If you have a long train, car or plane journey coming up, you're quite likely to be in the target market for the Philips PET744 portable DVD player. The PET744 really comes into its own, though, when you want to keep your children quiet in the car. If you're a parent, this could be the smartest £130 or so you've ever spent, especially if it stops your kids repeatedly asking 'are we nearly there yet?'.
We've reviewed players like this in the past, and haven't always been impressed by the picture quality or battery life. Will the PET744 manage to sell us on the idea of these portable players?
We were really impressed with the PET744's build quality. The finish is good, it looks very smart indeed and it doesn't feel like it'll fall apart if given to young folk. It feels like a premium product.
We're also quite pleased that Philips has chosen to include an in-car charger and a handy headrest mount. You just pop the supplied mount onto the car's headrest (it should fit most types) and attach a bracket to the player, using a screw socket. It'd probably take about 5 minutes to set up.
Other portable players we've seen, including one from Toshiba, have suffered from horrible picture quality. That's not the case with the PET744. In fact, its image quality is even more impressive than its build quality. The image from DVDs on the 7-inch screen is truly impressive. Pictures are sharp, detailed and colourful. Our Pineapple Express DVD looked magnificent, and we'd have no problem watching this little player for several hours at a time.
The sound quality from this type of machine is never going to be much cop. The PET744's audio isn't particularly impressive, especially via the tiny built-in speakers. The speakers are good enough, though, if, for some reason, you don't want to listen to a film through headphones. In case two of you are watching, Philips has provided a pair of headphone outputs, so you can both have your own set. These outputs are, however, tied to the same volume control, which might not suit people with different hearing abilities.
SD cards and file support
When we spotted the SD card socket on the right-hand side of this machine, we were justifiably exited. 'Great,' we thought. 'Here's a way of watching some of those files we've got knocking around on our computer.' We've always been able to play Xvid files on DivX-certified machines, so we thought we'd be fine doing so on the PET744. Not so, it seems, much to our chagrin. The PET744 will only play DivX video, refusing to play back Xvid files, which is something we've never seen before.
This issue slightly spoils our good impressions of the player, because, as common as DivX files are, most of the stuff you're going to want to watch uses Xvid. If you're looking for versatile codec support, this player isn't for you.
It will, however, happily play back MP3 CDs and both JPEG and MP3 files from an SD card. We like the photo viewer. Because the PET744's screen is so sharp, everything we looked at was visually striking.
Some aspects of the player are rather annoying. For example, when you turn the power on, the player defaults to a preset volume. That setting is about 50 per cent, which is actually pretty loud. In fact, it's so loud that we had to pull our headphones out.