Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
While the DCP750 and DCP850 weren't the first portable DVD players to include built-in iPod docks, the Philips brand ensured that they made a bigger splash than earlier models from the likes of iLuv. For 2008, Philips has overhauled the design, opting for a tablet configuration instead of the standard clamshell found on those earlier models. The new models are available in 8.5-inch--the black DCP851, reviewed here, and the white DCP852--and 9-inch (black, DCP951) configurations. The players do an impressive job of offering a wide variety of video playback options on the road, but a few design flaws and--most notably--short battery life hinder the overall experience.
Because the DCP851 eschews the clamshell design of most portable DVD players, it has no hinges and is completely self-contained. You can prop the player up, however, as Philips has installed a retractable stand directly adjacent to the rear disc slot. In addition to playing the usual DVDs and CDs, the DCP851 has an SD/MMC flash card reader and a fold-out iPod dock that tucks away on the right side of the device. Weighing about 2 pounds, the DCP851 is covered in a glossy, black finish that wraps around its curved housing. Its 8.5-inch screen rests above the various controls, including the directional buttons, which are encircled by a blue light. We found the buttons on the player to be very unresponsive, especially when in iPod mode or when reading the contents of a memory card. After having to push buttons repeatedly for them to work, we'd recommend using the included remote for all navigation and playback controls. Thankfully, we like the included remote--it's the slimmest of the remotes of all the portable DVD players we've recently tested.
On the left side of the player you'll find all of the connectivity options the DCP851 has to offer. You've got two headphone jacks, separate AV in (for using it as a monitor) and out (for video playback on a larger TV) ports, the volume wheel, and an SD card slot. The DCP851 comes with an AV breakout cable to enable the above-mentioned external connections. And while Philips also throws in a car charger, there are no mounting straps for use with a car seat.
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.