Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

New RCA mobile digital TVs give you a picture on the go, up to 100mph

A new line of portable, digital televisions was released by RCA a few weeks back and after testing one of them for about a week I have nothing but good things to say. Battery-operated portable TVs have been around for a long time and always have been a mixed bag. Many, like the Vizio 7-inch TV I recently reviewed, have trouble tuning in stations when indoors. That was the case with the Vizio, unless I used an external antenna, but I still gave it a good review because of the sharpness of the picture and its other features. Asked to recommend a portable TV now, I would go with the ones in the new RCA line.

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The RCA TVs use the ATSC DTV (digital TV) and the MDTV (mobile digital TV) standards. The MDTV standard is pretty new and you need a station in your area broadcasting an MDTV signal to use it. In Tampa Bay the only station I found was WFLA Channel 8. The signal was strong and the picture was very clear. The advantage of MDTV is that you can use the TVs while moving around. RCA says you can be moving at up to 100 mph and the signal will not be lost. I didn't have a racetrack nearby to test that claim, but I did use one of the TVs at about 60 mph and the signal did hold, with some digital breakup of the picture here and there. Three additional Tampa Bay stations are scheduled to start broadcasting the MDTV standard in 2011. You can check other cities at this link.

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In contrast, on the ATSC side of things the TV I tested found 69 local stations and tuned-in 21 of them with signals strong enough to watch, using only the built-in antenna and indoors. The picture was again very sharp, although movement caused some digital breakup.
dmt270r_medium.pngThe sound was acceptable and loud enough to hear with reasonable background noise, but headphones would be a better choice. On the hybrid unit I tested, which was 3.5-inch ATSC DTV and MDTV unit with an FM radio (model DMT336R), jacks are included for headphones, an external antenna and AV out. Included in the box was a AC adapter and charger for the internal Lythium Polymer battery, rated to run the unit for up to four hours on a full charge.

In addition to the unit I tested, RCA also has several others in the lineup. A similar model (model DMT335R) is available without the FM radio feature and it runs on four AA batteries. A 7-inch hybrid model (DMT270R) also is available and on the low end there is an ATSC-only model (DHT235C) that also runs on AA batteries.

All four TVs feature LED backlit LCD screens and they range in price from $89 to $159. If the other models work as well as the one I tested, these TVs get my vote for the best portable TVs currently available.
 

[Last modified: Friday, May 27, 2011 9:22am]

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