What's the best handheld device for watching TV shows?
August 19, 2007 4:41 PM   Subscribe

Best portable device for watching TV shows?

I've got a fairly large amount of TV shows, anime episodes, etc. that I'd like to watch on the go. So what's the best portable device for watching such shows? I'm guessing a PSP is the way to go, because of a perfect intersection of price, relatively large screen size and the added nicety that it plays games.

Is watching a TV show on the PSP a good experience? How much video can you expect to store on it? And how hard is it to get video from various formats into it? (Most of my stuff is avi, but some of it uses odd codecs - I'm assuming there's a swiss-army-knife app out there that loads video onto a PSP?)

Alternately, is there a better device that provides an awesome portable show-viewing experience, that's not too expensive? Bitchin' cell phone, one of those "Life drive" things that Palm made a few years ago, etc.?
posted by jbickers to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Nokia N800 Internet Tablet will play beautiful video--it has a 4-inch 800 x 480 screen. But it's very picky about encoding, so you'd probably have to transcode everything for it.
posted by rikschell at 6:17 PM on August 19, 2007

Don't get the LifeDrive. It's basically the same as the Palm TX but with a built in mini 4GB hard drive. SD cards are cheap now, those drives have been known to fail, and the TX is (last I checked) cheaper. I've used my TX for watching shows, popping mail, and light web-browsing and it's great. If I were to choose something now, though, I'd get something with video out to use with the TV. I don't think anything like that exists at the price point of either the TX or the PSP, however.
posted by monkeymadness at 6:41 PM on August 19, 2007

Oh, and if you get any palm or windows PDA you can get the open source TCPMP which plays just about any format without conversion.
posted by monkeymadness at 6:42 PM on August 19, 2007

Dealhack pointed me towards a good deal on one a few minutes ago, here. Don't know how well it would suit your needs.

In my personal opinion, the best portable media player is a small laptop. It'll play any kind of file, and a lot of people carry their laptops with them all the time anyway.
posted by shanevsevil at 7:20 PM on August 19, 2007

I've watched tons of stuff on a Palm T5 using TCPMP (The Core Pocket Media Player, mentioned by monkeymadness above; its website is apparently defunct but binary downloads are still available via links on that Wiki page), which is a truly slick barebones media player. I prepared everything to maximize utilization of the native 480x320 screen at the original aspect ratio with great success--full framerate videos worked just fine. FairUse Wizard was my video preparation software of choice. It's been a year since I had the train commute that gave me the opportunity to entertain myself this way, however, and there may well be better options.
posted by Songdog at 8:14 PM on August 19, 2007

I am crazy about my Archos AV500 (100 gig drive) ... It plays Divx (or xvid) encoded videos. The screen is beautiful. Speaker isn't too loud so you need headphones if you aren't in a quiet room. Transfers to/from it are pretty fast. It also will hook to a TV and you can control it with the remote to play your vids (think: hotels where the TV has inputs); when you watch it this way the picture is at least as good as VHS.

It also has DVR functionality but I have never used that.

Archos has newer models that are probably even better. I am curious about the one that has wifi... if you have a big media lib on your network that would be sweet around the house.
posted by jockc at 8:37 PM on August 19, 2007

I just recently purchased a Mogul (A.K.A. PPC-6800, Tytan, HTC 6800) from Sprint that I use to watch shows. The phone itself comes with a 512 MB memory card, but I decided to purchase a 2GB card. While I can fit a good amount of shows and movies on the card, I actually chose to go a deferent route.

There is a program called Orb that runs on your computer. You setup the software, create a user name, and point it to your music, videos, pictures, etc.. You can use any browser to login to mycast.orb.com and access your files. If you use a desktop computer, you can watch your shows from the browser of from any media player that supports streaming. From the phone though, visit the same site, navigate to your videos or music and click on it to start the stream. The website measures the speed of your phones connection and send that information back to Orb running on your PC. Orb starts transcoding the video and/or audio and streams it to your phone. No need to waste space on your memory stick. No need to sit at your desktop for hours converting video to be compatable with your device. If your PC can play it, so can your phone!

Beyond using this phone as a media player, I can even begin to tell you how useful it really is. I can confidently say that this phone will last me two years before I will need an upgrade.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 9:48 PM on August 19, 2007

Damn it...

"If you use a desktop computer, you can watch your shows from the browser of from any media player that supports streaming."

browser OR from

"I can even begin to tell you how useful it really is."

I can't even
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 9:50 PM on August 19, 2007

What have you got?

A Pocket PC, Video iPod, Nintendo DS and Sony PSP are all capable of playing video, though some need more extra hardware than others. Heck, my mobile phone (Nokia 6680) can play video if I don't have to be able to read anything.

The best device is one you already own.
posted by krisjohn at 10:58 PM on August 19, 2007

As to your original question, in my humble opinion, a PSP is an absolutely kick-ass movie player.

With caveats. Firstly, there's no on-board memory, so you need to go out an drop some scratch on a MemoryStick, at least 1G (these are getting cheaper nowadays, though). A two-hour movie in MP4 format will be roughly 350-400 Mb. Secondly, Sony makes it reallydifficult to put your own video on the PSP in regards to the naming convention. That is, the video file must be MP4, with a certain name, and a thumbnail with a matching name....you essentially need a program like PSP Video 9 to convert any file to run on the PSP.

BUT, once all that is done, it's the best video player out there. Forget the iPhone even, the PSP has an even bigger screen than that. So if you can overlook the small technical headaches, you'll be happy with the screen itself.
posted by zardoz at 11:05 PM on August 19, 2007

The Cowon A2: 8-10hours battery life playing video, great screen, handles mpg, divx, xvid, no DRM or jumping through hoops.
posted by MotorNeuron at 5:12 AM on August 20, 2007

Seconding the Archos AV500. Had mine 2 years and it's sweet. Constantly get air crew asking me about it - very nice for long haul flights or simple commuting.
posted by arcticseal at 6:16 AM on August 20, 2007

I've watched a lot of video on handlheld devices over the past few years. At various times, I've used a PocketPC, a Palm device, a Video iPod, a PSP and now I have an iPhone.

The iPhone wins hands down. It has a beautiful screen and the experience of loading video on the device (via iTunes) rocks. Having a movie or a couple of TV episodes with you and available to watch if you have some downtime is very cool. If you would happen to obtain an iPhone for this purpose, spend the extra $100 on the 8GB version so you have plenty of room for video.

zardoz above is spot on about the PSP. It is a fantastic video player, but actually loading video on it is a pain. Once you figure out the process, it is doable and it works, but still not what I would call a user friendly experience.
posted by rglasmann at 7:44 AM on August 20, 2007

I use either a laptop for home viewing, working with full size high quality videos (700MB for 2 hour movies, 180MB for 23 minute sitcoms). Rather than rely on the laptop speaker, I sometimes hook up external speakers.

For watching TV on the go, I use a pocketpc (320x240 resolution, 64k colors), and I shrink down videos to about 20-40MB for a 23 minute sitcom. This is better for watching shows that don't need high video quality, where details aren't as important, or shows that I've already seen (like Seinfeld).

I'm trying to justify the purchase of an Archos or other dedicated player, but beyond the DVR capability, find it hard to justify.
posted by indigo4963 at 8:43 AM on August 20, 2007

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