By Nelson Wang

(MONEY Magazine) – Now that the average portable DVD player costs less than $500--down from $1,000 three years ago--it has moved from the domain of the technophile to that of the ordinary consumer. These sleek little units let you watch movies while you're traveling or give the kids something to do on long trips. You can also hook them up to a regular TV for use as a spare DVD player in, say, a hotel room or at a friend's house.

To get the best value, try the Audiovox D1705. At a typical retail price of $350, it has a seven-inch screen that's fairly sharp and a sturdy design. It also comes with an adapter so you can power it with your car's cigarette lighter. There's no fast-forward or fast-rewind feature on the unit itself--you have to use the tiny remote control that comes with it for that. Battery life (in our tests): four hours.

The Toshiba SDP1200, $500, is a good choice for the kids, since it's made with a durable rubberized case. The Toshiba's picture quality is excellent and the player features two headphone jacks so that more than one person can listen at the same time. Battery life: five hours, 20 minutes.

If portability is your main concern, there's the Panasonic LA65 (shown above), $400. Its five-inch screen is the smallest of the three, but it is sharp and colorful, and it can be moved into different positions. Plus, the LA65 plays SD memory cards, which let you put together digital slide shows or listen to MP3s. Battery life: a short 2 1/2 hours. You can buy a secondary battery that lasts 3 1/2 hours, but that costs an extra $180. --NELSON WANG