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Polaroid PDM-1040U

When name dropping portable electronics manufacturers, Polaroid (best known for their instamatic cameras) is probably not at the top of your list. Nonetheless on paper at least (10” widescreen LCD, ESP, 3-hour battery) with the PDM-1040U Polaroid seem to have an impressive unit. Read on to see if testing bears this out. Thanks go to Geeks for providing us this item for review.

DVD Player     DVD Player Open

The Polaroid PDM-1040U arrived in such a large box I at first thought Geeks had sent the wrong item. Turns out it was just well protected by that relatively new packing material that seems to be replacing peanuts these days. I have no idea what the proper industry term for it is so I will just call it “air pillows”. The Polaroid PDM-1040U box itself is brightly colored and well illustrated if you care about those sort of things. On a more practical note it also sports a fair amount of product information.

Inside the box you find the Polaroid PDM-1040U player itself as well as a whole mess of accessories (remote control, AC adapter, A/V cable, DC adapter, headphones, rechargeable battery, car bag, owners manual, warranty card) most of which we will try to touch on briefly.

DVD Player Box     DVD Player Box Open

Specs/Features:

-10” widescreen (16:9) LCD
-Screen swivels 180 degrees
-Plays DVD, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW
-Plays music CDs, CD-R/RW
-JPEG image compatible
-Built-in Dolby Digital decoder
-Built-in stereo speakers
-ESP (Electronic Skip Protection)
-Switchable audio and video input/output
-Compatible with most gaming systems
-Resolution: 800 x 400 TFT LCD
-Dimensions: 10.5in x 7.5in x 1.2in (L*W*D)
-Weight: 2.8 lb approximate

Back to my thoughts on the accessories. The remote control was a little larger than I expected, maybe 1 ½ the size of a credit card, which means you trade a little portability for ease of use. The buttons are large, well labeled, and features of the player are available without going through lots of menus. You can, for instance, turn the subtitles on or off at the touch of a single button.. For some reason my unit included two AC adapters. The 12v DC adapter is of course for use in your car, which we will talk more about later. As with the other portable DVD players I have owned the remote of the Polaroid PDM-1040U for some reason isn't able to adjust sound levels.

DVD Player Remote

The Polaroid PDM-1040U battery lasted an impressive 3-hours and 3-minutes. To simulate real world usage I didn't just pop in a disc and let it run either, I messed with the menus, used the search, powered the unit off and on multiple times, jacked up the audio, most anything I could think of to try and run down the battery faster. When I started this review I was rather skeptical of the 3-hour battery claims on the box, since this is the third portable DVD player I have owned. While one of the others was able to hit the 3-hour battery mark its screen was 3” smaller than this unit. Looks like I was wrong here on the battery life, something I am usually loath to admit (ask my wife).

DVD Player Battery

The car bag is--pardon the pun--somewhat of a mixed bag. While I applaud Polaroid trying to broaden the appeal of their player by adding to its functionality with a car bag, that functionality has to work properly for it to be useful. You see, this portable DVD player can be placed in the included car bag, and the car bag can then be attached to the back of a car seat headrest, and the mode button used to invert the picture, and then you can rotate the screen 180 degrees. From there you can fold it down and lock it in place with the lid closed flush. All this is great, and to be applauded. The problem is that the unit won't reliably play a disc in this vertical position, frequently locking up and jumping back to the main menu after a few seconds, occasionally playing a few minutes, and sometimes failing to even initialize a disc for play altogether.

DVD Player Bag

The Polaroid PDM-1040U has one of the better written manuals I have seen lately. Not only is it clear and informative, but at 45 pages it seems to answer most all product questions I had. As a bonus the English portion of the manual seems to have been written by someone who actually speaks English as their first language. As for the warranty card, what can I say? Your receipt is your warranty. Your manufacturer knows this; the purpose of having you fill out the warranty registration card is so that they can add you to their mailing list.

Enough yapping about the accessories and their function. Let's talk some about general usage. The 10” widescreen LCD is the nicest I have seen in a portable DVD player: crisp picture, no dead pixels, no ghosting, no dark spots, plenty of brightness, and no loss of focus--even around the edges. The cover is held closed with a set of magnets on each end instead of some sort of prone-to-break-if-frequently-used latch, a feature I, being a heavy user, appreciate. The screen swiveling 180 degrees is more useful than I would have thought, because with a unit this size it is not always practical, especially in tight spaces to just rotate the entire quite substantial base.

Portable DVD Player

The Polaroid PDM-1040U is compatible with a wide variety of formats and I had no problem with playing any of those. They include, DVD (duh), DVD-R, DVD-RW, audio CDs, CD-R, and CD-RW. JPEG image playback also worked as it should. Although not listed as compatible I was nonetheless disappointed by the unit's lack of MP3 playback. For some reason this feature seems to be hit or miss as one of the other portable DVD players I had previously could handle this format and one could not. Maybe it is just me, but it seems like MP3 playback would be a no-brainer if you were designing a portable DVD player as you can easily fit hundreds of hours of music on one DVD (MP3) versus an hour or so for an Audio CD (Red Book).

In ESP testing, ESP meaning “Electronic Skip Protection” not ESP meaning “Extra Sensory Perception” (sorry, but I am not channeling Elvis or Michael Jackson for this review) things seem to work as advertised. Gas being nearly 3 usd a gallon and me driving an old 1988 Mercury Grand Marquis--a car that you can actually watch the needle drop when you mash the gas pedal--I didn't take a real road trip to test the ESP functionality. I settled for the distinctly unscientific method of sitting the Polaroid PDM-1040U in my lap and bouncing my legs while playing a disc to see if I could get the player to skip. I couldn't.

If compared solely against other portable electronics the Polaroid PDM-1040U sounds just fine. There is plenty of volume, the mid-range is clear and distinct, it even sounds better than my laptop. Still the lack of bass at times makes for some quite tinny listening. If you were to close your eyes the Polaroid PDM-1040U would never be mistaken for something larger, say even a decent mid-range boom box.. Audiophiles should seriously consider using the included behind-the-ear headphones, especially when listening to music. Again, don't take this as criticism of the Polaroid PDM-1040U sound capabilities too seriously, as I have never heard any portable unit with speakers of this size that I was entirely happy with.

Conclusion:

With its large swiveling screen, clear picture, good battery life, and wide disc format compatibility, the Polaroid PDM-104U mostly lives up to the hype. The only major problem noted is the PDM-1040U doesn't operate reliably while the base is positioned vertically. This limits its use as an in-car solution.

Pros:

  • Superb 10” widescreen
  • Legit 3-hour battery life
  • 180 degree swivel screen
  • Wide disc format compatibility

Cons:

  • Unit doesn't play reliably vertically
  • No MP3 playback

I would like to thank Geeks for providing us with the Polaroid PDM-104U DVD player for review. This item can be purchased at Geeks for 159 usd. Geeks also has a large variety of other portable DVD players available including a Polaroid similar to this one with an 8" screen.

Geeks

Added: April 8th 2007
Reviewer: JimAdkins
Score: 9  
Related Link: Polaroid
Hits: 9709
Language: english

  

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