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Before analog TV broadcasting bit the dust, portable TVs were often seen at a tailgate party or picnic, on a beach blanket or in the backyard. With the switch to digital broadcasting, set owners may as well use them as doorstops. Now, outdoor viewing is back with portable DTVs. With a digital tuner, antenna and rechargeable battery, a portable LCD TV takes advantage of free DTV channels in the air.
In this selection of portable DTV sets, some contain 7-inch screens, others 10.2- inch displays. Though all are widescreens (16:9) and the tuners can receive HDTV channels, none of these models is capable of high-definition resolution. That said, the screens of some models offer higher pixel counts than others. All these models contain stereo speakers and an earphone jack. All come with lithium-ion batteries, wall outlet and car lighter adapters, remote controls and one or two antennas. Stands vary from kickstands to pedestals. Inputs can be as simple as an RF connector for an antenna, along with a standard A/V set for attaching an external video source such as a camcorder. More advanced models may also contain a memory card slot or USB port for playing digital media. One model embeds a DVD player.
All these models let you automatically scan available stations such as 11-1 and 11-2 and save them in memory so that you don't have to channel up or channel down through dead air while channel surfing. If guide information such as the station I.D. and program title or description are embedded in the signal, it will be displayed by the TV. Keep in mind that: none of these TVs can reliably stay tuned to a station if used in a moving vehicle. They are meant for stationary use where DTV signals are easily available.
The most simple model is the Audiovox FPE709 (right), a 7-inch handheld with stereo speakers and headphone jack. It includes a built-in stand. The display offers a resolution of 480 x 234 pixels and a "wide" button lets you switch the display between 16:9 and 4:3. When not receiving over-the-air DTV broadcasts using the extendable antenna rod, the TV becomes a monitor using its single-plug composite video/stereo input. (An A/V cable adapter is included.) The built-in lithium polymer battery powers the TV for 1.5 hours before requiring recharging. A closed caption viewing option is built in. A sleep timer can be set to shut off the TV in increments of up to four hours. The FPE709 weighs 2.9 pounds.
One thing a 7-inch screen can do is hide a 5-inch disc playing behind it. Enter the Supersonic SC-491 7" Portable LCD TV with DVD Player (left, on stand with remote). The TV comes with a rotary-rod antenna and detachable ring-base stand. Push the frame below the screen and the disc player pops open. Besides DVD movies and CD music, the player supports JPEG photos and MPEG-4 video. Beyond playing media from discs, there's a built-in SD card slot and a USB input. There's also an A/V input for use with an external media players or a camcorder. The screen resolution is 480 x 240 pixels. Supersonic makes portable DTVs with screen sizes ranging from 3.5 to 9 inches.
Stepping up from a 7- to a 10.2-inch display results in a picture that is approximately 40 percent larger. The Coby TF-TV1091 10.2" Portable Widescreen TFT LCD TV (right) contains both an integrated telescopic antenna and a coaxial antenna input for an optional external antenna. The integrated viewing stand lets you watch TV hands free. An A/V input lets you connect an external device such as a games console. The screen resolution is 480 x 234 pixels (the same as the 7-inchers above), but larger pixels can result in a brighter image.
A 10.2-inch alternative that increases the screen resolution to 800 x 480 pixels is the Viore PLC10V46 10.2" Portable LCD Television (left). Though it comes with an oval-base stand, the TV can optionally be wall mounted. An external rod antenna is provided for over-the-air reception, but there is also an A/V input, for connection to a video source component plus a USB port and SD memory card slot for playing digital media files. Viore also offers the PLCD7V2, a 7-inch portable TV with built-in DVD player. The 1.9-pound TV contains a USB input and SD card slot. It plays DVDs, VCDs, CDs, JPEG slide shows and MP3 and WMA music files. Clearly, when there's nothing worth watching that you can pluck out of the air for free, bringing your own media in the form of discs, cards or sticks makes for sensible substitutes.