The DCP851 can playback various file formats. We loaded a handful of files on our 1GB SD card and were able to play DivX-encoded files along with MPEG-4 video files with ease. The player can also play MP3 audio and JPEG photo files. We really enjoyed the player's easy-to-use navigational interface, which allowed us to easily browse the contents of our SD card. The software even displays ID3 tag information for MP3s and resolution details for images. The DCP851 can also play any of the above mentioned formats from a home-burned DVD or CD as well.
In addition to playback from a number of file formats, the DCP851 includes an iPod dock that is compatible with the iPod Touch, the iPod Classic, the third-generation iPod Nano (with video), and the fifth-generation iPod Video. Philips includes a set of iPod adapters that allow the various iPods to fit snugly in the dock. Also, the DCP851 will charge your iPod while docked, so you may want to remove it once you are done playing it so that you don't drain any more power from the video player. While navigating through and playing music from the iPod was a breeze, we were less than impressed with the performance of iPod video. Every sample video we played was much darker than any DVD or video file, regardless of the type of iPod. Also, we should mention that the sliding iPod dock felt a bit flimsy as we were opening and closing it. We did appreciate, however, the fact that the remote control can hide securely inside the dock when there is no iPod present.
On the performance end of things, the DCP851 is a mixed bag. Overall video quality is just about average compared with that of the other players we've recently tested--we found that the screen had a washed-out look. For example, during space scenes in The Fifth Element, sections of the screen were noticeably uneven and brighter. Also, its battery life is very disappointing. While Philips does accurately claim the built-in battery will last as long as 2.5 hours, that's barely half the life we've seen in most competing DVD players. Also, because the battery is internal, there is no way to replace it should it ever, over time, lose its ability to hold a complete charge.
If you like the look and feel of the DCP851 but need only a DVD player, note that Philips offers the PET723, which is very similar, except for the lack of an iPod dock. Those looking for a backseat viewing solution for their car may wish to check out the PET726, which is a version of the 723 with a second outboard screen.
Summing up, we like the Philips DCP851 because of its support for multiple file types and iPod playback. However, its so-so picture quality and subpar battery life are dealbreakers for us. The 2.5-hour life span is simply not enough time to make use of a portable player, especially on, say, a long flight--particularly considering that comparably priced sub-$200 portable DVD players can last two and three times as long.