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A portable DVD player can be a useful piece of equipment to have if you travel often. Most people know it's a neat little gadget that lets you watch your favorite movies on the go. But what you may not know is that they're a recent invention, first introduced in 1998. It's really a step-up from the portable television sets people carried around a lot. But since its inception, major electronics companies have improved on the design with swivel screens, higher quality displays, and more connectivity options making it a multi-media device. But smaller companies have also tried getting into the market by using inexpensive material to produce a cheaper portable DVD player. These underdog companies know that people love value, and the only way they're going to have a chance against big name companies like Sony or Philips is if they can make a product that provides the same basic functions, yet can be a bit more affordable. Granted, some may have cut spending on manufacturing costs a little too much resulting in multiple defective units, but others have actually been able to make a somewhat decent player.

Enjoy bursting into flames?

Mintek Digital used to produce portable DVD players as well as TVs and home DVD players. They've long since been out of business since the major recall of their Mintek DVD-1710. It apparently had a defective battery which could explode if overused. Not something you'd want to have sitting on your lap. But they do have other products that weren't that bad. They definitely won't "wow" you with features, but at least you won't need to take shelter. One model that received an average rating on Amazon is the Mintek MDP-1770. It'll support multiple DVD and CD formats as well as the Kodak Picture CD. It has a 7-inch TFT LCD screen and also comes with a remote. It was first released back in 2004, so you'd be lucky to find a new one. There are used ones floating around on the net. Obviously Mintek went a little too far in cost cutting the production of the 1710 model, but this one didn't turn out to be too bad.

Always the one looking up, never being looked up too...

Apex, another underdog company, has a few portable DVD player choices out there. Nice name for a company, sadly they may not be able to reach their apex since they've filed for bankruptcy back in August of 2010. The portable DVD mountain is apparently still looming overhead. The PD-500 is a cheap compact portable DVD player. It has a minuscule 5-inch screen, A/V ins and outs for hooking to an external device, and offers 5.1 surround sound when connected to speakers. The average rating on Amazon is well...average. But hey, when you buy something that has "ultra-affordable" in its description, you can assume they cut down on a few features. If you want more quality you'll need to shell out a few extra bucks.

Underdog from Trans-

Another company trying to make it to the top is Sylvania. They have a selection of dual-screen DVD players as well as single unit players. Some of the more popular ones include the 7-inch SDVD7014-MBLUE (which you can also get in pink or black) and their 7-inch SDVD7027 with swivel screen. This one comes with a nice set of accessories like a travel bag, earphones, remote and A/V cables. The SDVD7014-MBLUE is a little lighter in weight at 2.4lbs, which would make for a good kids DVD player; as mentioned earlier you can get it in pink for girls, and it also comes with much of the same accessories. All in all, this company is faring a little better than the previous two, but still fall in the underdog category.

Conventional wisdom says...

Whichever brand you choose to buy from, checking for recall data or browsing user reviews can help with you decision making - it may even save your life (exploding DVD player). But the portable DVD market is starting to wane a bit now that the new Blu-ray format is becoming portable. LG and RCA have their newest selection of portable Blu-ray players they unveiled at the 2011 CES. Not by any means underdog companies themselves, so you shouldn't have much to worry about other than price. But it's probably best to stick with the well-known brands when buying electronics anyway, you don't want to unknowingly place an exploding Blu-ray player on your lap just ticking away as you watch your movie. Though, if you enjoy rooting for the underdog (and saving money), the odds of that happening aren't very high.