A Dancer's Review of the

Polaroid PDV-0700 Portable DVD Player

For some time, I wanted a portable DVD player with a built-in screen that I could use to watch DVD's on airplanes and in cars. It also seemed like something I could use to show DVD's in my dance classroom, provided I could borrow a television set to plug my DVD player into.

Which Is Better, Portable DVD Player or Laptop Computer?

First I tried using a laptop computer with a DVD drive for my portability needs, but eventually I decided to get the portable DVD player anyway. Here are the pros and cons I have experienced of using a laptop versus a portable DVD player:

Advantages of the Laptop Computer

Advantages of the Portable DVD Player

  • Can also be used for many other things, such as surfing the web from your hotel room, playing solitaire, authoring documents, etc.
  • If the purpose of the travel is business, it may be necessary to take the computer along anyway, so it's easier to take just one device and use it for both business and DVD watching.
  • If you don't like the way one piece of software behaves, you can replace it with something else you like better. Many computers that have DVD drives come with two DVD playback software products, Windows Media Player and one other. The one other is often either Intervideo WinDVD or PowerDVD. It is also possible to download the RealOne Player player free from the Internet. With a portable DVD player, if you don't like the way the software behaves, you're stuck with it anyway.
  • Laptops typically have larger screen sizes than affordable portable DVD players, offering a better view of the picture.
  • A computer can play VCD's. Some portable DVD players can not. Some foreign dance videos from Turkey and Egypt come on VCD discs rather than DVD.
  • A person who doesn't yet own a laptop computer and doesn't need one can buy a portable DVD player for much less than the price of a computer.
  • Laptop computers often have battery lives too short to watch an entire movie intact from beginning to end. A spare battery for a laptop computer sometimes costs more money than an entire portable DVD player, and you have to remember to charge the spare battery as well as the primary battery before you travel! A portable DVD player typically has plenty of battery life to allow watching a typical full-length DVD.
  • Portable DVD players are easier for people who are uncomfortable with technology to operate. Computers can be intimidating.
  • A portable DVD player typically has built in video output jacks allowing you to plug it into a television set for display on a separate television screen. Most laptop computers don't have video output.
  • Depending on the DVD authoring tools and options used by the DVD producer, some DVD's won't work on computers but will work on dedicated-purpose DVD player.
  • If the machine is lost, stolen, or damaged while traveling, a portable DVD player is less painful to lose than a computer.

Belly Dance Music


When I finally decided to purchase a portable DVD player, I chose the Polaroid PDV-0700. My reason for choosing this model over other brands was mostly because this one can be set to any region I want, as often as I want, allowing me to play DVD's from dancers all over the world. Most belly dance DVD's are region-free, but I have encountered a few that had region encoding, and I wanted a DVD player that would allow me to play them.

The machine I chose has a built-in screen so I can watch DVD's on it without a television set. Its small size makes it easy to carry around. A headphone jack lets me watch videos without annoying people around me. It comes with video cables that can be plugged into a television set, which makes it possible to take it to classes or someone else's house to share the videos with a group of people.

Here are the technical specifications of the Polaroid machine that I chose along with my comments for the benefit of those of you who don't know what all this technical gobbledygook means:

  • Screen size: 7 inches. I found this to be perfectly adequate for viewing by myself, but a bit too small for sharing with another person.
  • Video format support: NTSC, which means it can play the DVD's sold for use in North America. I haven't yet tried to play a PAL DVD (that is, a DVD sold for use in Australia, Europe, and other parts of the world) in it to see what happens, but I intend to. I predict that I will be able to display the PAL DVD on the built-in screen, but not through the video output to an NTSC television set. I am looking forward to testing it.
  • Display type: Active matrix LCD. This is a good thing. It means the colors are rich, and the screen is backlit.
  • Output jacks: One headphones jack, one audio (optical out), one video
  • Laser wavelength: 780/650nm. I have no clue whether this is a "good" setting or not!
  • Comes with several accessories, as follows:
    • Remote control. Some functions are available only on the remote and cannot be accessed from the buttons on the device itself. This is bad, because it means you're in big trouble if you lose the remote.
    • DC power adapter for car cigarette lighters
    • AC power adapter that works for 100-240 volts. This means you can use the device in either the U.S. (where power sources are 110 volts) or other countries like Europe and Egypt (where power sources are 220 volts) without needing a converter. You would still, however, need a plug adapter that allows the two flat prongs of a U.S. plug to fit into the two circular holes of a typical European or Egyptian wall outlet. This AC adapter also charges the battery.
    • Rechargeable Battery that lasts about 3 hours
    • Video output cables for use in playing back on a separate television set instead of the built-in screen
    • 26-page instructional manual which comes in three languages, English, French and German. This manual is not particularly well written; it omits a lot of information I wanted to know (such as the customer service telephone number for help when the device doesn't work), and buries other information in obscure places where it's hard to find. See the section below on what I didn't like for more detail about how the manual fell short.
  • Weight: about 2 1/2 pounds (1.154 kilogram).
  • Plays DVD, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, Picture CD, and MP3 discs, according to the manual. I tried a DVD-R and a DVD+R too even though the manual doesn't say it supports it, and found I was able to play these just fine.
  • Region: It claims to be Region 1. However, there is an undocumented feature which allows it to play DVD's encoded for other regions. If you use the remote and know the magic incantation, you can set it to be regionless (what some people call region-free or Region 0), or you can set it to any region you wish from 1 to 6. You can change the region as often as you like; there is no limit.
  • Progressive Scan: No.
  • Built-in Speaker. The quality is adequate for my uses, but a person who loves high-quality stereo sound would sneer at it.
  • Custom Bookmarks: Not supported. If you want to use this for dance DVD's, you might find this lack of a bookmark feature annoying. It means you can't set a bookmark at the point you want to skip forward/back to later (for example, the beginning of a section teaching a move you want to rewind and study).
  • Karaoke: No. You can't use this as a karaoke machine.
  • Size: Width is 7.7 inches (19.5 cm), height without battery is 1.1 inch (2.8 cm), front-to-back size is 5.7 inches (14.5 cm). In other words, if you placed two of these side-by-side on a table with their lids closed and their batteries attached, they would cover the same amount of space as my laptop computer but the DVD player would be about twice the height of the laptop.
  • Screen Dimensions: Physical screen size is 16:9, which means you can watch the newer widescreen DVD's such as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings and see the full width of the movie displayed on the built-in screen. For DVD's sized 4:3 for a traditional television set (these are often called "full-screen"), it's possible to display them centered in the middle of the built-in screen, with blank vertical bars on either side of the center image. I'm satisfied with how both types of DVD's display on this machine.
  • Price Range: The cheapest I have seen this for is $140. The most expensive I have seen is $300! It's a very good idea to shop around and compare prices before you buy!

