Ask Lifehacker: Where Can I Find User-Friendly DVD Players?

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

Hi 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.

Cheers Lifehacker


    I know this is far from an ideal solution but you can use CloneDVD (or similar software, IMHO Slysoft make the best though) to strip the menus and make a disc that will play the feature straight away. Only really an option if you are talking about a relatively small number of DVDs though.

    In my experience DVD players seldom work 100% of the time due to the copy protection etc that gets placed on disks nowa days. Even on an xbox 360, I find I have to re-encode the disks occasionally to get them to play.

    Sadly, IIRC, making copies of your DVD's that will actually play is illegal in Australia. Though someone with a bit more knowledge might be able to correct mee on this.

    I bought a Sony Blu-Ray in the hope that it'll auto-switch my parents Sony LCD TV cause they can only sometimes work out the "complicated" steps to get picture on the telly.

    The other option is a Harmony remote control. I bought my folks one of them, but I need to do some more programming to get it to work properly with the Sony TV

    I think the bigger issue is the actual DVD's themselves and the menus in those rather than the player. Well, it is for me anyway. The menu option to start playing the disc isn't always clear, so if you hit a button as you're picking up the remote it may take a while to find where to actually start watching the movie itself.

    The other problem is using the remote. Anyone with any motor skill issue, such as tremor, can find it very difficult to push any button on the remote only once.
    I get around this by ripping the movie only, then reburning it to a disc with a structure that plays the movie immediately and automatically, so the remote does not have to be used.
    Illegal? Probably, but the media companies would look stupid taking me to court just for making the movie we have bought avaliable to my 84yo mother.

    Look for players featuring "Express Play Start" or "Rocket Start".

    Here's one that I have found;


    I had exactly the same issue with my elderly mother when we upgraded her equipment. What's a "menu"? What does it have to do with watching a movie? She just doesn't get it - and they're rarely consistent.

    Agree with previous comments.

    I have yet to see a DVD player that is designed to be easy for an aged person to operate.

    For starters, such a player would have to have big buttons and big labels on or under the buttons, as many older people have failing eye-sight.

    People with slight dementia also need to be considered.

    This is one of the reasons I download my movies without menus, extras, copyright warnings, ads, etc and put a single movie on each DVD. Stick them in and press play.

    Just burn Nan DVDs from downloaded movies as they do not contain complicated menus.

    Even if you can find a simple player, then how in the world would you know which wire goes where for the correct connection...

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