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Samsung DVD-L1200 review: Samsung DVD-L1200

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The Good Big, bright, 12-inch-wide screen; thin and lightweight; invertible picture for ceiling mounting; three headphone jacks.

The Bad Expensive; no color, contrast, or brightness controls; fuzzy image; no included cigarette-lighter adapter; no component video or digital audio connections; won't play Photo CDs.

The Bottom Line A disappointing player that's missing several key features and accessories but that can still work for travelers who like to pack light.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

5.3 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 4
  • Performance 6

Review Sections

With its 12.1-inch-wide screen and three headphones jacks, the Samsung DVD-L1200 would seem to be perfect for keeping a group of youngsters entertained in the backseat. But since the L1200 ($750 street price) is probably too expensive to be handed over to the kids, it will more likely appeal to an adult on the go who's looking to keep their luggage light. And while the features list for the L1200 looks impressive, some key omissions limit its usability.

For instance, while it's nice that there are three headphone jacks, the lack of independent volume controls means you'll likely spend more time adjudicating volume-level arguments than you will in quiet contentment or adult conversation with your spouse. Worse, Samsung doesn't include a cigarette-lighter adapter, de rigueur with even the cheapest of portable DVD players. You'll have to shell out another 28 bucks for one at Samsung's authorized parts dealer, which is annoying after you've just dropped $750 on the player.

If it's silly to spend $750-plus on a player for the kids, it may seem even sillier to spend it for business travel entertainment. There are a number of DVD-equipped laptops available at small price premiums that, obviously, perform more functions than just DVD playback. However, laptops are a bit heftier, and the L1200's slim design is one of its strong points.

At just 3.3 pounds and 1.1 inches thick, the L1200 is one of the lightest and thinnest portable DVD players around of any screen size. Unfortunately, the slim design is marred by some confusing controls. For some reason, Samsung designed the transport controls to look like a navigation array, while the counterintuitive navigation array located just above the transport keys doesn't look like anything familiar, with an Action button mislabeled with a confusing Return arrow icon. We found ourselves constantly hitting the transport keys by accident and habit to navigate menus, which caused some headaches. Samsung also includes a small remote, which is useful when the player is hooked up to a TV.

In lieu of separate brightness or contrast controls found on most players, there is a four-way (Standard, Low Light, Outdoor and Indoor) Adaptive Image Controls toggle to adjust the screen brightness and color temperature. However, we found it difficult to find a happy medium. For example, the Low Light setting unbleached the bright scenes but made darker scenes too murky. Switching to Indoor brightened these darker scenes but washed out lighter sequences. This problem is exemplified by the bright ocean and deck scenes intercut with dark engine room sequences in Titanic. Unfortunately, there are no separate contrast, color, or hue controls, either.

Above the Adaptive Image Control toggle are the EZ View and Reverse Display keys. The former is the screen-zoom control, while the latter lets you invert the picture, which is perfect if you want to mount the player on the ceiling of your vehicle or over and behind a car headrest. In fact, the big, 12-inch screen would seem perfect for the backseat of a tricked-out SUV. However, Samsung doesn't indicate that the player can be car-ceiling-mounted, and no mounting accessories are mentioned in the manual or available at their authorized parts dealer.

On the right spine are separate video and audio minijacks. Samsung includes adapter cables for each but only composite and S-Video for video, which means you won't be able to get progressive playback on an HDTV. For audio, only an adapter for standard, analog RCA jacks is included. Although the player supports both Dolby Digital and DTS surround processing, you'll need a digital audio adapter cable for surround-sound output, which is not included or listed on Samsung's Web site.

For disc compatibility, we tested DVD-Rs burned with time-shifted TV programming and dubbed camcorder footage, which played flawlessly, as did CD-Rs filled with MP3 and WMA files. DVD-ROM, DVD+R/RW discs, and, shockingly, the almost universally compatible Kodak Photo CDs, won't play.

Picture quality was acceptable, but we expected better. Colors tended toward the reds, black levels were disappointing, and the whites were often bleached out with fuzzy edges. By comparison, the bright crisp images, deep blacks, and natural colors displayed on the 14.1-inch, 1,280x768-pixel screen of the Gateway M210X ($1,049) using the InterActual DVD player software blew the 384,000-pixel L1200 away.

The twin speakers located on the L1200 point upward, resulting in clear, if slightly disembodied, sound. Samsung's 3D Spatial Sound improved the aural experience through headphones but actually dulled the sound from the speakers. We got exactly the rated 2.5 hours of lithium-ion battery life, which is about average for portable DVD players.

All in all, we feel the Samsung DVD-L1200 is not enough player for too much money, with too many of the features not living up to their full potential. However, if a thin player with a large screen size is appealing to you, and you don't mind the price and the limitations, the L1200 deserves consideration.

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