Best Portable TVs

Updated August 2021
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We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Researched

Buying guide for Best portable TVs

Your smartphone is great for such tasks as emailing, doom-scrolling news, and keeping up with your social media apps, but it’s not really the best device for watching TV and movies. And if you’re interested in pulling in local over-the-air broadcasts, good luck doing that with a phone.

For the best TV experience that you can take anywhere, you want a portable TV. 

With screens averaging 10 to 12 inches, portable TVs are perfect to take camping, to the beach, on your commute, or anywhere in your home. Most have lots of inputs, so you can plug in everything from a gaming system to a streaming stick. Try that with a phone.

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If you want to view DVDs on your portable TV, concentrate your search on a combination portable TV.

Key considerations

Size

The size of a portable TV is based on screen size. Portable TVs start at 6 inches and go up to around 20 inches, with the average in the 10- to 12-inch range.

A smaller screen size gives you a lighter portable TV that’s easier to carry around. A larger screen offers better image quality and is easier to watch in general. When shopping for a portable TV, decide which factor is more important to you and try to find a balance between portability and watchability that works for you.

Power

Because these TVs are meant to be portable, how they’re powered can be a major consideration. Portable TVs contain a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can be recharged with an AC charging cord (through a wall socket) or a DC cord (through a car cigarette lighter). Some portable TVs can be powered via both, providing the most convenience.

One big way that these TVs differ from each other is how long they can operate on a battery charge. Some portable TVs can play for 5 hours on a single charge, while others can barely keep going past the 60-minute mark. The average run-time per charge is around 3 hours. While those TVs that run for less time on a charge aren’t inherently bad, just be aware that such TVs will spend more time charging and less time playing your favorite shows than other options.

portable tvs
Did You Know?
TVs are measured on the diagonal, corner to corner, so a relatively minor upgrade in size is significant in terms of both width and height.
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Features

Image quality

Portability may be a key consideration when choosing one of these TVs, but they still need to be watchable. 

Resolution: Image quality is an important factor when purchasing a portable TV. While some portable TVs only feature standard resolution, most offer HD resolution of 720p or 1080p. 

Ratio: Some portable TVs also feature 16:9 ratio in addition to the usual 4:3, so you can view widescreen media without resorting to something like letterboxing.

Screen: While LCD screens are still the norm for portable TVs, LEDs are becoming more common. LED screens are slimmer than LCD screens and provide a better, clearer picture.

Format: Finally, note the video and picture formats the portable TV supports. Some of these TVs support a wide range of video formats, including MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG3, MPEG4, Motion JPEG, DIVX, and more. If you want to view images on your portable TV (such as with an SD memory card), be sure it can handle picture formats like JPEG, BMP, and PNG.

Audio quality

Sound quality is also an important factor when purchasing a portable TV. Built-in speakers are standard, though they vary in quality. While some TVs only include a single speaker, others have two built-in speakers for stereo sound. 

A portable TV should also include an audio jack for use with headphones, which offers a better audio experience if you’re watching alone.

Also, be sure you know what audio formats, such as MP3 or WMA, are supported by the TV.

Tuner/antenna

A portable TV typically has a built-in ATSC and/or NTSC tuner for pulling in over-the-air stations. These TVs also include an auto-scan feature for finding such stations. Over-the-air stations are free, but you need to be in range to receive them. While this won’t be a problem in an urban area, the stations you’ll be able to pick up while camping in the woods will probably be limited.

A telescoping antenna can help. While some portable TVs only have a built-in antenna, some include a traditional telescoping antenna that you can swivel around for better signal reception.

For those times when you want to listen to the radio, some portable TVs include a built-in FM tuner.

Inputs

Inputs are standard on portable TVs, allowing you to greatly expand what you can do with them. Some of the more common input types include S-Video, VGA, USB, AV inputs, HDMI, and microSD/SD cards. Inputs are an especially important feature if you’re in an area with limited over-the-air stations. These inputs vary from one TV to another; the more inputs available, the more possibilities there are. With the proper inputs, you can plug a variety of devices into your TV, including DVD players, gaming systems, streaming sticks, and even media storage cards stuffed with movies or TV shows.

