Although portable DVD decks are still a popular way of watching films on the move, their future could be under threat from portable Blu-ray players, the first of which was unveiled by Panasonic at this year's CES. When Toshiba unveils its new range of UK home entertainment products later this month, it's a safe bet that portable Blu-ray players won't be on the agenda - but that's not necessarily a bad thing, considering that Toshiba makes some of the best portable DVD models on the market, as we found with the SD-P91 - a stylish unit with a 9in screen.
Joining this player in Toshiba's current range is the SD-P71S, which features a smaller 7in, 16:9 LCD screen with a 480 x 234 resolution, but this isn't simply a scaled-down version of the SD-P91 - the design is completely different. After pulling it out of the box, the first thing that jumps out is the all-over rubberised finish, which gives the unit a pleasing robustness and makes its build quality seem better than the pricier SD-P91S. It's still light and compact, even with the detachable battery pack attached to the rear.
Like the SD-P91S, the 71S features a flip-up screen, but unlike its bigger brother the screen doesn't swivel. The built-in speakers are located below the screen on the top half and on the lower section you'll find all the buttons you need to navigate menus and control playback, and their silver colour juxtaposes stylishly with the black finish. The rest of the lower section is taken up by the lid of the disc tray, which pops up at the touch of a button.
The SD-P71S lacks the USB port found on the SD-P91S, which leaves CD and DVD as the only way of playing back multimedia files, but the rest of the sockets are exactly the same. There are two headphone ports, AV input and output minijack sockets (for which you'll need the supplied adapter cable) and a 3.5mm coaxial digital audio output, which feeds Dolby Digital and DTS bitstreams to surround sound receivers.
The unit supports DivX movies (version 6), MP3 audio and JPEG photos from recordable CDs and DVDs, plus it'll spin DVD-RW, DVD-R, DVD+RW and DVD+R discs created on DVD recorders. When fully charged the battery lasts for three hours, which isn't as good as the five hours offered by the SD-P91S but should still allow you to squeeze in a film or two.
As expected for a portable player, the features are few in number, but there are several handy functions. The picture button on the remote (found under the screen on the 91S) brings up an onscreen menu that allows you to flip the screen upside down, adjust the brightness and colour levels or flick between 16:9 and 4:3 modes. Elsewhere is the less-exciting-than-it-sounds Enhanced Audio Mode, which adds a ‘3D surround' effect to the sound when listening through stereo speakers, and a zoom mode that enlarges the image in three steps.