Pros: small, durable, not too loud, my son loves this!, great for car trips and more
Cons: Doesn't play regular DVDs, limited library available, tiny screen, eats batteries
My husband I purchased Videonow Jr for our 4 year old son, who admittedly has too many toys - especially "big" toys. We liked Videonow Jr not only because we knew our son would love to take along movies with him (and spends quite a bit of time in the car), but because of its small size. For starters we got him the Videonow Jr. Color Personal Video Player in green/purple, the matching green/purple carrying case, and 2 videos to go with it (one Blues Clues, and one Elmo). So the bottomline is that for all the items we purchased it was right around $100 ($69 for the system, $10 for each video and $10 for the case), making this a pricey gift but one I would say that's worth it.
About the Videonow Jr.
Put out by Hasbro/Playskool, the Videonow Jr. is a portable video player made for preschool age children. The system is geared for children ages 3-6 years old and is the kiddie version of the Videonow Color player put out by Hasbro for the 7+ market. The systems have a lot in common (same media and output) but differ in design. Whereas Videonow Color is more sleek, hip and trendy (it looks like portable CD player and comes in a variety of metallic colors), the Videonow Jr. is more functional, chunky, and brightly colored. The system is availabe in a variety of color schemes including blue/yellow, blue/orange, purple/yellow, purple/green - and perhaps a few more that I've just not seen on the shelves near me.
The player itself is fairly compact but larger than most portable CD players out there - its around 7"X6"X2" and weighs under 2 pounds. Its all made in sturdy plastic and because its designed for preschoolers the unit has rubbery bumpers around the outside of it. On the front of the unit is a small viewing screen which is just a few inches -but is in color. There are also brightly colored, big buttons for stop (red), start (green arrow), next (arrow pointing right), and back (arrow pointing left). The speaker is built into the front of the system. On the top are 2 dials - one for contrast and one for volume. To open and close the unit (to change video discs) there are clasps that "lock" the player closed, and its easier to do with 2 hands. I think Playskool did this so kids would require some adult assistance - however my just turned 4 year old figured it out right away! Oh, and I can't forget but there is a headphones jack on it so headphones can be used (standard headphones, thankfully). Headphones are not included with the player however, you'll need to purchase those separately or "borrow" them from another electronic item (as we did!).
The media that the Videonow Jr. takes looks like a DVD but its slightly smaller called a PVD (personal video disc). The system will not play regular DVDs, which my son figured out right away (and was ticked off, I might add!). As of this time there is a limited selection of videos available for this sytem, though I anticipate more will be released. Individual discs sell for under $10 or you can get a 3 pack in the $20-25 range. The titles include Nick Jr, Dora, Bob the Builder, Blues Clues, The Wiggles, Sesame Street, Barney, Clifford and a few others.
It is important to note the video discs from the "regular" Videonow system (released in 2003, the black/white version) will not work in this Videonow Jr. system, nor the Videonow Color player which was released this year in 2004. The good news however is that videos for the Videonow Jr. and the Videonow Color players are interchangable. So, after your child outgrows the kiddie media for the Jr. player they can play PVDs from the Videonow Color library which includes many more titles (music videos, Spongebob, Jimmy Neutron, Jeff Corwin, Trading Spaces and many more!).
I'm also fairly certain that (if it isn't out already) there will be a way to create and burn your own PVD's for this player. The previous version of the Videonow Player you could use a program called "MyStuffNow" and make your own discs. It would be great to be able to burn current DVDs we own into this format or make our own.
Though we do have a portable DVD player which we've used for traveling and long car trips, this Videonow Jr. player jumped right out at me as something to get my son with the car in mind. We pretty regularly travel 6+ hours in the car which can be pretty boring for a preschooler. Our solution to this was to entertain him by letting him watch portable DVDs and wear headphones.
