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Handheld TV Guide - Pick the Best Handheld TV for You

Updated on January 9, 2011

The handheld tv is becoming more and more common as the quality improves while the size decreases. A modern handheld tv features a bright, colorful display resulting from advances in TFT LCD television technology (TFT stands for thin-film transistor and LCD stands for liquid crystal display).

Handheld televisions often provide multiple functionality, from watching DVDs to allowing you to tune into free broadcast signals. The most cutting edge hand held TVs even provide 3G access for cellular broadband.

But sometimes you just need a quality handheld tv for tuning into your local news or watching your favorite sitcom.  This is where handheld TVs still have a leg up on popular cell phones or PDAs.

Sinclair Research manufactured and distributed the first true portable TV with the MTV-1 in the early 80s (this "MTV" has no relation to the music television cable network). The MTV-1 featured the old CRT (cathode ray tube) technology that bulky old televisions utilized, so creating a pocket-sized television with this this technology was quite a feat.

Just after Sinclair debuted this tiny wonder, Sony manufactured and distributed its first iteration of the Sony Watchman. They named it the Watchman after its wildly successful portable audio device the Walkman. The original Watchman featured only a gray scale (black and white) display, though over a decade later Sony evolved the Watchman to feature a color active-matrix LCD display.

Today the handheld television is becoming synonymous with PDAs (personal data assistants) and cell phones. However, few cell phones incorporate an integrated broadcast receiver, so believe or not, specialized hand-held TVs still have a role in our increasingly mobile society.

What's the Best Handheld TV for You?

So enough about Handheld tv history, right? You probably are looking for suggestions on what you should buy and where, right?  Well here we go.

I'll provide what I feel are the three best handheld tvs available.  Everyone will have different requirements for what they require in a portable television, but I think one of the following should cover most bases.

In general I think Amazon is an excellent place to buy these units.  I bought them all there and I loved the inexpensive but high quality shipping and the overall ease of my order. 

All these models ship directly from Amazon.  This means they're all available for free shipping (which is what I used).

Haier HLT71 Handheld TV
Haier HLT71 Handheld TV

Haier HLT71 Portable LCD TV

In my testing, this Haier handheld TV clearly established itself as the superior model among many tested. This puts my own experience in line with the reviews at Amazon.

I typically got 3 to 4 hours of operation, which is exceptional battery life for these kinds of units.

I also found the high definition screen to be consistently bright with good contrast. Simply put, it featured the clearest and most vibrant image of any handheld television I tested.

The Haier HLT71 also provides a variety of useful options such as easy switching between aspect ratios 16:9 and 4:3 (horizontal to vertical proportions). It also features a nice remote with full volume control (a strangely missing option on many handheld televisions).

If you're simply looking for the best of the best, the Haier HLT71 is the only way to go.

Axion AXN-8701 Portable Handheld TV
Axion AXN-8701 Portable Handheld TV

Axion AXN-8701 Portable Handheld TV

Axion AXN-8701 7-Inch Widescreen Portable Handheld TV with Built-In Tuner, Black

Another strong entry was the Axion AXN-8701. It provides the best channel reception of all the models I tested and it featured surprisingly good sound for such tiny speakers.

This widescreen portable tv features excellent color and contrast (though not quite up to the Haier HLT71) and couple nice little features which I'd love to see in all the units: The Axion provided a little stand so you can prop it for viewing in even the tightest of quarters.  It also with a typical cigarette lighter charger for your mobile convenience.

If you're looking for a portable tv with quality reception, the Axion AXN-8701 will be your best bet.

Viore PLC7V95 Portable Handheld LCD TV
Viore PLC7V95 Portable Handheld LCD TV

Viore PLC7V95 Portable Handheld LCD TV

If you're looking for a broader spectrum of modern features for a low price, the Viore PLC7V95 might be your best option.  While it doesn't feature nearly the same visual fidelity of the Haier HLT71, it compensates for this with SD and USB slots that enable you to play MP3s and movies.

The battery life of this handheld tv was a little disappointing considering it isn't an HD display like the other two models. But the half hour of usage time may be enough if you're on a short trip.

It does, however, feature a nice program guide which informs you about the past and present programming on each broadcast channel.

I prefer both the Haier HLT71 by a good margin, but this is a less expensive model which provides quite a bit of bang for the buck.

I hope this Hub article helps you better understand the history, technology and current options involved when you consider any handheld tv. 


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