What's showing on your next flight? Who cares. These days, more travelers are taking off with portable DVD players--8 million units were sold worldwide last year, up from 3 million in 2003, reports the market-research firm In-Stat. As prices drop way below laptops, the latest gadgets are wired with more extras. So what should a newbie carry on? TIP SHEET tested a handful of players. Here's what looked the best:

Audiovox D2010 ($450) This 10.2-inch unit will play DVDs, music and Kodak Picture CDs. Thumbs up: It transmits an infrared signal to wireless headphones or you can plug in and listen. Screen options like contrast and color are a cinch to adjust, even if you accidentally leave the remote control at home. Thumbs down: The battery, which lasts 2.5 hours, crashes before "The Aviator." Our testers weren't crazy about its hefty weight or price. ***

Philips PET 1000 ($400) A 10.2-inch LCD, with car adapter. Thumbs up: It has the best-looking screen (whoa, not just because of Brad Pitt) and exterior, with buttons that glow. You can listen in with two headphones on a plane, but the speakers are loud enough to blast if you're on a road trip. Thumbs down: When shopping for a portable player, try to find a unit that sits flat, even when attached to its battery. Here, the battery props up the rear of the base, making it slope. The player shook more when we simulated turbulence and the disc paused. ***1/2

Coby TF-DVD7050 ($170) A seven-inch screen that comes with two headphones. A smaller version, with a five-inch screen, retails for $120. Thumbs up: This tablet pops open to take your DVD and sits up, so it's easy to pack. Thumbs down: But it's not so easy to watch--the screen glares back at you. The cheaper price makes it a good unit for younger viewers. But without a shell, it's more likely to pick up scratches along the way.

GoVideo DP8240 ($250)**1/2 An 8.4-inch LCD that plays DVDs, music and photos (either Kodak Picture CDs or JPEG image files). Thumbs up: This is our favorite unit, with the coolest mix of features. Its stereo speakers are loud and clear. The base is padded with rubber, which cushions bumps and keeps the unit in place on a jerky trip. The setup options are easy to operate as you choose between languages and screen dimensions. Finally, the player will hook up to your TV (if you don't have a DVD player) or camcorder (if you need a larger viewing screen).****

Toshiba SD-P1600 ($200) A seven-inch widescreen with a "slim" remote and car adapter. Thumbs up: A portable DVD player that you can carry around like a paperback. Tuck it in your purse, and you probably won't even notice the extra weight (only 1.5 pounds). Thumbs down: Our testers weren't wild about the speakers--they said the sound was "really small." But it's better with headphones.***