by Dr. Xin Feng 04/16/01
I have been looking for a pocket (or handheld, LCD) TV for watching news and funny shows right before falling asleep. I like all the Fox funny shows such as Married with Children, Jerry Seinfeld, Home Improvement, except Drew Cary and Mad about You.
I tried couple pocket TVs and I'd like to post my find-outs before they slip away from my memory.
*Battery life is measured with RayoVac 1600mAh Nickel Metal Hydride cells.
Don't be fooled by the number of pixels, which do not necessarily relate to actual screen resolution and picture quality. The Citizen DS888 has the maximum pixels and the lowest price. How can? Because it has the worst picture and reception among the three. All the details are washed out by white color. To me, DS888 is a pain to watch, especially when reception condition is poor, which happens to be my case. Other small problems with DS888: the view angle is not adjustable because the back stand is too short; sound (noise) is not muted while scanning for a station; the last station you watched is not remembered and channel scanning starts from the very left every time you turn it on or switch between external and internal power sources. Compared to Casio, DS888's sound is neither crispy nor pleasant; its reception sensitivity is low and its picture is not watch able at poor reception conditions while Casios are still quite watch able even when signal is weak; its building quality is low and its plastic case looks cheap. It is made in China while the Casios are made in Malaysia. China should have better techniques than other Asian countries except Japan, but it does produce the worst looking products (at the lowest price though).
A serious problem I found with DS888 was that the two scan buttons sometime seemed locked till I pressed them many times. This happened quite often especially at poor reception conditions and was not caused by the buttons themselves. There must be a problem in the firmware and therefore you cannot fix it.
Both TV-880 and EV-550 has no the problems mentioned above. EV-550's TFT screen gives the best picture and details, but TV-880's comes very close. While EV-550's picture is truly crispy and cool, TV-880's is gentle with warm colors. Both EV550 and TV-880 are still quite watch able in my area where, about 25 miles away from TV towers, signals are weak. TV-880 has a better sound than EV-550 with the built-in speaker -- more musical and dynamical, while EV-550 sounds relatively dark and thin. TV-880 looks more rugged and attractive to young people. TV-880 is more ergonomically designed and easier to operate with one hand while EV-550 is limited by its strength on size and weight. Remember, TV-880 is only a little bigger and the extra dimensions and weight worth of the comfort you get. TV-880 uses 4 batteries which is a good thing when you use rechargeable batteries because most chargers take pairs only (oh yap, you have to use the 1600mAh Ni-Metal batteries, as these little guys eat batteries so quickly). I have also noticed that TV-880 gives a steadier reception while standing beside my CF-M32 laptop.
The only problem with TV-880 is that small text are not so readable due to fewer pixels. If you are considering of using a Pocket TV as a monitor for the Pocket EPC or other pocket PCs, EV-550 seems better. However, I tried both on a HP laptop's NTSC output and neither of them was good enough to display at 640x480. For a 70,080 pixels screen, the maximum resolution is 146x160, that's 146x480/3, because each color dot takes up 3 pixels.
So, the winner goes to: Casio TV-880, not just because it is $60 less than EV-550. Its picture is adequate and pleasant for watching. If you want the best picture and more details, go for EV-550 and you won't regret the extra $60.
BestBuy and Target sell TV-880 and EV-550 at the lowest prices, $89 and $149, respectively. Circuit City sells EV-550 for $149 too while TheGoodGuys sells the same thing for $169 (bad guys!).
Note: all these Pocket TVs are not universal. If you are going to use one in China, be sure to get a Pal D/D unit, not a NTSC one.
[05/22/01] Casio's DC jacks are center-negative. Most DC jacks in US are center-positive. Casio knew this and added a diode between the DC jack's negtive pin and the ground, to avoid damage in case you plug in a wrong plug. I.e., if you use an AC adapter that has a popular center-positive plug with a Casio pocket TV, it won't work but no damage though.
This little TV really eats batteries and thus rechargeable batteries must be used or your used batteries will soon pile up to your ceiling. Too bad Casio does not include a charging circuit into the TV as found in most portable CD players. In order to be able to charge Ni-MH batteries in the TV, I had to solder a wire between two of the DC jack pins. Based on my test, a 5.2-5.3V regulated AC adapter works best with 1600mAh Ni-MH batteries. Such an AC adapter charges up the batteries in about 3-4 hours and remains a safe 140-160mA charging current afterwards.
Warning: once you wired the two pins, never plug in a DC power while non-rechargeable batteries are in.
See my tip for rechargeable batteries and chargers.
[09/06/02] The newer EV-670 now uses 4-AA batteries instead of three - Casio must have read my tip!
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Xin Feng Company