You'd think that portable DVD players were something of a dying breed, but the sheer convenience of being able to watch DVDs wherever you like keeps this segment of the market alive. Especially if you've got kids.
The Philips PET744 is a clamshell design with a twist, literally, as it gives you a swivel hinge offering a range of viewing options. So you can watch it in a conventional format like a laptop, flatten it down like a tablet, or even, with the help of the supplied metal screw-in stand prop it up like a conventional photo frame. It is relatively compact, measuring 197 x 31 x 166mm and weighing less than a kilo.
These viewing options are great, however the design and build do leave a little to be desired. It isn't a major point, but the DVD bay door and the buttons do have just a little too much give to them for a lasting feel of quality. There is rather too much bezel here too and we can't help thinking that squeezing a little more screen in would have made it a more impressive offering.
The screen itself measures 7-inches. It is an 800 x 480px screen which for the size gives a nice image, perfectly suited for watching DVDs in a 16:9 format, accepting that you'll have black bars at times so those 21:9 films do look a touch on the small size, but you do get a zoom option activated via the remote.
The main thing to note is that it is a matte display, so ideally suited for portable use. It lacks the sharpness that some glossy displays will offer, but for watching in the car or on the train, the screen is ideal.
The PET744 isn't a one-trick pony either. Around the body you'll find a number of connections. You have an AV out, which when combined with the supplied adapter in the box mean you can hook it up to a TV via a Composite connection. There are two 3.5mm audio jacks, so two viewers can benefit from the soundtrack and there is also an SD card slot, more on which later.
The built-in speakers are relatively good. Certainly loud enough but they do distort when the action kicks in on-screen, with explosions and gunfire being a little piercing and missing the bass boom you'd normally expect. But the likelihood is that you'll be opting for headphones because you are on a plane or somewhere public. The headphone performance is rather good with noticeable spatial separation and makes movie watching a much more immersive experience.
But in these times you can't get away with only doing one thing. The PET744 also happily plays back CDs, although you have no control over the sound that comes out, only the volume. You can also play from various types of data disc for images, audio and video.
It will also playback various file types too via the SD card. Video is limited to MPEG4 and DivX formats, but we found they worked well enough. Navigating files is a little basic, basically broken down into music, video and photos. You don't get the luxury of thumbnails or anything else, but if you are organised, then collections of movies on SDHC card will save you the hassle of a pile of DVDs in your bag.
Performance overall is great. Although the screen lacks the gloss that you'll find elsewhere it does deal with reflections well. That said, it doesn't really have the brightness to be used in direct sunshine. The battery performance is excellent, with the 6 hours that Philips quote being a realistic measure for normal viewing, meaning that you'll likely get two movies from a charge, rather than one and a bit.
The accompanying accessories also give you everything you need to use the PET744 in the car. You get a 12V power supply, so you can plug straight into your car and you also get a headrest mount.
Whilst we aren't entirely sold on the build quality, we like the practicality of the swivel screen design and the considerate steps taken by Philips to make the PET744 user friendly. Supplying the car kit in the box, a remote, and two headphone sockets on the DVD player make it a convenient one-box solution.
The screen size and anti-glare finish, with the 6-hour battery life, make it and ideal travel companion. You have to consider, however, that the internal rechargeable battery can't be changed, so you'll have to get back to the mains to charge it up again.