Last week, we looked at DVD consoles that require some hard-wiring into the car. But what if you're looking for something easier to keep kids entertained during long car trips?
As you start thinking ahead for March Break, here are some portable DVD and gaming systems sure to help out during the long hours on the road.
Available at: Best Buy, Future Shop, Nintendo Canada
This is a simple, very popular handheld gaming device that is probably best for small kids from around six to nine years old. The controls are dead simple - quite similar to a Wii, as a matter of fact - and there are options to set parental controls for very limited Internet browsing. There are hundreds of child-friendly games to choose from and the devices have a WiFi connection to allow two kids in the same room to communicate via their DS.
If kids get bored of playing the games, they can also take pictures. A simple switch will change the camera view from one facing you to one facing out the back of the console.
Using the stylus, you can also distort the picture with kaleidoscope and smearing effects, which hopefully will produce giggling rather than complaints from the back seat.
A slightly less expensive version, the DS Lite, does most of the above, minus the camera and web-browsing capability.
Available at: Best Buy, Future Shop, Sony Style
The bigger screen is the main appeal of this unit. Unlike the Nintendo DS, which had dead space beside the screen, the GO screen takes up most of the width of this player. Bumbing through games is a bit of a challenge, I found. The newest iteration of this console (it's been out since 2004) moves the buttons closer together. Kids would have little trouble with this function, but teenagers might find squeezing their digits together a bit of a challenge.
Older kids might enjoy the PlayStation's Bluetooth capabilities, which allow it to network with their cellphone or the family computer.
That said, the web browser in the GO was slow and in need of updating. or example, there's no way to pause and resume downloads - something that veteran Firefox users almost take for granted these days.
***** ***** *****
Toshiba 9" Portable DVD Player
Available at: Best Buy, Future Shop, Toshiba Canada
If battery life isn't your main concern - DVD players tend to run out of juice long before a DS or GO would - this is a nice way to pass the time in the back seat.
With dual headphone jacks, two kids can watch a video at the same time or take turns choosing their favourite music.
Video quality on the playback was passable. The sound was a little tinny coming out of the side speakers the player offers, but a set of headphones (with bass) would fix that problem for budding audiophiles.
It's easy to press buttons and navigate through DVD menus using the buttons spread out across the bottom of the screen.
If kids prefer, they can use the remote for navigation - as long as they're not fighting over it. It's a bit bigger than what I would prefer, but on the other hand it makes it harder to lose in the cushions or underneath the seat.