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In 2008, Sony released the DVP-FX820, a portable DVD player that drastically increased picture quality over previous models. For 2009, the company has upped the ante once again, this time offering a 9-inch swivel screen and light-touch buttons. The result is still the best viewing experience we've seen on a portable DVD player, but we're not completely sold on the new buttons.
The DVP-FX930 has a smooth plastic housing that Sony sells in a variety of colors--the one we tested was accented in dark blue. The player is one of the heaviest we've seen, weighing a sturdy 2.7 pounds. We liked the placement of the unit's battery that runs along the entire bottom of the player. It may be large, but it's flat enough so that it doesn't protrude at all, unlike the Toshiba SD-P71S, which has a small bump on the rear.
All of the DVD controls are located below the screen, making them easily accessible even if you take advantage of the swivel hinge and watch the unit in tablet mode. The screen can flip a complete 180 degrees and fold back on itself to be held in your hands. We were happy to see that most DVD controls were represented here, including the sometimes forgotten fast-forward and rewind functionality (just move the four-way directional pad left or right during playback). Unfortunately, the new light-touch buttons don't move when pressed. They're sensitive enough--we just enjoyed the feeling of last year's model better. Thankfully the four-way directional button remained unchanged.
The FX930 also ships with a remote control that expands on the playback options. It's among the larger remotes we've seen packed in with a portable DVD player, but there's no reason to leave it at home. The two IR sensors let the player respond regardless of its orientation.
On the right side of the unit, you'll find all the connectivity options available. In addition to dual headphone jacks, there's a switchable video in/out port (for using the player's screen as a monitor or playing DVDs on a larger TV, respectively); Sony includes the necessary composite AV breakout cable as well. In addition to a standard AC adapter, Sony throws in a car charger--but the FX930 does not come with any mounting straps for mounting on a car seat.
The FX930 delivers a much more detailed image--and it's all very noticeable, thanks to your close proximity to the screen. This was most apparent when we watched an action scene from "Aeon Flux" that took place in a garden. The fine detail of the grass and flowers was better than any screen we've recently tested. Battery life, meanwhile, was also impressive: the player hit Sony's rated life of 6 hours right on the nose.
In addition to an impressive high-resolution 9-inch screen, the FX930 plays back MP3 files and JPEG photos burned to discs (in addition to CDs and DVDs, of course), but that's about it. There's no compatibility with DivX or other digital video formats. Also absent is a USB port or flash card reader. Sony boasts compatibility with DVD-R media, but most portable players we've seen can also play the format.
Of course, none of that is going to be a deal-breaker for anyone who's just looking for a standard portable DVD player. The impressive screen, long battery life, and slick design make for an overall winner, with the comparatively hefty 2.7-pound weight being the only notable drawback for most users. Widely available for as low as $160, the Sony DVP-FX930 is well worth the premium over "bare-bones" portable DVD players from no-name competitors.