The 8 Best Portable Televisions
This wiki has been updated 32 times since it was first published in June of 2015. You don't need a fancy tablet or expensive laptop just to enjoy your favorite shows when you're out and about. One of these portable televisions will let you watch them no matter where you are. Some are completely standalone devices with antennas, built-in memory card readers, and even rechargeable batteries, while others are designed to utilize 12-volt DC power from vehicles. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 03, 2020:
With tablets and smartphone providing the lion's share of our portable media consumption, there isn't a whole lot of movement or innovation in this sector. That said, there are still plenty of options that provide high resolutions — up to 1080p in many cases — and a lot of connectivity for users with a variety of needs. If one of those needs is battery power, models like the Tangxi Digital 14 and the Leadstar Nine-Inch Digital have strong enough batteries to last the length of long movies, so you won't miss the end of a story.
Users looking for something that can handle a variety of media sources should look for significant codec support, like you see on the Tyler TTV705 and that Tangxi model mentioned above. This allows you to take digital copies of your favorite content (obtained legally, of course) and watch them from storage devices like USB drives or SD cards.
November 12, 2019:
There are a couple different routes you can take for on-the-go entertainment. The Tyler TTV705 and Tyler TTV701 are both extremely portable thanks to their built-in battery and reliable LCD panel. The larger one is an all-around great choice and the smaller one is practically pocket-sized, so although it doesn't have a very high resolution, you likely won't even notice. The Trexonic TR-D12, Pyle PLTV1053, and Axess TV1705 are similarly compact and affordable and each measure in the 10- to 13-inch region.
If you don't need battery power, for example in an RV or camper, there are some surprisingly good models that run on standard 12-volt vehicle power. The Free Signal CT-32T18 is an impressive 32 inches, larger than most, and the Jensen JTV19DC is one of the few in the category that comes from a very well-known manufacturer. The Tyler HDTV is another good choice, although it isn't the sleekest looking or largest.
If these don't quite fit your needs, consider buying a portable projector. These have a variety of connectivity options, although they don't generally have built-in TV tuners, but they do work very well with the various cord-cutting devices on the market. There are also quite a few projectors that work very well with modern smartphones, making it easy for anyone to contribute to the entertainment experience.
Your Portable TV In Action
The only difference is that the data they’re broadcasting is digitally captured, digitally compressed, and digitally rendered by a given receiver.
You may fondly remember a time when you had to adjust your TV’s antenna to hone in on the best signal. You’d send the least popular person in the room to complete the task. They’d get it just right, only to let go of the metal rod and cause the picture to degrade. Once you realized that their body was acting as an extension of the antenna, they’d have to stay there in some awkward pose far from the screen until your program ended. In many ways, your friend will be glad to hear, those days are long behind us.
If you’ve recently been receiving your daily dosage of television through a cable box like the vast majority of consumers in America, you’d be forgiven for thinking that TV stations no longer broadcasted their content over the airwaves. The reality is that the heavy hitters who used to broadcast on VHF like NBC, CBS, and ABC, along with all of the basic UHF channels, still put out powerful airborne broadcasts. The only difference is that the data they’re broadcasting is digitally captured, digitally compressed, and digitally rendered by a given receiver.
That’s where your portable television comes in. The options on our list have antennae capable of receiving digital television signals, as well as the processing power to convert those signals into your digital image and corresponding audio. In this sense, they work almost identically to how analog television systems worked for years. What sets this group apart is their portability.
For reasons of size and fragility, TV had never been the most portable means of entertainment. The units on our list don’t rely on glass screens or vacuum tubes of yesteryear, however. They employ much more recent screen technology akin to the screen you’re probably using to read this article.
An added level of portability comes from battery power. A rechargeable portable television can often offer up to 90 minutes of playback, which is more than enough to enjoy an hour-long television program, though it might not serve you long enough for a feature-length film. And since movies seem to be getting longer, you may want to bring your included charging cables along for the journey.
Picking Your Portable
Making a selection from our list of portable TVs comes down to a few features you can easily qualify about each option. One thing you don’t have to worry much about is resolution. All of the options on our list top out at around the same resolution you’d find on an older analog system, albeit with a progressive scan maximizing the quality.
Making a selection from our list of portable TVs comes down to a few features you can easily qualify about each option.
Consider the environment in which you want to use your portable television. Tied into this question is the number of potential viewers at a given moment. If this is just for you to while away the hours you spend at work in a tollbooth on the NJ Turnpike, then you could get away with a smaller unit. If the television is meant to entertain more than one person at a time – family members in an RV, for example – a model with a larger screen is your best bet.
This line of questioning should also lead you to consider the potential battery power of each model. The longer you can go without having to recharge your television, the better. Of course, a good car adapter can keep your portable TV all juiced up for the duration of a road trip, and most of these models come with just such a power source.
Other tertiary features to keep in mind might tip the scales from one model to the next. For example, some of these televisions include slots for SD or microSD cards. If you have a digital copy of your child’s favorite film or TV show, you can bring it with you on the road. After all, there’s no guarantee that what you find over the airwaves will capture their attention, or even be appropriate for them. These slots can also be lifesavers if you find yourself in an area on the map that doesn’t have a strong enough signal for any channel to come through.
A Brief History Of The Portable Television
While the first portable televisions developed by major manufacturers came out in the late 1950s and early 1960s, these used the term ‘portable’ in its loosest possible context. For the most part, these were just slightly smaller versions of the companies’ household models, with their legs removed and a handle placed on top. They were extraordinarily heavy, comprised completely of wood, metal and glass.
The human mind couldn’t see the difference in action, but the resolution looked almost inexplicably better.
The first pocket-sized TVs wouldn’t see the marketplace until the late 70s and early 80s, and these required that you had some spectacularly large pockets. Even these innovations relied on fragile cathode ray tube displays until the CRT took a backseat to LCD technology in the 1980s.
Portable television screens got bigger, cheaper, and clearer over the next 20 years. The one thing that remained constant was the content delivery system. Advances in digital technology slowly pushed broadcast companies toward digital delivery, and by July 12, 2009, the Unites States had completed its Digital Television Transition. From that day forward, analog television broadcast signals were replaced by their digital counterparts.
One of the biggest positives to come out of the transition was that portable televisions would see a slight increase in their signal strength, and a big increase in resolution. Older analog signals translated in an interlaced pattern, rendering one half of an image every 60th of a second, and the other half the next 60th of a second. Digital signals render an entire image every 60th of a second, offering twice the perceived resolution. The human mind couldn’t see the difference in action, but the resolution looked almost inexplicably better.