of a separate contrast control limits details in darker scenes. Sound was clear and loud although a bit hollow, but we got plenty of volume through headphones.
We've seen some comments on the Web from users complaining that the IDM-1731 conked out or stopped reading their DVDs after a few months. Unfortunately, we can't say how the unit will perform over several months, but our review sample worked fine during our short test period, and it managed to read most of the discs we threw at it.
All in all, if you're looking for a serviceable, no-frills DVD player, the Initial IDM-1731 fits the bill. Don't expect to feel you got a steal, though, even at its relatively low price.