K&W Home Automation




TechnoFILE is copyright and a registered trademark © ® of
Pandemonium Productions.
All rights reserved.
E-mail us Here!
Panasonic's PalmTheatre<

Panasonic "PalmTheatre" Portable DVD Player

For those who believe the one with the most toys wins

By Jim Bray

Talk about your ultimate toy! Panasonic's  "PalmTheatre" is the sort of gadget for the person who has to have everything - and will pay for the privilege. It's a slick little handheld DVD player that's perfect for those long plane rides where you don't want to watch the airline's movie. It's great for car trips, too: throw the thing in the back with the ankle biters and you'll never hear "are we there yet?" again!

The L10 is totally impractical except as an indulgence - but as such is a marvelous machine and we wish we owned one. Except for its $1999CDN ($1395US) price...

Okay, I can think of another legitimate use: for travelling salespeople to use for demonstrating their product. But that'll have to wait until they get their videos transferred onto DVD, which probably won't take long.

Tiny Toons

This tiny little sucker is about twice the size of a portable CD player, and I would have thought that would have meant it was squint city when it comes to watching a movie. Such is not the case, however. I was amazed at just how great a viewing experience the L10's widescreen LCD screen gives. Oh, sure, it can't beat a huge screen, but you'd be surprised how much you can enjoy a flick on this beastie - especially when you're plugged into it via a set of decent headphones.

Headphones are recommended because, just as with notebook computer audio, the built in sound leaves a tad to be desired. You can't turn it up loud enough without it distorting and the sound quality is as befits tiny little speakers. Besides, you don't want to disturb everyone else on the plane, do you?

That said, you can plug the unit into your home theatre, too, which means you can make the player double as a home unit and a portable unit - which is probably the only way one can justify the price!

Unfortunately, I had a big problem when running the PalmTheatre through my TV, in that I couldn't access the unit's "aspect ratio" control, which tells the machine if you're outputting to a widescreen or squarescreen TV. I can't even be sure there is such a control; I sure as heck couldn't find it, though it could be accessible via a remote control. We didn't have a remote, however (our test unit was a preproduction prototype that didn't have all the final features included - and all the menus were in Japanese, which didn't help us a lot!), so can't be sure.

If that aspect ratio switch is missing it's a real flaw in this machine, because my widescreen DVD's (which looked terrific on the unit's built in screen) would be all stretched out of shape on the regular TV, like widescreen movies are on TV sometimes during the opening and/or closing credits when they take off the Cinemascope lens to make the lettering fit from side to side on the screen. This is totally unacceptable, especially for two grand, but I'll give Panasonic the benefit of the doubt by assuming it'll be addressed in the final release model.

The screen, which flips up like that on a notebook computer, is in a very cinematic 16:9 aspect ratio. It's a 5.8 inch LCD that displays 280,000 pixels, and to be honest it's one of the best pictures I've seen from an LCD, though it certainly doesn't hurt having it display DVD images, which are about as good a source as you can get. We noticed some noise, and some horizontal "bars" could be seen rising on the screen during dark sections, but on the whole we were mighty impressed. And who knows, the minor flaws we saw could also have to do with the prototypical nature of our sample.

There's a switch below the screen with which you can switch from Normal to Full or Zoom, depending on the source DVD. We found this came in handy with our copy of "the English Patient," which was not only letterboxed on the little LCD, but which was also "keyholed" (not filling the screen from left to right, leaving black spaces around the picture: pressing "Zoom" made the movie fill the screen perfectly.

And despite the limited buttons, you can still do freeze frames, forward and reverse scans, jump to chapters, and mess around with a lot of other parameters. It seems like a relatively fully featured unit, but (as mentioned) since the menus were in Japanese we can't be absolutely sure.

Speaking of fully featured, the PalmTheatre even has an optical digital audio output, which is nice to see. And of course the unit puts out its audio in Dolby Digital (AC-3) sound, as befitting the DVD standard.

The life of the rechargeable battery pack is said to be 2 hours (so you'd better bring spares for that cross country trip!), but the battery in our prototype didn't work at all, so we couldn't run it down. I'd like to see a car cigarette lighter adapter, too, though not for front seat use: drivers in our neck of the woods are bad enough already without giving them the added challenge of driving and watching "Titanic" at the same time!

Oh, and talk about a conversation piece! Everywhere I took the PalmTheatre, people were coming over to rubberneck at the outrageous little gadget. It not only made me feel very artificially important, it taught me the importance of trying to keep my movie selection quite innocuous when in public...

Although this is undoubtedly as much an exercise in technical bragging rights as marketing, Panasonic has really pulled off a nice coup with this L10 portable DVD player. I'm hooked - though I wouldn't buy one unless they fix that aspect ratio problem - and I'm confident that any shortcomings mentioned here (including the aspect ratio) will be addressed in the production model.

Or, as is sometimes the case, in next year's model...

Well, done, Panasonic!

Panasonic's L10 "PalmTheatre" Portable DVD Player

weigh: 2.01 pounds (without battery)


Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think













Support TechnoFile
via Paypal

TechnoFILE's E-letter
We're pleased to offer
our FREE private,
private E-mail service.
It's the "no brainer"
way to keep informed.

Our Privacy Policy

Updated May 13, 2006