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The Mobile Potato

Never again be at the mercy of airport TV or half-baked cable in your hotel. Which video-charged device is best for you?

The Mobile Potato
  • Sony PSP, $249

    What you'll watch: A mixed bag of prerecorded movies, from The Bourne Identity to The Incredibles. (As of early February, had approximately 150 titles for sale.)

    The good: The PSP's 4.3-inch wide-screen display is tailor-made for movie watching; more and more movies are being released in the device's proprietary format. You can play a round of Tiger Woods golf when you're tired of watching TV.

    The bad: Transferring TV shows and movies to the PSP is unnecessarily complex (unless you spend about $350 on Sony's LocationFree TV add-on or wait for the TiVo update that'll let you copy shows); you'll need to buy a memory card to store your video content; and it's not compatible with the iTunes store. Movies range from $15 to $30.

    Best for: Gamers looking to watch the occasional movie.

  • Apple iPod, $299-$399

    What you'll watch: Hit (Lost) or miss (Punk'd) selection of ABC, NBC, and cable shows ($1.99 each)

    The good: It's easy to download shows through iTunes; an excellent screen makes it easy to forget you're watching a Lilliputian LCD; and, oh yeah, it plays music.

    The bad: Converting your own digital collection of movies and TV shows to play on the iPod is a hassle; you'll be lucky to get three hours of battery life between charges; and the current programming lineup at iTunes is less than inspiring.

    Best for: The shuttle flight.

  • MobiTV, $9.99/month, plus a cell-phone data plan (Cingular, Sprint)

    What you'll watch: CNBC, Fox Sports, ESPN 3G, MSNBC, ABC News Now

    The good: Watching TV on your cell phone means you can carry just one gadget; there's no planning required—you can sign up anytime, anywhere; and there are decent programming options.

    The bad: This needs a cell-phone signal to work ("Can you see me now?"). And even with a strong signal, the picture quality isn't yet good enough for you to forget you're watching TV on your cell phone.

    Best for: Instant access to breaking news and sports scores.

  • Sling Media Slingbox, $249.99

    What you'll watch: Anything available to you from your living-room couch

    The good: After you connect the clock-radio-sized box to your cable box, satellite receiver, or TiVo (and your home network), you have access to the same programming that you get at home (including whatever you have saved on your DVR). It's astoundingly cool, even to the most jaded techie.

    The bad: Not everyone has a home network, and Slingbox is a one-trick pony. Worse, even 3,000 miles away you'll argue with your significant other over what to watch.

    Best for: The weeklong business trip.

A version of this article appeared in the April 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine.