"FX980 mech. noise problem fixed; otherwise identical."2.5 starson by 62mike
Pros: 800 x 480p resolution
Touch controls work well
Quiet operation (FX97)
Above average picture quality for a portable, though short of the FX970
Cons: Battery life reduced to 4 hours ( 6 hours for the 820, 970)
Too short power cord - 3 1/2 ft. total
Playing .mp4 video from a flashdrive problematic.
The zoom function distorts the picture.
Amped-up sharpness and some odd color effects.
Summary: As i've collected four generations of Sony portables, ( FX820, 970, 980, 97)this review is in part comparative.
It may look just like an FX980 however, when a disc is playing, the FX 97 is quiet; just the usual whirring/rushing sound common to portables - unlike the 980 which makes an obtrusive rattling/knocking noise with most discs at most speeds. The 97 is as quiet as the 970; maybe better with some discs.
First of course, the display: If a bright, vivid, detailed picture is what your looking for in a portable, the FX 97 more than fills the bill; you can skip the rest of this part. For videophiles who appreciate good color fidelity there are some peculiarities worth going into. Color temperature ( no adjustment ) is on the cool side but there's more to it. With some B&W movies ( "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?") the greys have a bluish tinge relative to full white. Then there's the tendency to add a faint, pale blue overlay to parts of the picture; highlights, lowlights, slightly shadowed areas and other unexpected places. Also, at times it's as if luminance and chrominance information are getting mixed; faces in particular take on a mottled look. These effects vary; for instance ruining most of "3 Women" while "Fellini's Roma" looks just fine, most movies, TV somewhere in between. To complicate things further, there's a noticeable warm-up effect; the picture gets "de-iced" a little after the player has been running awhile. These quirks vanish when the AV Out is connected to an external display; looks like an ordinary component DVD player.
The sharpness, not adjustable, is up a notch from neutral, like the FX820, -980, (over)enhancing textures.
The contrast ratio is better than other portables i've looked at.
Personal, subjective, for what it's worth: Even at it's best there's something subliminally strained, discordant about the FX980/FX97 picture; transferring the disc to the FX970 gives an "Ah-h-h, now that looks right" - kind of sensation.
Playing movies from a flashdrive can be problematic. Judging from reviews for other brand portables, Sony isn't the only one to offer zero support for this feature; you're on your own as far as finding out which of the many .mp4 versions your player supports (the 970 manual says ".mp4 simple profile" not even that much in the 980/97 manual) - and software that can produce it. By trial & error i found one - handbrake - that gives .mp4's that play albeit with a glitch; video (not audio) freezes for a few seconds occasionally. You'd think manufacturers would provide at least a source for a download of the necessary conversion software in the manual.
The most obvious purpose for a zoom on a portable DVD player is to expand those awful letter-boxes to use the entire screen, or most of it. So when i saw ZOOM in the FX970 setup menu i rejoiced - forget it. It fills the screen, alright; badly distorting the picture in the process - not a true zoom, and it's exactly the same on the FX97, FX980. I couldn't believe Sony would do something so stupid; maybe i was doing something wrong ( nothing in the manual), so i contacted Sony support. They had no info, instructions but thought it was probably supposed to work this way. Other players have non-distorting zooms, but they're useful only for checking out details lost to a small screen and low resolution. The best they can do with a letter-box is fill the 4:3 frame. As far as i can determine there is no portable DVD player on the market with de-letterboxing capability - amazing. Someone in an on-line discussion i got into pointed out that the problem was legalistic, not technical. The same perversion of intellectual property law used to prevent players from ignoring disc imposed limitations is what keeps manufacturers from providing a de-letterboxer; the DVD companies are protecting sales of a possible future re-release in true widescreen. Perhaps...?
There are software work-arounds; i tried "DVD Rebuilder" - it's for someone more expert than i, definitely not plug 'n' play.
Anyone out there have a better way to de-letterbox, or know of a portable DVD player with this function?
A couple of additional good points; my Sony's play every kind of burned DVD, and they're reliable; the FX820 has been going strong since early 2009. With these kinds of products it seems that if they make it thru the infant mortality period they just keep going and going...
That's about it, at possibly excessive length - thanks for your attention, hope some of it is useful.
( I posted this review on Amazon as "marittafan", essentially the same but with an Amazon - specific reference: the Philips 9000/37 player and a related de-letterboxing method.)