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers


Generally speaking, this is a handy little machine, and it's well suited for use by people who might feel a little intimidated by technology. If I had it to do over, I probably would have shopped around some more before choosing this particular model, because I discovered after taking it home that it lacks certain functionality that is important to me. Unfortunately, because of these limitations I don't expect to use it as much as I originally intended.

It's great if you simply want to watch a movie. The image is sharp and clear on the screen, the controls are easy to use, and the headphone jack allows the user to enjoy it without bothering other people who may be sitting nearby. It comes with both a DC power cord for use in a car cigarette lighter, and an AC power cord for use in wall outlets, which makes it very portable. It doesn't come with headphones, but that's okay with me because I prefer to purchase those separately anyway.

Photo of the Device

It's simple enough for my "afraid of technology" 82-year-old mother to use, and equally simple for a small child.

The problem arises if you want to cue the machine up to a specific point in the video, and the DVD author didn't happen to put a chapter break where you need it. For example, for an instructional belly dance DVD I often want to rewind back to the beginning of a move to watch it again, or make a note of where I ended on a particular day and cue up to that spot the next time I use it. Or, for a performance oriented DVD, I might want to cue up to a particular dance.

If the DVD author put chapter breaks at the beginning of each move's instruction and each performance, then it's easy enough on this machine to skip to the desired chapter. However, if I need to fast-forward or rewind within a chapter, it's very painful. There is no way to set a bookmark I can skip directly to when I return. On a VHS tape on my VCR, I can write down how many minutes into the tape the chosen segment is, and I can then use the counter on the VCR to fast-forward or rewind to that point. The same is true of the DVD playback software in my laptop computer, but my laptop takes it one step further and offers a bookmark feature I can use to jump to the most commonly-played segments. But because the Polaroid PDV-0700 doesn't support bookmarks, it's just as inconvenient as a VHS tape to cue to the desired place.

What I Like

  • The 7-inch screen size may sound small, but the picture quality is surprisingly clear and I'm happy with it. It's definitely good enough for one person to watch in the cramped space of an airplane seat (easier to maneuver than a laptop computer), but I haven't tested how well it would work for two of us trying to watch it together. It supports three different display modes: traditional television size with pan & scan (4:3), traditional television size with letterbox, or widescreen (16:9). The widescreen is great for the new widescreen DVD's like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.
  • The sound quality has been fine, both through speakers and through headphones. Stereo snobs will sneer at it, but it's good enough for me.
  • The battery life seems to be about 3 hours, which means I can watch a complete DVD plus its extras on an airplane without a power plug. It used to drive me nuts that my laptop computer would run out of power before the DVD was over, so this machine solves that problem.
  • The machine contains an undocumented feature: you can switch it from one region to another. This was the main feature that drove me to take the plunge and buy this machine. It means I can watch dance DVD's that were originally produced with the intent of being sold in other countries, such as Europe, Australia, etc. This "hiding" of the feature is intentional. I don't yet have a region 2 disk to test it, but I did change it from region 1 to region 2, then put a Harry Potter region 1 disk in, which did give the expected error message that it was the wrong region. I then changed the DVD player to region 0 (regionless), and that was able to play the Harry Potter movie, so I think the 0 setting will work for most people's purposes who want to watch worldwide DVD's. If you decide to buy one of these, here is how to change the region:
    • Make sure there's not a DVD in the machine.
    • Power the machine on.
    • Using the remote, press the setup button.
    • Use the right-arrow key to move to the "Preferences" menu.
    • Press these numeric keys on the remote in this exact order: 1379
    • The machine should display the current region. Use the up/down arrows to choose which region from 1 to 6 (or 0/regionless/region-free) you want.
  • The DVD player seems to be reasonably durable. My kittens have scampered across it without harm. It traveled to Egypt and back with me in my carry-on luggage. I shipped it via UPS 2,000 miles from California to Iowa inside a suitcase full of other stuff and it arrived fine. I don't have any children, so I can't comment on how well it would survive kid-level handling.
  • Calling customer service for help with a technical problem was a positive experience. Their phone number isn't published in the manual, but it is 1-866-289-5168 if you should need to know that. The representative quickly figured out that my problem was that the AV switch on one side of the unit had been nudged into the wrong position when I shipped it. When I moved it to the correct "Out" position, the problem was solved. I experienced no phone tree pain, short hold time, pleasant & knowledgeable representative, and rapid resolution to my problem.

