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Philips PET744 review: Philips PET744

If you want to shut your kids the hell up during a long car journey, or are planning to take a lengthy trip yourself, you may well want to invest in the PET744 portable DVD player. It looks smart, the build quality is good and the 7-inch screen delivers truly impressive picture quality

Ian Morris
4 min read

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?'.

orig-pet744_front.jpg
8.3

Philips PET744

The Good

Attractive styling; decent price; good picture quality; two headphone jacks; included in-car charger and mounting kit.

The Bad

Fairly average sound quality from the tiny built-in speakers; headphone output is quite flat.

The Bottom Line

Overall, the Philips PET744 is a very likeable portable DVD player, with a great screen and good build quality. A major problem arose at the end of our test period, however, when the screen completely stopped working. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we're going to give Philips the benefit of the doubt and assume this was a one-off

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?

Build quality
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.

Picture quality
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 PET744's 7-inch screen swivels 180°

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.

Irritations
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.


We also found navigating with the directional controller to be slightly irritating. It's too easy to press the middle button and select something you don't want to. You're probably better off using the supplied remote control to navigate around DVD menus. That said, you might not want to carry the remote around with you.

Also, there's no way to turn the subtitles on without either the remote or diving into a menu system. The same is true for the different audio tracks. The player lacks buttons for these functions.

Reliability issues
Towards the end of our review period, we did suffer one major problem. The screen totally stopped working. We think the pivoting screen might be a point of weakness for the cabling. Without taking the machine apart, however, we can't confirm that.

We're going to assume this was just bad luck. The score we've given the PET744 assumes we got a dud unit. If we hear reports that this is a design flaw, we'll reassess the score.

Conclusion
At about £130, this DVD player represents great value for money. Here at CNET Towers, we're all agreed that it's well worth the money to keep kids quiet on long journeys. There are some irritating aspects of this machine, though. We don't like the way it resets the volume when you turn it on, deafening you when a movie starts to play. We also have some concerns about the battery being sealed into the unit, as replacing it won't be simple.

On the plus side, we've never seen a portable DVD player at this price with a screen as good as this. We were genuinely impressed by this little device and we'd be more than happy to make use of it on train journeys or long flights.

Edited by Charles Kloet

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