Over the course of a week, I watched Christopher Nolan's Batman movies on the train to and from work with a small portable DVD player. The experience was not especially satisfying. The screen was small and the backlight poor, so half the time I was just imagining what was going on while I listened and watched a mostly-black screen. The very dark movies probably didn't help in this regard. The other unfortunate aspect of the screen was the resolution. The widescreen movies seemed to be squashed vertically somehow. Sound was adequate, through my headphones, and the player didn't struggle keeping the discs playing while the train jostled me around. So, on the whole, I only recommend this practice for well-lit movies that are low on action. Also, it would work better on 30-minute TV shows rather than 2-hour movies that have to be broken up into pieces.
For comparison, next I watched the Matrix trilogy on my netbook, which has a bigger, brighter, higher-resolution screen. They are similarly dark action movies, so the comparison should be valid. The results were much more satisfying, which proves that screen size and quality are a pretty important factor when watching video. But you already know that. To be completely fair, the weather during Batman Week had been very bright and sunny, while during the Matrix week it was overcast, so there wasn't as much direct sunlight to battle with the netbook screen. Sound on the Matrix movies was more of a problem, but that's a known issue with The Matrix anyway - quiet dialogue followed by loud action and music. Also, the netbook was slower to start up and shut down than the DVD player, which meant I got through slightly less of the movies on each trip.
The goal of this whole experiment was to find a good way to fit more movies into my life in the small pieces of spare time I have. I proved that I could do it on the train, if need be, but in the end, I started resenting the time it was taking away from my reading and writing. So I think, if I must, I will watch movies at lunchtime on my computer at work, instead of struggling with small screens on a loud, moving train.
Mokalus of Borg
PS - If I had to do it again, I'd use the netbook.
PPS - But I don't have to.