Best Overhead DVD Players: Have Fun On Family Road Trips
Make traveling more enjoyable with these top overhead DVD players
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON September 18, 2019
Anyone who’s taken a road trip with young children knows that keeping them occupied can be the difference between a peaceful drive and a hectic one. Even though more parents are opting for tablets for each child, there’s still a case to be made for shareable entertainment options. An overhead DVD player is one of the best ways to keep children occupied and parents sane. If you’re considering upgrading your car’s entertainment system with a DVD player, these are some of the top options that we recommend.
- Best OverallRockville 10.1" Flip Down Monitor DVD PlayerSummarySummaryExtensive media playback compatibility, high screen resolution, and built-in mood lighting make this overhead DVD player a must-have.ProsProsCompatible with most drive-based media formats, plus HDMI and USB ports increase the versatility of this device.ConsConsDifficult to decipher instructions and incompatible included hardware can make this device a pain to install.
- Best ValuePYLE 9-Inch Flip Down Monitor and DVD Player with Wireless FM Modulator/ IR TransmitterSummarySummaryA budget-friendly overhead DVD player that is also IR headset compatible, features an FM modulator and offers multi-platform playback options.ProsProsA swivel flip monitor allows for easy viewing no matter which angles your passengers are sitting.ConsConsA poor quality FM modulator results in audio feedback, which can be heard through IR headphones.
- Honorable MentionXTRONS Grey 13.3" HD Overhead DVD PlayerSummarySummaryA moderately-priced overhead DVD player that combines the top features from our best overall and best value picks and widescreen for easy viewing.ProsProsA swivel flip monitor, multi-format playback, numerous input sources, and 1920 x 1080 resolution all combine to create a faithful overhead DVD player model.ConsConsDifficulty with installation can make the initial steps of owning this product frustrating and probably better suited to a more experienced aftermarket modifier.
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Benefits of Overhead DVD Players
- Entertainment on the go. If you’re on the road longer than your child’s patience can last, having a device that plays movies, shows, or cartoons is a great way to keep them occupied. Flip-down DVD players can provide additional entertainment sources as you can connect them with smartphones, audio systems, and manage them through a wireless remote control.
- Better picture quality. There are a variety of car DVD players that you can purchase, including those that fit over the headrest. But the flip-down DVD players that are installed overhead are known for having better picture quality.
- Secure installation. When compared to headrest DVD players, ceiling-mounted DVD players are far more secure. There’s less of a chance of your children playing with the device and potentially breaking it. Likewise, there’s less risk of the DVD player shifting while you drive.
Rockville is a brand that has built a name for itself around audio equipment and accessories—and not just for vehicles. In addition to developing overhead DVD players such as its 10.1" Flip Down Monitor DVD Player for cars, the U.S.-based brand also creates professional speakers for venues, at-home use Bluetooth speakers, and accessories such as wires, adjustable tripods, and drum stools.
Pyle is another U.S.-based audio equipment brand that designs items for home entertainment systems, professional music recording studios, car audio like its 9-Inch Flip Down Monitor and DVD Player, and musical instruments. The brand got its start in 1966 creating audio woofers and today is considered one of the premiere audio brands in the United States and internationally.
If you’re looking for a brand that exclusively focuses on car audio accessories, Xtrons should be at the top of your list. It specifically focuses on audio and DVD playback units that range from items such as the 13.3" HD Overhead DVD Player and various headrest models. Xtrons is known for a wide range of screen sizes and even creating Android-compatible devices.
Overhead DVD Player Pricing
- $50-$100: If your budget is limited, you should still be able to find a decent overhead DVD player that provides quality playback and audio with a screen that is anti-glare and is large enough to be easily seen from a third row in an SUV or minivan.
- $100-$250: The majority of the popular flip-down car monitor models with standard features, such as multiple source input and file compatibility playback options, are within this price range. In addition to coming standard with a remote, some models in this range will also include at least one pair of IR headphones for quiet viewing.
- $250 and up: If money is no issue, then you can find a truly deluxe overhead DVD player for $250 or more. While it’s not necessary, these models include all of the standard features that the budget- and median-priced models provide, but usually, come with multiple IR headphones and highlight playback compatibility with multiple media formats.
Ease of Installation
For most people, an overhead DVD player is an aftermarket purchase. That means you’ll likely be installing it on your own. So, look for ceiling-mounted DVD players that are easy to install and don’t require a background in engineering, mechanics, or wiring.
It used to be that the only way to watch a movie in a car was by inserting a DVD into your overhead DVD player. But these days, you can store media on your laptop, mobile, or tablet devices. So, if you’re not the type to buy DVDs anymore, it’s important to look for DVD players that offer other input sources such as HDMI, USB, and SD card readers.
Audio Playback Options
This speaks to the audio quality of your overhead DVD player. Does it offer clear and bold sound so that the entire car can clearly hear the audio without it sounding muffled or flat? Likewise, if you prefer to use your car’s built-in sound system, how easily can you pair the overhead DVD player audio with your vehicle’s system?
- Screen Quality: By default, overhead DVD players are small when compared to the screen on your TV at home. Look for models that feature a higher resolution for a sharper image. Resolution should be balanced against screen size, as a very high resolution on a small screen means that you’ll have smaller images that might be harder to see for people in the back row of your car.
