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Panasonic LX9

Panasonic Portable DVD Delights

By Jim Bray

DVD players have certainly come a long way. I recently saw a progressive scan model in a store for less than $50, so in just a few years these marvelous machines have evolved from being relatively expensive novelties to impulse items. That doesn’t mean the cheapies are any good, but they are certainly affordable!

Next stop, inside cereal boxes?

Then there’s the subspecies, the portable DVD player. I’m not sure I’m the best target market for such devices, since I’d rather run the movies on my far more flexible notebook PC, which has a bigger screen as well. But if you aren’t into computers and still want a good DVD player that goes everywhere and does it all, well almost, Panasonic’s DVD-LX9 is a pretty interesting beast.

The DVD-LX9 plays DVD video and DVD-Audio discs, though it isn’t a true DVD Audio player, and of course it plays audio CD’s and the other usual file formats (see below). It comes with a pretty darn good built-in LCD Monitor and a docking cradle with which you can connect the player to your home theater and enjoy the best of both portable and static worlds. Well maybe not the absolute best, but good enough for most normal people.

It’s actually a pretty nifty machine, and it’s convenient enough that you can have DVD in any room of the house – or on the patio or wherever. On one occasion while I was testing the unit, I set it up in my wife’s sewing room so we could watch a movie together while she continued working on a project, the little sew and sew. It was a nice way to share the evening without downsizing her productivity too much. The only drawback was hearing the sewing machine instead of surround channels….

The LX9’s very nice 9 inch LCD screen is in the 16x9 widescreen aspect ratio the DVD format demands, and it’s a pretty good monitor. The color and the contrast are very good and despite the small screen size you really can have an enjoyable experience with this unit.

The screen pivots to a variety of different viewing angles, for optimum comfort and image quality. Off axis performance is pretty good. The unit’s slim profile and light weight makes it easy to carry around and to store (it fit well inside my briefcase), and it fires up quickly when you want to use it.

Panasonic says you can watch a whole movie uninterrupted, up to 2.5 hours, thanks to the extended battery life with the built-in rechargeable battery. An optional external battery pack can extend your viewing time even further.

One thing that was kind of cool about the unit is the speakers it comes with. They’re little column-like things, and of course they aren’t going to make your walls shake, but all things considered they do a pretty good job. You don’t get 5.1 surround from the system (unless you patch it into your home theater, which is a straightforward operation), but the stereo is fine – and, really, if you’re going to use the system for real surround you’re better served hooking it into your home theater anyway. Who wants to pack around five speakers and a subwoofer?

There’s also a built-in SD Card Slot that lets you play AAC, MP3, JPEG, MPEG4, file formats, and the built in amplifier that powers the external stereo speakers pumps out a whole two watts per channel. That isn’t much, but it matches the speakers well. There’s also a set of little speakers built right into the player itself. Not surprisingly, they’re okay but nothing spectacular.

If you aren’t in the mood for a movie, you can play most of the popular audio formats including MP3s, CDs, CD-R/RW discs, WMA, and DVD-Audio discs. Naturally, as mentioned above, you won’t get 5.1 surround from your DVD-Audio discs, but neither will the LX9 hold its nose in disgust like some will. And of course this isn’t meant to be a wall-rattling audio system, but it can serve as a bedroom, den, garage (or wherever) audio system in a pinch.

And that’s one thing I really liked about this player. Its extremely flexible design, coupled with little docking station it comes with, means you can use it on the road, at the cottage or wherever, then bring it home and patch it into your big screen (or whatever size screen you have) at home. Thanks to its A/V outputs and remote control, you can treat the little bugger just like an honest to goodness home progressive scan DVD player. Its optical digital audio output passes Dolby Digital and dts soundtracks in surround sound.

A quick note about LCD screens. Despite the fact that they still can’t beat traditional CRT’s in picture quality, they lack the potential for burn in. This means that, unlike a CRT-based or plasma TV, you can play 1.33:1 “full frame” programming on the wide screen without worrying about the black bars on the side burning in permanently.

LCD’s are also less expensive to run than CRT’s or plasmas.

So while this Panasonic isn’t about to set the world on fire or start people beating a path to your door on home theater night, it’s a handy and flexible little device that offers good performance for those who pine for a DVD player they can take anywhere and still use at home.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.



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