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Panasonic DVD-LS86 review: Panasonic DVD-LS86

Panasonic DVD-LS86

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Jeff Bakalar
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Jeff Bakalar Editor at Large

Jeff is CNET Editor at Large and a host for CNET video. He's regularly featured on CBS and CBSN. He founded the site's longest-running podcast, The 404 Show, which ran for 10 years. He's currently featured on Giant Bomb's Giant Beastcast podcast and has an unhealthy obsession with ice hockey and pinball.

4 min read

Editors' note (February 17, 2010): Panasonic has affirmed that this 2008 model will remain in its product line for the 2010 model year.

7.0

Panasonic DVD-LS86

The Good

Portable DVD player with 8.5-inch collapsible screen; excellent digital file support includes DivX, MPEG4, MP3, WMA, JPEG compatibility; long-life battery; includes AV connectivity wires and car charger.

The Bad

Battery life, while quite long, is still shorter than advertised; screen hides buttons when folded to tablet position; unintuitive control layout; no remote control; average picture quality; no USB port or flash card reader.

The Bottom Line

The Panasonic DVD-LS86 delivers some of the longest battery life we've seen in a portable DVD player--though not quite as long as Panasonic claims.

As gadget categories go, the portable DVD player is a rather commoditized lot, with plenty of no-name brands available for $100 or less. To rise above the sea of mediocrity, a player needs some distinguishing characteristics: say, a large screen, improved digital file support (something beyond plain old DVD and CD), or long battery life. The Panasonic DVD-LS86 offers all three: a fold-down 8.5-inch wide-screen display; the capability to play DivX and MPEG4 videos as well as WMA and MP3 music files; and a battery that Panasonic claims will deliver enough juice for 13 hours of playback time. Alas, it didn't come close to hitting that number in our testing, but it still went longer than any player we've tested in recent memory.

The first thing you'll notice when you pick up the DVD-LS86 is its size. It's by far one of the widest portable DVD players we've reviewed--primarily because Panasonic chose to mount the speakers on the sides of the screen as opposed to below or above it. Weighing 2.5 pounds, the player is covered in a black plastic casing while the top of the screen is coated in a faux-leather design.

Speaking of the screen, Panasonic has taken an interesting approach in allowing it to essentially collapse and fold back onto the unit rather than swivel around. While the articulated hinge behind the 8.5-inch screen can be adjusted to a variety of vertical angles, the screen hides most of the player controls when it's completely folded down in the tablet-style display. Meanwhile, even the accessible buttons suffer from unintuitive placement. You'll find yourself fishing for the volume buttons on the player's right side, for instance. And the "play" and "stop" buttons--located on the player's front edge--double as the "on" and "off" switches. As a result, we found ourselves accidentally turning the device off when we held the player in our hands. However, we were happy to see on-the-fly screen brightness and size adjustment settings as well as fast-forward and rewind functionality just a button click away.

On the left side of the unit you'll find the dual earphone jacks as well as the AV input (for using the player's screen as a monitor) and output jack (for playing DVDs on a larger TV), for which Panasonic includes the necessary AV breakout cable. Also in the box is a power supply and a car charger--but you won't find any accessories to mount the LS86 on a car seat headrest. The only accessory we wish Panasonic would have included is a remote control. We know the idea of a remote for a portable player seems trivial, but the majority of players we've seen recently all include one.

In terms of performance, the DVD-LS86 works well. We weren't overly impressed with the video quality--we'd have to label it as just average compared with the other players we've tested. We were happy to see that the LS86 had no problem playing our DivX-encoded video files, MPEG4 videos, MP3 and WMA audio files, and JPEG photos. However, you'll need to burn all of these files to a disc (DVD-R, DVD-RAM, or CD-R); had Panasonic added a USB port or flash card reader, the digital file support would've been far more attractive and convenient. Sound quality from the two onboard speakers was good, but like with all portable devices, you'll probably be using headphones in most viewing situations.

The battery rests below the screen's hinge and doesn't protrude excessively from the player's body. Panasonic claims a whopping 13 hours of playback on a normal seven hour charge. However, in two separate tests, the battery did not last beyond 9 hours of DVD playback (you may get better performance when watching DivX file playback, however). So we'll ding Panasonic for overly optimistic advertising--but admit that 9 hours of battery life is about the best we've seen to date. (It's worth noting that the step down model, the Panasonic DVD-LS83, is essentially the same model that shaves about 4 ounces of weight by including a less robust battery rated at 6 hours.)

A few design and functionality caveats aside, the Panasonic DVD-LS86 is an all-around good portable DVD player. Its unconventional width may deter some buyers who are looking for the ultimate in portability, while some may be put off by the screen's unusual collapsible hinge. The LS86 does boast a decent amount of playable file formats, we just wish it came with a USB or flash card reader as well. Some may find the asking price of $200 a bit expensive, especially with other comparable players on the market (some with even more features like the iPod compatible Philips DCP851) priced even lower. But if you're looking for seriously long playback time, the Panasonic DVD-LS86 should be at the top of your list.

7.0

Panasonic DVD-LS86

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 8
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