More than any other portable, the $999 (list) DVD-L100 resembles a small laptop computer. In fact, when it went through the X-ray machine at the airport, security flagged it as a notebook. Laptops--but not DVD players--must be taken out of your bag before going through the screening machine. After we informed the security personnel that it was a DVD player, one of them said, "It's that Samsung with the 10-inch screen, isn't it?"
Indeed, it was--all three pounds of it with the battery pack attached. That's a bit heavier than many smaller portable models but the same weight as the Toshiba SD-P2000. The player itself is fairly trim despite its large screen, but we had a bigger gripe with the power adapter: It's high-tech and looks cool, but it took up too much room in our carry-on bag. We also wished that Samsung included a car-lighter power adapter.
Available controls are conveniently arranged, allowing for easy access to all standard DVD functions except for the setup menu, which must be activated via the credit-card-style remote. We had no complaints about that remote, but if you lose it, you won't be able to get into the setup menu--a bummer.
One note about the detachable battery back: It's fairly compact and clips onto the back of the L100 without adding much bulk. Samsung sells a larger battery that offers substantially more juice but adds extra weight to the unit.
The DVD-L100 has a fairly ample feature set, including a Memory Stick slot; two headphone jacks so that you can watch a movie with the person sitting next to you; plus the standard zoom and angle-change features during playback. On the sound front, you'll find a dialogue-boost option (a.k.a. dynamic compensation) as well as a faux-surround mode.
The L100 doesn't have much in the way of picture-tweaking capabilities; you can adjust the brightness level, but that's about it. There's also no way to change aspect ratio on the 16:9 LCD, so if you watch content that isn't enhanced for wide-screen sets--such as the DVD of the TV show Get a Life that we used--everyone appears short and fat.
As noted, in case you're interested in mounting the unit to the underside of a kitchen cabinet or to the roof of your SUV, you can display video upside down at the touch of a button. Samsung doesn't supply the optional mounting kit, which will run you an extra $125 to $200 when installed by a professional.
In addition to audio CDs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs, and MP3 CDs, the L100 handles VCDs, DVD-Rs, DVD+Rs, and DVD+RWs, although it couldn't read a DVD-RW. Samsung provides two applications--Digital Audio Manager and Digital Photo Manager--for viewing images and music stored on a Memory Stick (most Photo CDs are also supported). All JPEGs with a resolution of less than 1,600x1,200 can be played back with the Photo Manager program. A slide-show mode and some rudimentary image-editing options are also available. Unfortunately, the Audio Manager, which displays ID3 tags, is not compatible with MP3 CD-Rs. This Samsung will still play most MP3 CDs, but it will display only the first eight characters of titles.
Though it lacks a component-video output, the L100 includes a decent set of connectivity options. The player outputs composite video and stereo audio via an included breakout cable that terminates in standard RCA jacks. That same cable can act as an A/V input, so you can monitor video from an external source such as a trunk-mounted DVD changer. In addition, you get an S-Video jack. The single digital-audio output jack requires an optional optical cable to pass Dolby Digital and DTS signals to a surround receiver or a 5.1-channel, in-car audio system.
One of the disadvantages of having a larger screen is that it tends to require more energy. Our unit pooped out at a little less than two and a half hours, which is disappointing, particularly if you're a fan of longer films such as Lord of the Rings or Apocalypse Now Redux.
The big, 10-inch screen is great if more than one person will be watching, and the viewing angle was very good for an LCD--folks to either side of the display won't notice a significant change in brightness. Image quality was only average for an LCD, however; we noticed interlaced artifacts in pans, which showed up as jagged diagonal lines, and many images appeared a tad soft. Test patterns and a quick look at The Crocodile Hunter--perfect fare to occupy backseat boys and girls--revealed a slightly unsaturated color palette, but at least skin tones, scale tones, grass, and other colors looked accurate. The screen was nice and bright, but it tended to obscure details in the shadows.
As noted above, there aren't any screen adjustments aside from brightness, and even that little knob didn't seem to have much influence. We didn't have any problems with the L100's output to a regular TV; the S-Video feed was fine for an interlaced player.
In the final analysis, if a bigger screen is what you're after, the sleekly designed L100 has some strong positives to recommend it, particularly if it finds a permanent home on the ceiling of a minivan. However, for slightly less cash, you can buy Toshiba's SD-P2000, which offers superior performance and better battery life. That player has a smaller screen than this Samsung, but it's probably a better choice for personal viewing.