At 2.2 pounds, the LA95 isn't the lightest portable DVD player, but it's nowhere as heavy as most DVD-equipped laptops, and it isn't a nuisance to carry. All in all, it has a pretty sturdy feel, and though we didn't dare drop it, it traveled just fine in a lightly padded carrying case.
Other than its ample, 9-inch display, the first thing you'll notice when you open the player is the multidirectional mouse button/jog dial that's illuminated by a cool-looking, blue backlight, which you can choose to turn off. We also appreciated the backlit transport buttons (Next Chapter, Previous Chapter, Pause), as well as the power on/off buttons. Another plus: the small, easy-to-use remote incorporates a navigational mouse button.
Around the side, you'll find four minijack outputs that allow you to connect the player to your TV, as well as a surround-sound A/V receiver. The LA95 supports playback of DVD-Audio discs, CD-R/RWs, MP3 CDs, select DVD-Rs, and even DVD-RAM, according to Panasonic. There's also Dolby Digital- and DTS-compatible optical audio output (cable not included). You won't find a multitude of picture adjustment options, but all of the standard DVD features are here, and the jog dial allows you to scan forward and reverse at multiple speeds for quick scene searches.
All in all, we had no major gripes with the display. We found that we could view movies from an off-axis position, which means that someone sitting in the seat next to you on a plane won't have a problem watching your movie along with you. But you should be aware that you'd get a sharper picture from a DVD-equipped laptop.
Good for the home, too
In addition to using the player on a few coast-to-coast flights, we also took the time to hook it up to a modest, 27-inch Samsung set and a 32-inch, HD-ready Sony WEGA. Generally, we were pleased with the picture and sound quality. Though there are no component-video connections for optimal picture quality, the 2001 version of Planet of the Apes looked sharp, with vivid colors, on the Sony. Users with higher-end TVs will want to invest in a progressive-scan player (this player is interlaced-only), but the LA95 is ideal for connecting to, say, a TV in a hotel or a conference room.
If you're in the habit of taking longer flights, you'll probably want to invest in the optional, $169.95 (list price) battery pack, which connects to the bottom of the unit and adds 1.1 pounds to the overall weight. As it stands, the rechargeable lithium-ion battery that comes with the LA95 gives you slightly more than 2.5 hours of juice, which is enough to watch most full-length movies but not enough, for example, to view the entire Apocalypse Now Redux.
That said, this is one of those products that certainly is a nice luxury--if you can afford it. With a list price of $1,299 (though you can find it for closer to $1,000), we can't say it's a bargain, particularly since DVD-equipped laptops are quickly coming down in price. But for some people, especially those who haven't yet invested in a DVD player and who travel a lot, the LA95 is worth considering.