However, my son is one of those kids who is totally "into" electronics items - which can be both a good and bad thing. The good news is that he has a better operating knowledge than I do on how to use most of the electronic items in our house (the DVD player, the VCR, etc etc). The bad news is that its come with a few casualties, fragile electronics are just not made nor tested by preschoolers - though perhaps they should introduce that into their quality testing! Because of this we prefer to have an adult sitting next to my son when he's watching movies on the portable DVD. This is fine when the whole family is traveling, but thats not always the case. Lets face it, usually its just the 2 of us (mom and kid) driving around (in our minivan...).
The Playskool Videonow Jr. personal video player is the solution to our car entertainment needs (and more). This way, our little guy can happily sit in the backseat in his carseat and watch his own movies. He can wear headphones, or not. Without the headphones, I've found its not even that loud.. even on the loudest setting. This is good because it means that my son can bring it along with him when we go to even the most boring of places for him (like in waiting rooms at doctors appointments, etc).
When we purchased the system we picked him up 2 PVD's - one Blues Clues and the other with Sesame Street - Elmo. We only purchased him 2 to start because we wanted to see if he really liked it first. Plus, at the time of purchase many of the desirable titles were out of stock (due to the holiday season). I'll purchase him more PVD's either online or once the local stores start getting their stock replenished. My little guy definitely enjoys both PVDs that we got for him, but has shown a marked preference for the Blues Clues one. The running time on this particular video is about an hour, so its a full length feature. There aren't a lot of videos out yet for this player, so before purchasing you'll want to research the titles available. Luckily my son likes Sesame Street, Blues Clues, Wiggles, and the Nick Jr. programs so we are in good shape. Sure, he would definitely like it better if it played his most favorite DVD's but that'd be too good to be true (especially for the low price!). The screen is small, but size appropriate for the unit and the age of the audience. The glare isn't bad at all (and the contrast can be fiddled with) and the resolution is pretty clear.
Regarding the durability of the player - I must say that I am so far impressed. Should we experience any troubles with the unit in the future, I will definitely update the review. However, so far so good. Our Videonow Jr. player has been dropped on carpet, hardwoods and the kitchen floor and is no worse for the wear. The unit does "skip" and even will stop if the "jolt" is jarring enough. But, you simply press the start button again and are back in business. I'm glad that Playskool was smart enough to put rubber bumpers around the unit.
Battery life is definitely a concern with the Videonow Jr. but any type of portable media device tends to be a battery hog. The average battery life is just 6 hours of playtime. Our first set of batteries lasted much less than that but were also cheapie ones, so I blame the batteries and not the unit. We just went through our 2nd set of batteries. Before the batteries go, the "low battery" icon has popped up on the corner of the screen. It will flash that you need to change the batteries when there is approximately 30 minutes of viewing time remaining. Then, before it officially "dies" you will hear audio but have no video picture. Based on the fact we've burned through 2 sets already, I know the trend will continue. Reason being, my son has carried his Videonow Jr. around with him, taken it to grandparents houses, and even brings it from room to room. He brought it from his room, to the family room and even into the bathroom with him earlier (guess he knew 'it would be a while...'). However, I draw the line at him watching it at the dinner table, but I'm sure he'd do that if allowed. Probably part of the reason why we are eating up batteries is because he'll turn it on but then not necessarily stay with it - or have it going in the background while he's playing with something else. He'll watch for a bit while he's playing with some Duplo blocks and then build and then go back to watching. Multi-tasking at its finest...
The Videonow Jr. runs of 3 AA batteries and a screwdriver is needed to change them - I recommend you stock up your batteries now, or consider rechargables.
Overall, I'm so glad that we decided to get this video player for my son. Though usually we purchase him toys with a more educational side to them I have no complaints here. There's a time for entertainment and my son certainly enjoys being able to watch a movie "on the go" when normally who knows what trouble he might be getting himself into (this age is so much fun!). Bottom line is that when he's watching it he's happy, quiet and enjoying himself so I have no complaints! I'm thrilled!
A must have purchase for your Videonow Jr. player:
VIDEONOW Jr. Color Carry Case