if you're looking for an in-car dvd system, there's no shortage of options currently available. andy enright reports
Forget everything you thought you knew. That seems to be the best course of action when reviewing the latest in in-car entertainment systems. What was state of the art a few months ago rapidly gets superseded by gear that's better, faster, cheaper and more versatile. In-car DVD systems are no exception but fortunately they have a degree of future-proofing built in. Here's a round up of the various ways you can enjoy the Digital Versatile Disc in your vehicle.
By far the simplest and most versatile method of playing DVDs in your car is to invest in a mobile player. These can be powered by rechargeable batteries or via a link to your car's 12-volt power outlet and consist of a disc player with a flat TFT screen. This system is ideal if, for example, you have one child who wants to watch a film in the back of the car and needs the option to continue watching the film at another point, even after you've left the vehicle. It also allows you to bring it with you on holiday, livening up tedious train journeys and so on. As well as DVD format, these systems also play back CD ROMs, so it's easy to show your mates movie files you've burned to a CD from your home PC.
In-dash DVD systems can be split into two key variants. The first features an installation that's usually double-DIN (standard height and width of a car stereo slot) sized and features a screen that emerges from the dashboard, flipping into position. The second is a regular DIN sized player unit that sends a signal to screens located variously in the headrests of the front seats, in the centre console or on to a screen which folds down from a roof mounted position. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.
Screens which flip from the dash are very useful insofar as they can also be twinned with a portable GPS to double up as a satellite navigation system, but these systems can be rather intrusive when it comes to ergonomics. Having a 7-inch TFT screen jutting out of your dashboard can make accessing functions like air conditioning and other minor controls far from easy. They are also very easy to catch with things like handbag straps. The other consideration you'll need to make is that whilst car manufacturers will disable the viewing systems such as television when the car is in motion, many aftermarket systems allow you to theoretically watch a DVD movie while the car is in motion. Don't be tempted, even if you are stuck in traffic. The police take a very dim view!
Many companies will undertake conversions for you, installing screens in the front seat headrests and so on. This is surprisingly affordable, as the screen units themselves are incredibly cheap and the head units that drive them are dropping in cost too. Manufacturers are now selling flip-down screens up to 10 inches although this isn't going to do much for your rearward visibility!
Consider how you're going to use your in-car DVD facility, fix a realistic budget and start looking around for best buys. If you're new to the business, a portable or an in-dash system may well be the best bet. Certain companies even hire portable units, something to bear in mind if you're off on holiday. If you want a more complicated setup, it's best to see a professional fitter. If being asked 'are we nearly there yet' ad nauseum has you grinding your teeth in frustration, a DVD system could be the best investment you've made in a long time. Whilst the little ones are being Shrekked into submission in the back, only a faint twittering from the headphones audible while your car's idling, you can concentrate on the road ahead and not on the commotion behind. Less stress, safer and more fun. Suddenly the prices don't look at all insurmountable.