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Test drive: Panasonic portable DVD player
The Hollywood version of the silver screen enjoyed a long, glorious history before the engineers at Panasonic devised a pocket-sized movie theater.
The Panasonic DVD-LV55 is the 21st century version of a Palm Theater.
The portable DVD player, which costs $999, gives you the freedom to watch a movie anytime, anywhere.
Weighing a bit more than three pounds with its battery attached, the LV55 is a silvery rectangle about the size of a paperback book ( 7 inches wide by 5 inches deep by 1 inch thick).
Its built-in, high-resolution screen, wrapped in a gray border, measures just 5-inches diagonally. But it shows off the latest DVD flicks with razor-sharp, digital quality.
The screen uses the same ``active matrix'' technology found in many of today's better laptops, with no ghosting or flicker.
There are a pair of stereo speakers with Dolby Digital surround sound that mimic the experience of viewing a movie at the cinema.
Despite its petite size, the LV55 has all the functionality of a standard-size DVD player.
It can be connected to a TV and used to view movies when you're not on the go, and many people use it that way, according to Panasonic.
Connect a set of full-size speakers to take full advantages of the player's audio capabilities. The user's manual gives detailed instructions to hook up various configurations of two or more speakers.
A wafer-thin remote controls playback, volume and other features when the player is hooked to a TV.
The LV55 also allows for Still Picture Display, meaning you can freeze an image on-screen with near-perfect clarity.
Choose Cinema Mode to reduce glare and make it easier to pick out details in poorly lit movie scenes.
Chapter Preview allows you to skim through scenes to find a favorite spot in a movie. The player shows the first 3 seconds of each chapter in the movie.
Movies can be viewed in two picture sizes: normal or zoomed, which formats the movie to theater-screen dimensions.
The player comes with a rechargeable lithium battery that lasts about three and a half hours between charges. That's enough for virtually any full-length movie, and may even get you through two movies.
The battery pack clips on to the bottom of the player, nearly doubling the unit's weight and thickness. You can buy a second battery if you want to watch several movies on a coast-to-coast flight.
Of course, if you're near electrical power, you can remove the battery and just plug in the power cord.
Plug in headphones if you want to listen without disturbing others. You also can watch home movies from a video camera by attaching the LV55 to the camera.
The device also plays audio CDs, in the event you don't have access to viewing material.