Portable DVD players are great for watching movies away from home, but that is all they are good for without a TV tuner. Forget about watching your favorite dramas and sitcoms unless you happen to be carrying around the DVD boxsets. Then there are all the daily shows, like news and current affairs, which you need a TV tuner to watch. A flip down TV is similar to a portable DVD player, except that it is designed to be mounted on a flat surface, usually the roof of a motor vehicle. Some models have a DVD player built into them, and some can even be used to play video games.
So why should you choose a flip down TV when there are plenty of other portable TVs available? Convenience is a big factor in deciding to get one, and so is the reduced risk of theft. Instead of hooking up cables and straps every time you want to watch something, all you need to do is fold down the screen and turn it on. A flip down TV is mounted to a flat surface, not carried around from place to place. Once installed, it takes some time to remove, unlike other portable TVs which a thief can quickly grab and run away with.
How much you enjoy watching a flip down TV depends mostly on the properties of its LCD screen. Sizes range from under ten inches to over twenty inches, which is very small compared to other TVs. The picture needs to be bright and sharp, especially when it is viewed up close. Along with a high resolution, the brightness and contrast ratio of the screen should also be high. Most screens have a widescreen (16:9) aspect ratio that is perfect for watching movies, but some have more width or height which gives them a slightly different ratio. The hinge needs to tilt and swivel for the screen to turn in any direction.
With a flip down TV, you not only have to contend with a small screen but also with poor quality sound. Practically all of the models have stereo speakers that are too small and not very powerful. The sound has virtually no bass and is not strong enough to be heard over background noises, especially those from a motor vehicle. On the upside, a flip down TV often has an infrared (IR) transmitter that beams audio to any wireless headphones in front of it. The range of the infrared transmitter is only a few feet but that is far enough for someone sitting in the backseat.
Some models have an internal DVD player but most do not have one. If you plan on using a portable DVD player with a flip down TV, check that it has the right ports for the audio-visual (AV) cable. It is a good idea to get a flip down TV that also has a USB port and a memory card slot. The capacity of that latest USB flash drives and memory cards is so large that they can easily hold one or two movies. A remote control is nice but not essential, because the small size of the screen means that viewers will be sitting up close anyway.
Installing a flip down TV in a motor vehicle requires a lot of work, which is usually done by a service technician for a large fee. The roof lining has to be cut away to expose the hard surface underneath so that the base can be attached. The power cables are normally run under the roof lining and through the door frame to keep them out of the way. A flip down TV can also be powered from a cigarette lighter, provided that the dangling cables are not a problem. If the interior lights need to be removed to install a flip down TV, be sure to get a model that has these lights built into the case.