Review: Mustek MP100 portable DVD player

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The Propaganda

The Mustek MP100 portable DVD player seems to be designed primarily as a travel companion, particularly for keeping the kids quiet in the back of the car. It boasts a 10 inch widescreen Active-Matrix TFT display, Anti Shock Protection, progressive scan output, and comes with a selection of accessories for connecting and charging the unit.

The Good

As someone who is rarely without my laptop computer, I thought I’d be unlikely to invest in a standalone portable DVD player. However, I found myself really looking forward to reviewing this unit. The specs sound great on paper, and generally the unit doesn’t disappoint.

The whole unit is compact and feels pretty rugged, without being bulky. It’s pretty light to carry around and looks like it will withstand the odd knock or bump. It comes complete with a black carrying case which, whilst not particularly well padded, keeps the player and its accessories neat when travelling, and there’s also room in the bag for additional items (DVDs for example)

Opening up the unit reveals the flip-up loading bay for the DVD. It’s fully safety protected, so there’s no danger of burning your eyes out on the laser. The DVD is clipped in as per most portable drives – the whole mechanism is simple and works.

The 16:9 ratio screen takes up most of the upper lid, as it should. First impressions are that it projects a bright, crisp picture without any image loss. It behaves in much the same way as most modern laptop screens do, so if you’re used to watching DVDs on your notebook, you’ll know roughly what to expect.

Whilst I couldn’t find a screen response rate, the picture is good for an LCD. Colours are rich and blacks display well. There are simple adjustments for brightness and colour depth – probably all that’s needed on this sort of unit. The horizontal (ie side on) viewing angle is pretty acceptable, too, meaning that you could have two people watching it, one or both off-centre, and still maintain colour quality. It tends to start fading and shimmering past about 45 degrees either side, which is good compared to some laptop PCs. There are also two headphone outputs, so you can share the sound with a friend, too.

I liked the remote control – it’s small and thin and with buttons for the more common adjustments you’ll make, including separate buttons for subtitles and audio track. This is a nice touch that saves you having to navigate through a DVD’s menu to find the options you need.

The speakers are also pretty good for a unit this size. Located under the screen, they give out a pretty decent response, and don’t distort even when the volume is at maximum. They even do a fair job of the stereo, if you’re sitting close enough to them.

Finally, the supplied accessories are good. There’s an in-car lighter adapter, for charging on the go, plus a regular AC mains adapter, one pair of headphones, and some audio/video leads for connecting to other equipment.

The Bad

It would be nice if a more detailed manual came with the device. The quick guide gives a basic overview of all the connections and features, but a little more explanation of some features would be good. I know we don’t read manuals, but they are occasionally useful.

At times the sound of DVD spinning was quite noticeable, not only when loading the disc but at times during normal playback. It’s not going to be noticeable when using headphones or when in the car, but in quieter surroundings it was audible.

When the screen is flipped 180 degrees and closed up, pressing the outer edge of the casing brings up the LCD menu momentarily. Again, this isn’t a huge issue but it would be good if the buttons were shielded when the case was closed.

Whilst the horizontal viewing angle is good, the vertical angle is fairly poor, with colours becoming washed out and ghosting at shallow viewing angles. This isn’t a problem when the screen is open, however, as it can be angled much as a notebook screen can.

I noticed some occasional lip syncing problems on one of my DVDs, which I hadn’t noticed on other DVD players, but it was very minor and didn’t affect all content, or even the entire disc. I don’t know if it was the disc at fault or some glitch in the audio and video synchronisation.

And finally, possibly when the battery starts running down, the screen brightness cuts out to almost nothing, though the audio continues to play. As the menu is also then dimmed, it’s difficult to tell what the settings are, and the only way to reset it is to restart the unit. It seemed to happen when running on battery power and switching between scenes, but didn’t happen when operating the unit on mains power. Most odd.

In our opinion

I really liked this player. It does exactly what it’s supposed to without fuss. It doesn’t have the fancy features you’d find on regular DVD players, but then it doesn’t need them. It’s a family friendly that would work well on travelling holidays, and as the screen can also be used with external video sources, it could be used to display camcorder or digital camera footage as well as playing DVDs and CDs. A great little gadget.

Watch the following video for an idea of how it works – apologies for my robotic voice and the dark conditions!

Andy Merrett