The Best of Everything. . . To Go!

DVD is not only the king of the home theater, the benefits have been trickling down to the portable realm for years now, raising both the standards and the subsequent expectations of mobile power-users. Here are three of the most innovative and enjoyable products to come our way.

The SlimDVDup ultra-slim DVD/CD duplicator ($699) is a remarkable standalone device, able to read and burn directly to disc: DVD-R (at up to 4X write speed), DVD-RW (2X), DVD+R (4X), DVD+RW (4X), and even DVD-RAM (2X), along with CD-R (16X) and CD-RW (8X). It does require an AC adapter, because a battery is not an option due to the vast power consumption, but not a computer, with all pertinent data (current operation, disc type, total megabytes, megabytes-copied-thus-far, percentage completed. etc.) appearing on the LCD screen. The slightly squat yet easily transportable SlimDVDup houses a pair of slmline disc trays, the top one to read and the bottom one to write, which does create some noise once they get going, along with the fan, but the results speak for themselves: I made a perfect copy of an unprotected 90-minute DVD movie in 14 minutes, plus a few seconds to synchronize. The tray even automatically ejects the finished copy, which was playable in a standard DVD deck, complete with menus, alternate audio, and all. Performance is even more impressive on CD-Rs, as they contain less data and offer higher-speed blank media. The clear, color instruction manual might come in handy for more complicated applications, but for none of my testing was it even necessary. The SlimDVDup, with its headphone jack, doubles as a CD player, and connects easily to a PC or Mac via USB 2.0 if so desired, but there is no video output and so it cannot function as traditional DVD deck. But for ease and versatility in DVD burning, nothing else I've ever seen even comes close.

For more fully-featured DVD viewing, at home or on the go, consider the Mintek MDP-1010 portable DVD player ($499). With its 10.2-inch screen, I really felt like I was watching my movies, not just staring at a miniature representation of them as I typically do on most smaller-screen portables I've tried; all within a thin, light overall design. I was further drawn into the experience by the sharp picture and great colors, although the whites run a little hot and blacks could be a little more detailed on this TFT LCD screen. In the field, I soon came to appreciate the excellent array of on-unit controls including skip and scan navigation, without the need for the supplied compact remote, and the snap-on lithium-ion battery proved good for almost three hours, plenty long for the vast majority of DVDs out there. Back in the home theater I was able to take advantage of the separate composite video and progressive scan component video outputs, to mate with both low-end and high-end TVs (an S-video jack is also provided, but no adapter cable for it), as well as the option of analog or digital audio out. The Mintek MDP-1010 is a no-brainer for the film fan with places to go.

Altec Lansing
But a big picture is only, well, half the picture: While the twin built-in loudspeakers on even the best portable DVD players are merely adequate, they won't always satisfy the discerning cinemaphile, and they will likely irritate your seatmates crammed in either side on a transcontinental flight. At 60,000 feet, you need more, and the Altec Lansing AHP-712 headphones ($150) deliver, with an all-important closed-cup, over-the-ear design complemented by cushions that remain dry and comfortable even after extended wearing. The active noise reduction drastically cuts ambient noise over a wide spectrum by creating an "opposite" sound wave and the resulting effect is truly dramatic, and an addictive relief frankly, yet these headphones still manage to deliver a detailed, almost three-dimensional soundstage with ample bass for movies and music. Only a single AAA battery is required, and did not need replacement during all of my testing, located in the clip-on controller which also helps to manage the generously long cord. The foldable AHP-712 headphones collapse to fit neatly into their drawstring pouch, with a clever Velcro pocket to hold the included adapters for both quarter-inch and airline headphone jacks.