2003 - Samsung - $554 - My first portable DVD player had great 9" screen quality. The super low-end players hadn't come out yet, and this one had a large screen and lots of bells and whistles. Unfortunately it was neither rugged nor reliable. The battery fell off the unit way too easily and started losing ability to hold a charge in less than a year. Then the AC adapter stopped working, and I figured out there was a short on the main board. I actually tried to fix it (remember I majored in electrical engineering), and got it working, but not reliably. I finally just junked the unit. I expected more out of a Samsung product, so was doubly disappointed.
2005 - Magnavox - ~$220 - I shopped less on brand and more on price this time, although I still have a hard time buying Chinese brands I never heard of (and I am more familiar with companies overseas than most people). The Magnavox had a 8.5" screen, but lousy resolution. But since my daughter really doesn't mind if Cinderella isn't in HDTV, this seemed like a good price point. Like the Samsung, the battery fell off way too easily, although it kept its charge. It just stopped working two years later, without a drop or anything obvious causing the failure.
2007 - Phillips - $180 - Knowing that I would get only two years out of the next unit, I looked for units around $200 since the ~$100 priced units are just too small. I found the Phillips DCP850 with an 8.5" screen AND a doc for a video iPod. This seemed like a great idea since I could have the option to port DVDs to the iPod and leave the big stack of DVDs at home. Plus I could use this on my own trips with my iPod if I ever got the opportunity.
I got this in a few days ago and am very pleased with the purchase. The screen quality is good, not great, but I wasn't expecting HDTV quality at less than $200. The iPod dock works great, and with a built-in battery, I don't have to worry about it falling off like I did my last two units.
In 2009 I will look forward to my next purchase.