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DVDs may seemingly be a thing of the past, but there are still a number of reasons why it’s worth keeping a DVD player around. Whether you’ve got screeners to review, need to keep the kids busy, or want to re-watch some of your favorite discs, a DVD player comes in handy when you’re stuck at home and looking to stay entertained.
The best DVD players these days are super affordable — we’ve found premium models for under $100 — and unlike the bulky, boxy DVD players of our youth, the latest DVD players are slim, streamlined units that easily tuck onto a table or shelf. They’re all packed with modern features too, like automatic upscaling of images to full HD and the ability to play a wide variety of file and disc-types (and yes, that includes DVDs you “burn” at home).
When it comes to films and documentaries, there are a lot of cult favorites and rarities that are still only available on DVD, despite how far technology has progressed since the films were first released. Case in point: many of these live concert films and music docs, which were specifically recorded for DVD, and have yet to be released for digital download or streaming. Many people also built up huge collections of DVDs that they’ve neglected over the years. Why are we so obsessed with vintage vinyl but scoff at old DVDs?
What You Need to Know Before Buying a DVD Player
Format: The acronym “DVD” stands for Digital Versatile Disc, and the format first came to prominence in the mid-to-late Nineties. Though it’s primarily used for video files, a DVD can actually store any kind of digital data. Different regions use different types of DVDs (I.e. a DVD you buy from China may not play on your DVD player here in the U.S.). However, we’ve included an option for a region-free DVD player, that will accept and play discs from all regions without stalling.
DVD vs CD: A compact disc (CD) is the same size as a DVD, but a DVD has more storage capacity, hence why it’s used to store audio and video files versus just audio. Some DVDs used to also be double-sided (side A and side B), with different files on each side, though that was discontinued after people found it cumbersome to manually flip the disc (and DVD players weren’t equipped with that ability).
Blu-ray vs. DVD Player: The main difference between Blu-ray technology and a DVD lies in the resolution. DVDs top out at 480i resolution, while Blu-ray discs have an upper level of 1080p. Blu-ray also supports HDR (High Dynamic Range) and WCG (Wide Color Gamut), and the latest Blu-ray players can run 4K content. The best DVD players will convert content from your DVDs to as close to 1080p HD as possible, but the image quality still won’t be as dynamic. A final difference: most Blu-ray players will be able to plays DVDs but not vice-versa.
1. Panasonic DVD-S700 DVD Player
Get smoother, more detailed images from your DVDs with this Panasonic DVD player. The player scans and automatically up-converts DVD video to full 1080p HD, creating brighter, more dynamic imagery on screen. What’s more, the DVD player offers Dolby Digital sound, for clearer, more immersive audio (great if you’re playing CDs).
This DVD player is fast and responsive, and plays all DVD formats (including DVD-ROM/R/RW). An USB port lets you plug in a flash drive to display your photos and downloaded files.
We like the player’s streamlined, minimalist looks and its dust-proof design, which prevents dust build-up from affecting functionality or performance.
This set includes the DVD player, a power cord, remote control and two AAA batteries (for the remote).
PROS: Panasonic’s “Power Resume” feature automatically picks up where the movie left off, if your TV or player accidentally shuts down.
CONS: The DVD drawer is a little sensitive so it’s advised that you let it automatically open and close; don’t push your discs in.
2. Sony DVPSR210P DVD Player
Sony is one of the most trusted names in electronics, and this DVD player delivers on both consistency and performance.
The DVPSR210P is compatible with all DVD file formats (including DVD RW/DVD R) and supports both fast and slow playback with sound. Helpful features include high-speed search, instant replay, fast-forward/reverse, and zoom. The included remote can also be paired with your TV to let you use one remote to control everything.
Music-wise, it plays CDs and MP3 discs. It also displays photos from image discs as well.
Audio and visuals are clean, clear and natural looking and sounding. Swap the included RCA composite cable for an RCA component video with audio cable if you want higher-resolution quality.
The ultra-compact design of this player measures 12.6 x 10 x 1.26 inches. It’s an easy player to add to your bedroom or office without taking up too much space.
PROS: Doesn’t get hot to the touch, even after hours of continuous use.
CONS: No ethernet or HDMI ports. No front panel display.
3. Jinhoo DVD Player
Play DVDs from any region with this popular DVD player from Jinhoo. The player supports a ton of formats, including DVD-R/+R, DVD-/+RW, CD-R/-RW, VCD and SVCD. An USB input lets you plug in content from a USB key as well.
An HDMI output, composite video/audio output, and coaxial audio output give you a ton of connectivity options for audio and video.
What we like: the compact size of this DVD player, which makes it great for dorm rooms, dens and more. The player is super lightweight and easy to move around.
This set includes the DVD Player, a remote control (batteries not included), an AV cable, one HDMI cable and a user manual.
PROS: Sets up in minutes. Anti-shock protection means less skipping and interruptions.
CONS: This DVD player only supports USB files up to 16GB and video files up to 720P; it doesn’t support 1080P video. Some found the remote to be small.