Though Toshiba's entry-level portable DVD player, the SD-P1400, can be had for less than $250 from online resellers, we're hesitant to call it a bargain. While its one strong suit is battery life, this 7-inch wide-screen model does little to distinguish itself from the bevy of budget portable DVD players invading store shelves.
The SD-P1400 is nearly twice as heavy as Panasonic's competing entry-level model, the . Despite their similar dimensions (the Toshiba measures 7.87 by 6.42 by 1.14 inches with battery attached; the Panasonic measures 7.5 by 6.5 by 1.2 inches), the Toshiba, at 3.24 pounds, weighs nearly twice as much. Its battery pack clips to the rear, extending the player's depth by more than an inch.
Compared to other budget models from Audiovox, , and , the sleek SD-P1400 cuts a dashing figure. The screen doesn't fold like the Panasonic's, but it does swing out on an arm above the disc door. Unfortunately, that door and its hinge seem susceptible to breakage, especially if you have kids who treat electronic products like toys. The door rises only about 60 degrees, making disc swapping awkward. You also have to make sure the DVD clicks securely in place.
If the door and the hinge hold up, the SD-P1400 will work fine for pacifying children. Twin headphone jacks and nearly 3.5 hours of battery life can keep two of your offspring quietly ensconced in the backseat during a long drive. We also like the clean, well-spaced, easy-to-read button array.
Adults, however, are apt to discover numerous annoyances. For one thing, the bottom warms rather quickly and eventually gets hot to the touch. For some reason, discs default to subtitle mode after power-up, and turning the subtitles off is confusing (the subtitle on/off switch is an icon in the Display menu, not a choice in the Subtitle Language menu under Setup). Additionally, to proportionately magnify a nonanamorphic film such as Titanic so that it fills the screen, you need to use the credit card-size remote. The Enhanced mode merely stretches the image across the wide-screen display.
We compared this model's picture to the Panasonic DVD-LS50's and found that the Toshiba's didn't have the same brightness or depth of blacks and actually looked a bit soft. The Avia test disc bore this out; the Toshiba delivered no more than 250 lines of resolution. Unlike the smooth Panasonic picture, the Toshiba's showed individual pixels, often creating a mosaic-like moirÃ© effect when a tight pattern such as a shingled roof or a herringbone suit was onscreen. As on the Panasonic, greens seemed a bit weak and lime colored.
On a more positive note, twin speakers mounted on the base on either side of the display provide sound with the lid up or down--perfect for CD listening without headphones. Toshiba's 3D-audio mode (one of the unit's four unnecessarily cryptic Enhanced Sound Modes settings) effectively widens the stereo effect, especially through headphones, but it also buries the dialogue in the mix. Switch to dialogue mode, and center-channel conversations get a boost, but you lose the faux surround effect. Normal mode offers a dull compromise between the two, and DRC (Dynamic Range Control) is a late-night mode that quiets audio peaks.
The SD-P1400 can play DVD-R discs but isn't rated to play DVD+Rs, DVD+RWs, or DVD-RWs. It also handles home-burned CDs embedded with MP3, WMA, and JPEG files (a JPEG viewer is onboard for images). A line of minijacks along the right side breaks out into A/V, S-Video, and optical digital audio connections for your receiver or TV. Unlike Panasonic, which doesn't include an S-Video cable, Toshiba provides all the necessary connectors aside from optical. The company also throws in a car power adapter.
In sum, the price is certainly right if all you want to do is keep the kids occupied. But performance glitches keep us from recommending this model to more-finicky adults.