Last Updated on July 14, 2016 by Dave Farquhar
I thought the steady stream of Thomas the Tank Engine, Dora, Bob the Builder, Thomas, Thomas, Thomas, Elmo, Thomas, and Thomas had finally done in our DVD player after almost 8 years.
It turned out the VCR I was running the video through was actually the problem, but what I learned in shopping for a potential replacement suggests I may want to think about replacing it anyway.Modern DVD players will upscale your old DVDs to make them almost hi-def, and have HDMI ports for digital connection to HDTVs. But they do more than that.
Mid-range ($50 and up) players include a USB port, so you can plug a flash drive or hard drive into them, and they’ll play MP3 audio or DIVX video off them.
Due to the United States’ anti-fair-use laws, I won’t tell you how to do it, but what you’ll want to do is rip your DVDs to a USB hard drive, convert them to DIVX, then plug them into your DVD player. Ask Google how. Then you have a library of movies in a 5-inch box and don’t have to mess with discs. That’s a big plus when you have small kids like I do. Plug in the box, turn it on, and pick your movie or show from the on-screen menu.
For ages, I’ve been planning to build a media center PC for just this purpose.
But I think I’d really rather just buy a $50 DVD player and plug a USB hard drive into it. Even though our 32″ CRT TV can’t really take advantage of a modern player’s video capability, the convenience of not fiddling with discs (and no risk of scratching them) makes it worth the 50 bucks. And once LED-lit LCD TVs get affordable, the DVD player will be ready for it when I upgrade.
Update: Rather than buy a pricier DVD player, you might want to consider a $35 DVR, which can double as a media player.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.
One thought on “DVD players as cheap home media centers”
We bought a Pioneer DV-400V-K a year or so ago at Wal-Mart.com for about $79 that does an outstanding job of upconverting DVDs. The results look great on our 50-some-odd inch Samsung 1080p DLP set. It’s got a USB port, too. And my wife picked up a 42″ LG flat-panel with LED backlighting for just a hair under $600 a few weeks ago for the family room, also at wal-mart.com. Doesn’t have the fanciest features (120 MHz, 3D, etc…) but it’s full 1080p and the picture looks great. A year or two ago, the same set would have run $1800 easily…
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