- Maintenance: If you’re getting a ceiling-mounted DVD player to keep your children occupied, that also means that from time to time, they’ll be the ones handling the device. So, you’re going to want to find an overhead DVD player that’s easy to maintain. Will it be durable enough to withstand your little one’s sticky fingers and rough handling? And can you easily clean it if it gets dirty?
- Vehicle Size and Layout: Overhead DVD players are typically best-suited for larger vehicles like SUVs and minivans because they can be installed in the ceiling without obstructing the driver’s view through the rearview mirror whether or not it is in use. But if your vehicle features a sun or moon roof, you may need to perform additional research to ensure that the model is compatible with your car’s layout.
Best Overhead DVD Player Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Overall: Rockville 10.1" Flip Down Monitor DVD Player
Our top pick is the Rockville Flip Down Monitor DVD Player. This median-priced model features a high resolution of 1024 by 600 pixels and is paired with a 10.1-inch-wide screen and multiple source inputs for your convenience. The black casing creates a sleek effect in your car, along with the built-in mood ring light.
While the model comes with a control panel, this device also comes standard with a remote control for easier use. The built-in DVD player also features anti-skip technology. Media compatibility is one of the best features with this overhead DVD player. The player is rated to work with DVD-RW/DVD-9/DVD+RW/DVD-R/VCD/CD/CD-R/CD-RW/MP3/MP4 files. But you can also use HDMI or USB connections to input content from external sources.
As popular as the Rockville overhead DVD player is, one of its biggest drawbacks is the installation process. Confusing instructions and screws that aren’t quite the right length can create some issues when you’re trying to install the player. Another concern is the DVD player may randomly stop working—even to the point that you won’t be able to eject a DVD.
Not only is the Pyle flip-down monitor and DVD player a great option for budget-focused shoppers, but it provides incredible value for the price. In addition to the built-in DVD player, you can also use USB and SD as an alternate input source. The swivel flip monitor makes it easy to adjust for optimal viewing regardless of your passengers’ angle. You can move the monitor 140 degrees right to left and as much as 120 degrees up and down.
For the price, the Pyle overhead DVD monitor supports a wide range of playback formats, including DVD-R/RW, CD-R/RW, and MP3 playback. And even though the screen is small, it’s still easily viewed from the back row of any car. Also, the additional dome lighting helps to replace the built-in lighting you remove to install the Pyle overhead DVD player.
While the brand promotes the fact that you can use your overhead DVD player as an FM modulator, it’s not the best. In some cases, you have to turn the volume up to its highest level to hear it. In addition, there’s often a noticeable hum, even when you pair it with IR-compatible headphones.
Honorable Mention: XTRONS Grey 13.3" HD 1080P Overhead DVD Player
The Xtrons overhead DVD player is a great blend of features between our best overall and value picks. A wide, 13.3-inch screen improves the viewing experience, especially with 1920 by 1080 resolution. Multiple source inputs, format compatibility, and a screen that rotates 120 degrees makes this model a solid investment.
Phone integration via the HDMI source input makes this a great option as a versatile overhead DVD player. And support for 32-bit games increases the functionality of the player. Available in three color options (black, gray, and beige), you can install a system that matches your car’s interior for a seamless effect.
Installation is one of the biggest issues we found with this product. The most common problems are confusing instructions and incompatibility issues. Novices might also have issues as there aren’t clear instructions for wiring the overhead DVD player into your car’s system. There’s also a concern about feedback during playback that can result in lines in the display and audible buzzing in the audio output.
- If you also burn your own media onto DVDs, this is going to be a critical feature. Not all overhead DVD players can play all types of files. Some will specify that they can only play DVD-R files, so MP3 or CD formats would be incompatible. Look for models that are compatible with the most file formats.
- A DVD player that offers other forms of entertainment, such as an included gaming DVD, is a great way to get the most use out of your unit.
- If you’re not experienced with installing aftermarket accessories on your car, look for models that focus on easy installation with minimal wiring experience or tools needed.
Q: What resolution should I focus on for an overhead DVD player?
A: Your target resolution is going to be entirely dependent on the overall size of the screen. In theory, higher resolution is always better. But if your screen size is small, a high resolution will result in a smaller image. In general, a minimum of 800 by 600 pixels is a good starting point.
Q. Will some people have a hard time viewing the DVD screen due to its angle?
A: This is a common and valid concern. If you’re concerned that a passenger might struggle to view the screen on your overhead DVD player depending on their location, opt for a model that features a swivel screen. Many models have screens that swivel anywhere from 120 to 140 degrees, right to left.
Q. I don’t really buy DVDs anymore, but I store content on my cell phone and tablet. Will an overhead DVD player work for me?
A: Depending on the model you purchase, you can still play content through alternate devices. Look for DVD models that allow for alternate sources such as HDMI, USB, and even SD.
Take the pain out of traveling long distances by giving your passengers something to keep them occupied on a road trip. Whether you opt for our best value Pyle 9-inch Flip Down Monitor DVD Player or best overall Rockville 10.1-inch Flip Down DVD Player overhead DVD player selections, you can be sure that you’re purchasing a quality product with high screen resolution, a wide range of supported media formats, and a variety of input source options.