In terms of picture quality, the LS84 is a tad disappointing. We've reviewed a clutch of players with insufficient resolution to display DVDs properly, and the Panasonic is yet another to fall foul of this. We thought that that 8in screen may have necessitated a higher resolution but the 480 x 234 screen leaves our Spider-Man 2 disc looking short on detail, jagged along diagonal edges and suffering from a noticeable chicken wire effect.
But the problem runs deeper than a lack of pixels. The other flaw is the awkward colour balance - skin tones (particularly Kirsten Dunst's) have an overly reddish tinge, which improves after some fiddling around with the screen settings but it still can't quite resolve the image's slightly unnatural look.
There are some plus points to report, such as the punchiness of the picture, the solidity of blacks and the general lack of noise, but on the whole the images offered by portables from LG, Philips and Toshiba have been more impressive. We normally point out at this stage that these flaws might not matter to some users, as the pictures are fine for casual viewing in the back of the car - but even still it would be nice to see more portable DVD decks with sharper screens.
Through a good pair of cans the LS84 delivers crisp and punchy sonics with movies and music, and the headphone virtual surround mode does a reasonably effective job. But through the speakers, the sound lacks bass and the tinny sound gets fatiguing after a while, particularly with high-octane action scenes - pretty much par for the course as far as portables are concerned. The various sound modes don't make a great deal of difference to the sound characteristics either, although on the plus side dialogue is clearly reproduced.
Finally, searching for and playing digital media files from disc is a hassle-free experience thanks to the clear onscreen displays, and the unit loads all the supported files with pleasing speed.
The DVD-LS84 has many things to admire, namely its novel viewing options, all round usability, wide media support and long battery life. But its underwhelming picture quality and lack of USB/SD card slots make it a less appealing proposition than the Toshiba SD-P73S or the LG DP391B, particularly at this comparatively high price.