Stand

All portable TVs include some type of stand so you can set the TV on a flat surface to watch it. The stand usually takes one of two forms: a physical base that attaches to the bottom of the TV (similar to larger TVs) or a kickstand on the back so you can prop the TV up like a tablet.

Remote

Some portable TVs include a remote, so you can easily operate the TV from a distance. While some remotes are fairly limited, others are full-featured devices capable of controlling all aspects of the portable TV.

The first portable TVs were designed by Panasonic and Sinclair Research in the 1970s and 1980s. These pocket-size TVs had tiny CRT screens.

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Portable TV prices

Inexpensive: Portable TVs start at around $80 to $100. In this range, you’ll find more compact LCD screens, usually under 10 inches. Portable TVs in this range typically feature fewer inputs than more expensive options and have a shorter run time of around a couple of hours per battery charge.

Mid-range: Most portable TVs are in the $100 to $140 range. Here, you can typically find screen sizes in the 10- to 12-inch range. These are usually LCD screens, although some smaller LED screens can be found in this range. These portable TVs run a few hours on a charge and have a fairly good assortment of inputs and media card slots.

Expensive: Portable TVs that cost $140 to $170 tend to be larger (14 inches or more) and are more apt to include a higher-quality LED screen. You can find the greatest assortment of inputs here, in addition to battery run times that can extend up to 5 hours between charges.

portable tvs 2
Did You Know?
In addition to their use for entertainment, portable TVs can also connect you with local weather forecasts and other information in the event of an emergency or power outage.
Staff
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Tips

  • Choose the right size screen. When buying a portable TV based on size, start by figuring out the number of people who will be watching it at any given time. If it’s just you, something like a 6-inch or 7-inch screen will do. If several people will be watching at a time, you’re better off going with a larger screen.
  • Mount the TV on the wall. Before you rule out mounting a portable TV on the wall, note that a mounting bracket for these TVs is fairly inexpensive given their size and weight. For larger portable TVs in particular, wall-mounting might be a viable and inexpensive option.
  • Check for certification. For the safest portable TV, go with one that features a certification from an organization such as Intertek’s ETL Mark, which verifies that devices meet a specific set of safety standards.
  • Make sure the TV will work in other countries. If you’re buying a portable TV to take on a trip to a foreign country, check with the manufacturer or seller first to find out if the TV can receive signals in that country.
  • Check the inputs. Before buying a portable TV, consider what input devices you plan to use with it. Do you use streaming devices? Will you use the TV with a DVD player or to play media on an SD card? Pay special attention to the inputs and buy a TV according to your needs.
  • Check for good customer service. Some of these portable TVs include robust customer service, while others leave you pretty much to yourself to figure issues out. Check online customer reviews to get an idea of the help available should problems arise.
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If a portable TV can be powered via AC or DC, be sure that it comes with the necessary power cords to plug into the wall or a car socket.

FAQ

Q. Do these portable TVs work with WiFi?

A. Most portable TVs do not work with WiFi on their own. However, if your TV has an HDMI port, you’ll be able to use streaming devices with it and they’ll be WiFi-compatible.

Q. How heavy is a portable TV?

A. Due to their small size, portable TVs aren’t very heavy. Still, they can range from 2 to 5 pounds or more. If weight is a major consideration for you, look for a TV that has a smaller screen.

Q. What’s the difference between NTSC and ATSC tuners?

A. Some portable TVs only have an ATSC tuner, while others have both ATSC and NTSC tuners. While both tuner types receive over-the-air signals, NTSC is an older analog standard that has largely been co-opted by digital ATSC. An ATSC tuner delivers better audio and video quality in addition to supporting formats such as widescreen. If you want a portable TV capable of pulling in the greatest number of signals, go with one that includes both types of tuners.

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