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers

What I Don't Like

My biggest complaint is the lack of a counter feature, because this prevents me from using the machine the way I intended. I acknowledge that your requirements may be different from mine. Beyond that particular issue, which I have already described in detail under the Overview section above, here are my other complaints about this machine:

  • The keypad on the machine itself has very limited functionality. Many of the features are accessible only through the remote control, including fast-forwarding, rewinding, displaying the counter on-screen, and the ability to change from one region to another. That means you have one more battery that could go bad (the one in the remote), plus if you lose the remote you lose significant functionality.
  • Although the video comes with several accessories (remote control, two power cords, video output cables, etc.), it does not come with a case to carry/store them in. You need to provide that separately.
  • The video output feature works only with the cables that come with it. It's not possible to use separately-purchased cables for displaying on a separate television. This means you'll lose functionality if you lose the original cables that come with it, or if they are damaged over time.
  • After my first experience with customer service, a different problem arose and I needed to call again. This time, the phone number gave me "We're sorry, your call did not go through, please check the number and try again." I tried again in 20 minutes and that time it worked. So, getting through on that number is not 100% reliable but if you keep trying it seems to work eventually.
  • I find the manual to be very superficial, and lacking in the information I needed. Here are several examples:
    • The manual doesn't give the customer service phone number.
    • I had a problem with the machine refusing to display the video image. I tried using the "Troubleshooting" page of the manual to resolve it before calling customer service, but that failed to provide the information that would have solved my problem. After talking with customer service, I discovered it was a simple matter of a particular switch being in the wrong position. I moved the switch to the correct position, and it was fine.
    • So then I looked up that switch in the manual to see what it does and the information in the manual was skimpy, not helpful. Not helpful at all.
    • It says on a specifications page that the unit is NTSC, but what will it do if I put a PAL DVD in it? Will it display the DVD for me? The manual doesn't say.
    • It says the machine works with DVD, but doesn't specify whether it supports the various writeable DVD formats such as DVD-R. (I found through testing that it does.)
    • There is no index, making it a nuisance to find the page with the information I need.
    • Some key information, although present in the manual, appears in tiny letters and is difficult to find. For example, it wasn't easy finding the information about what region code this DVD player supports.
  • As mentioned at the beginning of this review, the machine supports 3 different ways of displaying the screen size: traditional television dimensions of 4:3, letterbox, and widescreen. The machine fails to automatically recognize which type a given DVD is, so I have to manually set it to the right size.
  • The software is somewhat buggy. For example, using the remote control I changed the screen size from "Widescreen" (movies) to the setting for traditional television sets (4:3). The on-screen text confirmed that my change had been applied. However, when I put a traditional-tv 4:3 DVD into the machine, it still displayed it as wide, with lots of distortion. Using the remote, I double-checked the settings, and it claimed to be set the way I wanted it. Once again, the manual failed to provide enlightenment. I called customer service for help, and the representative couldn't figure it out, either. She told me to reset it to factory defaults, but that didn't solve the problem. I eventually figured out that there is a "Mode" button on the machine surface that toggles between the three video screen sizes, and thankfully that works properly.
  • I tried to order a second battery for this machine on the Internet, but it hasn't been easy to find one that is compatible. I've given up.

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers


If you had asked me what I thought of this machine in the first month I owned it after I watched a movie on it, I would have raved about how wonderful it is. However, I was somewhat disillusioned by the software bug with using the remote to set the screen size and the poor documentation. If a friend asked me whether or not I would recommend it, I would ask whether a bookmarking feature would be important to them. If they're a dancer who wants to jump straight to favorite sections that don't have chapter breaks or review certain scenes, I would advise them to either buy a different portable DVD player or consider whether a laptop computer might offer enough value to be worth the additional cost.

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers

Where to Buy One

If you want to buy one, and you enjoy buying through Amazon.com, you might want to consider using this link to buy it from Amazon because doing so will generate a small commission to me and help fund my web site:

Buy<==Available from Amazon.com in the United States. I was not able to find this item offered through Amazon.ca (Canada) or Amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom).

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