Three best DVD players
The home video market has evolved at an incredible pace over the last decade -- so much so that the first digital video technology, the DVD, already feels a little antiquated. But before you declare the DVD a dead format and throw out all of your old movies, consider how DVD players have matured and why you may still want one in your home theater arsenal. Here's everything you need to know about why DVD players are still a good buy, even if they're past their heyday.
Considerations when choosing DVD players
There's still a lot of life left in DVD players as a product category. Here are the key reasons it's still a good idea to buy one.
They're perfect for kids. Say what you will about more modern formats -- it's still incredibly convenient to hand a kid a portable DVD player and let them enjoy their favorite show or movie as many times as they want. If you take a lot of family trips or just need an entertainment format that's not going to require any complicated menus or subscription services, DVD players are the way to go.
A lot of movie and TV content can only be found on DVD. Everyone's got their one favorite classic TV show or movie that never made it to Blu-ray or streaming. Whether it's your favorite foreign film or a one-season wonder TV show that you binge every now and then, if you can't find it anywhere else, you'll need a DVD player.
Streaming and downloading movies may be tempting, but DVDs are transferable property. Everyone loves the convenience of digital content, but there's a catch that not many people know about: you can't will your digital content to your loved ones if you die. To put it another way, your digital content licenses expire when you do. But if you have a significant DVD collection with sentimental value, you can give them to whomever you choose.
Most DVD players can be found for less than $80, and when they're all that affordable, it can be hard to discern the good models from the bad. Here are three key features to look for that separate the strong values from the disposable tech.
Surround sound audio output
Whether you have a full 5.1-speaker surround sound system or a modest soundbar, you'll need a DVD player that can easily connect to your existing audio gear. Before you buy a DVD player, figure out how you plan on getting audio from the player to your speakers. And, if your equipment requires an optical cable for connectivity, make sure you buy a DVD player with optical audio output.
All DVDs are locked by region; you can only play American DVDs on American DVD players, and you need different hardware for playing movies made in different parts of the world. Region-locked DVD players can be frustrating, especially for anyone who wants to play foreign films. However, some DVD players are "region free," so they can play any disc regardless of the region it's associated with. If you watch a lot of international movies, make sure to buy a DVD player that's explicitly labeled as region-free.
Although it never quite caught on, some DVD players are able to record on to blank DVDs and can even connect to other video sources. While some DVD players bill themselves as DVRs (because they can record a live TV signal onto DVD discs), that's not exactly convenient -- but having an easy way to make copies of home movies on DVD definitely is. If you need an easy way to record video content to a DVD, pick up a DVD player that supports recording to blank DVD discs.
Q. Do any DVD players include built-in streaming apps?
A. No. While it's certainly possible to find built-in streaming apps on some Blu-ray players, it's not an option found on DVD players. If you want to stream content in addition to watching DVDs, consider getting a streaming box or, if you own a smart TV, using its built-in streaming apps.
Q. Can I play audio CDs on a DVD player?
A. Yes. DVD players can play a variety of disc-based formats in addition to DVDs, including audio CDs, VCDs, and in many cases, burned DVD-R and DVD-RW discs.
Q. If I buy a Blu-ray player instead of a DVD player, will I still be able to play DVDs from my personal collection?
A. Yes. All Blu-ray players are backwards-compatible with DVD players, and many even upscale DVD picture quality to higher resolutions to improve the image quality.
DVD players we recommend
Best of the best: Panasonic S700EP-K Multi Region DVD Player
Our take: The S700EP-K is a solid international DVD player that's got a killer feature: a USB port that can play MP4 movies from external storage. If you're a fan of Bollywood DVDs, or if you want a DVD player that can also play downloaded files, this is the one to get.
What we like: We love being able to play any DVD, and the S700EP-K can also play burned discs, making it perfect for both movies and mixtape CDs.
What we dislike: There's no optical audio output, which may be problematic for some soundbar owners.
Best bang for your buck: Impecca DVHP9117 Compact DVD Player
Our take: Impecca's DVD player is a no-frills media workhorse. It gets the job done, and costs less than a few DVDs.
What we like: It supports a ton of audio and video formats, so you can burn CDs and DVDs with your own personal movies, pictures, or songs and not have to worry about compatibility.
What we dislike: It uses a coaxial port for digital audio instead of an optical audio port, which means it doesn't connect to as many AV components as other models do.
Choice 3: DBPower 9" Portable DVD Player
Our take: With a built-in battery that lasts up to four hours, it's the best option if you need to take a DVD player with you for work or on vacation.
What we like: You can watch movies on its vibrant LED screen or connect it to a TV and watch them full-size. The swivel on the screen means kids can enjoy their shows and movies just about anywhere.
What we dislike: It comes in both blue and pink, which is a little outdated and limiting. It's also a little loud.
Jaime Vazquez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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