Dear Lifehacker, I would love if Lifehacker did a story on the most user-friendly DVD players available in Australia right now. We often buy a DVD or two each Christmas for my 84-year-old grandmother, but the problem is she really struggles to get them to play. In a way VHS seemed easier, just push in the tape and play - no fiddly menus to get lost in!
I remember LG had a player which simply by-passed the menus and played the main movie - but who knows what the model number is. Anyway, would love to see a story on this if possible so I can shop for a new player for Nan! Cheers, Mark
Finding an easy-to-use DVD player can be challenging. Part of the problem is that mainstream brands have by and large abandoned standalone DVD players, pursuing more profitable growth niches such as Blu-ray players or PVRs. The upside is that you can now easily get a standalone DVD player for under $50. The downside is that the brands are often unrecognisable, the machines rarely get reviewed (or made available for review) and, as you state, sometimes operation can be tricky.
With that said, it's a fairly rare DVD player that doesn't work with most movies if you follow this sequence in my experience:
- Switch on the player.
- Insert the disc.
- Walk away and make a cup of coffee.
- Return and hit the Enter key to start the movie. (Highlight this with a sticker to make it easy for the user to spot.)
Often a source of complication is with getting the player started — newer TVs will auto-switch when they detect DVD input, but the routine can be different for older devices. The other complication is DVDs which ask you to specify a language as soon as you install them.
In terms of specific players, I'm going to ask Lifehacker readers if they can recommend a particular model which has auto-start and other simple operations in the comments. One thing that's always worth checking but often ignored is the remote control design. Small, cheap players often have tiny, over-crowded remote controls. In this context, bigger and fewer buttons are definitely better. Another possible strategy is a portable DVD player, which are now generally sub-$100, as these often have auto-start operation.