You probably haven't heard of Envizen, but it's one of several off-brand companies that are putting out new digital portable TVs to replace all the obsolete analog units that were toted to sporting events or kept around for emergencies when the power went off. As implied by its name--the Envizen Digital Duo Box Pro ED8850A--this model is actually two products in one: a portable DVD player and a portable DTV.
The ED8850, which costs around $150 online, looks and feels like your typical inexpensive portable DVD player. To put it politely, there's nothing sexy or slick about it. That doesn't mean it's ugly, just that it's very basic and generic-looking (at least it's black and not silver). It's also worth noting that its shiny black top is a fingerprint magnet and gets scratched up fairly easily.
We did like what the ED8850 offers in terms of features, and we appreciated that the unit comes with a protective carry case (which can also be used to hang the unit from the back of a car headrest), remote, car power adapter, and a set of AV cables that allows you to connect an external video source--such as an iPod or a game console--and use the unit's 7-inch display as a video screen. (There is, however, no capability to output the DVD playback to an external monitor.) On top of the standard DVD features, this model also has a slot for memory cards (SD, MMC, and Memory Stick) and a Mini-USB 2.0 jack (we would have preferred a full-size USB slot for plugging in standard thumb drives). Using the flash slot or USB connection, the Envizen can read a variety of digital media, including DivX videos (we tried out a few AVI files, and they worked fine), MP3 audio, and JPEG images.
As for the DTV side of the equation, the ED8850 pulls in any digital TV signals being broadcast in your area, but you do have to attach a small, wired external antenna (its base is magnetized) or an RF adapter for connecting to a larger antenna. As far as we could tell, it does not pull in analog stations. However, following the July 2009 digital TV transition, the only analog broadcasters left are low-power stations or Mexican and Canadian stations available in some border states. More notable is that fact that the Envizen doesn't accept cable TV signals (analog or digital), so you're limited to what you can pull in from an antenna.
The downside to over-the-air digital TV is that if you can't get a strong enough signal, you don't get any picture for the channel you're trying to pull in (with analog signals, you could get a fuzzy picture). As part of the setup process, you can have the tuner automatically scan for channels and it will store them once they're recognized (you can easily autoscan if you enter a new area, though it does take a few minutes to run through the process). We were impressed to see that the Envizen even includes a built-in onscreen programming guide that extends several hours into the future. Pretty cool.
We tried the TV in New York City and had decent luck pulling in stations so long as we were close to a window. Moving into an office just about 20 feet away from the window caused us to lose the signal for virtually all the channels, so your happiness with the product will depend on where you're located and whether you're able to get a strong signal.
When we were able to pull in a station, the picture was clear and reasonably sharp, and the sound played ample volume through the two small speakers on the sides of the unit. We left the unit out in the middle of the office tuned into a Yankees-Angels playoff game (it was an HD signal), and passersby were pretty impressed with the picture quality. However, it should be noted that in terms of resolution the screen is only 480x234 pixels, which is standard for these types of $100-$150 portable TVs. That's enough resolution to give you a reasonable picture, but the individual pixels are distinguishable at close range and we're looking forward to the day when manufacturers can deliver higher-resolution displays for about the same price. On the other hand, at this screen size, you really won't miss the lack of true HD resolution.
As for battery life, this model did better than the Eviant T7 7-inch portable TV we tested, which only offered about 100 minutes of battery life. Watching the Yankees game, we managed to get right around 2.5 hours, which is what the rated battery is for this unit. That only got us to the seventh inning (it was, admittedly, a long game), but, as we said, relatively speaking, the battery isn't bad for TV watching. We should also point out that the rechargeable battery doesn't appear to be removable, so you can't buy an extra one to tote around with you for extra juice.
Another important note: because of the technical limitations of the DTV standard, this TV--like all portable DTVs--is not meant to be used while in motion (for example, in the back seat of a car). While we've heard reports that it sometimes works, it's just not something you should count on.
Overall, while we like the look and feel of some of the tablet-style portable DTVs, this Envizen does offer more in the way of functionality, particularly with the inclusion of DivX playback. If you live in an area that doesn't offer good DTV cover/reception, you'll probably find this unit lacking and will wish it would do a better job pulling in signals. But if you're lucky and live in an area where you can get good over-the-air DTV reception, you'll be pretty pleased with the ED8850, generic styling aside.