Inexpensive DIY Rear-Seat Entertaintment Systems
Automakers charge a lot of money for optional rear-seat entertainment systems, with prices ranging up to thousands of dollars. But if you'll only be entertaining the backseat passengers (kids) once in a while (on long road trips), there are much less expensive alternatives: do-it-yourself systems that you can install only when needed.
Some accommodate those now old-fashioned DVDs you may have collected. Others connect to the iPad, iPhone, iPod touch or other portable devices that store downloaded videos. And nearly all are easy to set up––although, unlike those rear-seat entertainment systems built in at the factory, they will tend to clutter the vehicle's interior with dangling cables and velcro.
Here are our picks of the newest and easiest to install do-it-yourself rear-seat entertainment systems to consider for your next road trip.
Philips TwinPlay Dual-Screen In-Car Display
Two backseat passengers can be separately entertained with the Philips TwinPlay, which comes with two widescreen LCD panels, a 7-inch pair ($119.16 on Amazon.com) or a 9-inch pair ($196.12 on Amazon.com), that attach to the front seat headrests with included velcro straps. Each display screen has built-in stereo speakers. A docking station for the i-device slides into the car's cup holder and charges the device as well as powers the screens, when all are connected together via a single video/power cable.
One problem with the Philips TwinPlay is that there are no headphone jacks built into the displays. Instead, each passenger has to share the single headphone jack in the i-device by using a splitter adapter that results in extra clutter––more wires extending from front to back inside the car. Therefore, too, unless each those headphones also has an in-line volume control, the system won't let each passenger listen at a different volume (possibly resulting in backseat bickering).
RCA Mobile Sound System for iPad
Using the iPad as a video display screen, the RCA Mobile Sound System for iPad ($90.65 on Amazon.com) is a portable iPad dock that comes with wireless infrared headphones, a remote control, and a velcro strap for attaching it to a front seat headrest.
It also features built-in stereo speakers, as well as two headphone jacks, a line-in audio jack, and a built-in FM radio.
One particularly nice feature is the built-in kickstand that lets the Mobile Sound System do double duty on a tabletop, and RCA includes both home and car power adaptors with the device, to keep the docked iPad charged.
Griffin CinemaSeat 2
Compatible with the iPad2 or the iPad 3, the Griffin CinemaSeat 2 ($21.97 on Amazon.com) is a charging dock that features a padded frame and a stretch pocket for holding earphones or other small accessories. It also comes with a strap for attaching to a front seat headrest.
But there is no built-in headphone jack with the CinemaSeat 2. Instead, the frame gives access to the iPad's built-in headphone jack.
Owners of the first-generation iPad can buy the similar CinemaSeat ($49.99 on GriffinTechnology.com).
Jensen Universal Headrest System
Starting this fall, vehicles with removable headrests on the front seats can be outfitted with the Jensen JENHR1D ($209.99) replacement headrest that features an integrated DVD player and a 7" widescreen display. Audio can be played through either the vehicle's sound system (via the built-in FM channel transmitter) or headphones (wired or IR wireless, neither included.)
To power the Jensen JENHR1D, you plug it into your car's 12-volt power port. The same cable also terminates with a bundle of RCA jacks (red, yellow and white) for connecting additional devices to the headrest system. And an SD card reader and USB port are built in, so video can played from either of those sources, too.
Also included are a full-function remote control and interchangeable covers (black, tan and gray) to help match the replacement headrest to the vehicle's seat color.
The JENHR1D will be available beginning September in select Walmart stores.