The portable cinema
A guide to Hollywood in your hand
Keeping on top of your favourite TV shows and movies has become somewhat of a necessity in this digital age. As everyone from your neighbour to the stranger on the bus happily discusses the pivotal final act of that thing-you-really-love at the top of their lungs on a daily basis. The best media is now available on demand and the communal lounge room viewing experience has become an occasional treat rather than the norm. The portability of laptops, smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles means you can take your entertainment with you wherever you go. Sure, we’re all working later and longer these days but we’re also offorded opportunities to really make the most of those sluggish commutes or never-ending waiting rooms. The options may seem endless when selecting what will become your main go to device for enjoying the fruits of Hollywood – it does seems like anything can play just about everything these days – but there are some key elements that you need to consider to avoid future frustrations and get yourself set-up to happily switch off whenever you feel like it. It’s BYO popcorn though, FYI.
This probably the most important factor to consider. If you’re going to be staring at this thing for an hour or so a day you don’t want it to be doing any major damage to your eyesight. Much smarter people than us have said that ideally you want to be an arms length away from a screen your watching at any given time, so with that as a rough rule (imagine you’re holding your device roughly where you’d hold a broadsheet newspaper to read) a lot of the smaller smartphones aren’t going to cut it. Let’s call five inches wide as your bare minimum for screen size. This does rule out the likes of the iPhone 5 (despite it’s progression to the 16:9 ratio) but it might be worth looking out for the bigger screens promised by the upcoming iPhone 6 range. On the other end of that spectrum anything that’s getting beyond 10 inches wide is starting to defeat the purpose of being portable and lightweight in the first place, so let’s call that your cut off point for smartphones and tablets. If you’re after a netbook stretch that to 11.6 inches just to make sure you can get a full HD screen.
You need to remember that most programming is presented in 16:9 ratio, just like your TV. Keeping this in mind, some tablets and smartphones don’t adhere to this dimensions – most notably the standard iPad – which means have black bars either side of the image you’re watching and the space being used on the device is drastically reduced. You’ll still get these black bars sometimes when watching a film that is presented in a widescreen format but not to this extreme. For that reason we’d rule out anything that doesn’t conform to a 16:9 or 16:10 widescreen format. You want the image to fill out as much of the screen as possible, right? Yep, you do.
A little bit of future proofing never goes astray. A full HD (1080p) display is a must. Don’t settle for mere HD or 720p resolution. 4K or 2K resolution as a standard feature for smaller devices is still a long way from being the norm so don’t get caught up chasing that dragon just yet.
Nobody wants to have their battery run out just when they’re about to find out who the killer is. Also, if you’re using your device for more than just watching movies, killing off your battery before lunchtime is really going to mess up your day. Be sure to look at how much time is listed for “video playback” on a full battery when perusing your specs. Netbooks can chew batteries a lot faster than other portable devices so look at that those very closely. Smartphones are getting better all the time, with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S4 backing itself for 11 hours of video playback. Anything that promises 8 hours minimum of video playback should serve you well.
You won’t always have something loaded on to your device ready to go and the process of downloading and loading up your device every day can be a real chore. Make sure you select a device that has easy direct access to a service from which you can buy content (download or stream).
Most tablets weigh in around 700 grams and that’s not going to put your back out by any stretch. Smartphones are a lot less as are portable gaming devices. Netbooks creep up into the 1.2 kg range and that’s about as far you want to go. Say a brick weighs 2.7 kg – do you really wanna be carrying around half a brick all the time?
An average HD movie comes in at around 4 gig. And average HD TV episode is 1.5 gig. A 12-part series is therefore around 18 GB. It’s nice to have a solid TV series and a couple of movies kicking around on your portable device for a rainy day or a train delay, so we recommend starting off with 32GB of storage space as your minimum. This only really cuts out the basic to medium models when it comes to smartphones and tablets. Go top shelf.
When it comes to sound, it’s all about your headphones. For portability and ease of use, you really want to get a nice set of Bluetooth headphones. This way you’re not dealing with tangling cables every time you stand up or sit down. Pausing and resuming playback is a lot easier when you don’t have to avoid catching a fellow commuter with a wayward cord every time you move about. Keep a back up pair of cheapies for when your battery runs out but these will make your portable cinema experience a lot smoother.
As you can see, there’s quite a few variables when choosing the best way to watch on the run. Hopefully you’re now armed with the info you need when looking to invest in a great portable device for your on screen entertainment. That said, to keep things easy we’ve narrowed down our top choices from each category, all of which fit our strict criteria, of course.
Smartphone: Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Portable Gaming Console: PS Vita + 32GB Memory Card
Tablet: Microsoft Surface 2