Sony's previous in-car DVD player, the MV-65ST, was big, grey, ugly and boxy - to be frank, it looked rather like someone had compacted up an old U-Matic tape player and stuck an LCD screen on it. Its descendent, the MV700HR is, thankfully nothing like that - it's a sleek little silver unit that puts the screen and slim disc tray on opposite sides of a silver hinge. It clips together to form a screen display that's highly reminiscent of the types of in-flight display screens that fit into the back of the chair in front of you. That's clearly the model that Sony's chasing with the MV700HR, which comes with a permanent docking solution for the back of one seat. For those who don't like silver, a black unit - the MV700HRB - is also available.
The elegant design of the MV700HR is somewhat spoiled by the messy tangle of supporting cables that accompany the unit, however. The default player ships without a battery of any kind (although Sony does sell one for the unit), and that means you've got to hook it up to the in-car 12V cigarette lighter. That's not as simple as using a single cable, though, because the MV700HR connects first to a dedicated AV in/out box, which then connects to a car charging cable. Presumably Sony's thinking is that if you're going to go to the trouble of permanently installing the mounting frame for the unit, you'll also plumb the electrics in at the same time, but this does represent challenges for anyone who's going to move the unit between vehicles - not to mention a whole lot of cable clutter.
The MV700HR features a 7" (17.8cm) widescreen Active TFT Matrix LCD display. Through the supplied AV connection box you could plumb in most kinds of AV signals, but by itself the range of supported formats is quite neat. It'll play back standard DVD discs - the documentation suggests only region 4 discs are supported, but like many local players, our review unit had no problems with discs of any region - and quite a few other formats. To be specific it'll play back CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/+RW, CD-DA, MP3, VCD, SVCD and SACD discs. If that's not enough entertainment formats for you, the MV700HR also comes with a memory stick slot for JPG image viewing and MP3 music playback.
The MV700HR also comes with an included remote control, but we can't tell you a single thing about that, because our review sample was shipped sans remote.
Installation of the MV700HR presents a definite challenge. Its permanent mounting bracket isn't all that hard to install, and it's miles better than the MV-65ST's crude cables. Still, you're essentially just dealing entertainment to only one (or at most two) back-seat passengers - the passenger sitting behind the seat that doesn't have the MV700HR is unlikely to see much of anything at that kind of angle. In our testing, we generally placed it in between the front seats of our test vehicle, where it stuck in quite nicely, albeit without any holding straps of any kind. Obviously, that ability is going to vary widely from vehicle to vehicle.
Disc playback also presented us with a minor challenge, as the unit by default switches to NTSC playback, and most of our test discs were PAL. Without the remote, it's a bit tricky to switch - it involves getting the unit to recognise that there's a disc in there, stopping NTSC playback, switching source and then hitting play - but without the remote it's hard to say if this would be a major problem in the long run.
The MV700HR's display is crisp and clear, and presented well in both dark and very bright conditions. Likewise, the audio output is quite clear, and well positioned. In our test vehicle, we were able to entertain two small children in the back seat with Wiggles DVDs while the adults in the front seat could listen to in-car radio with little overspill of audio sources. If you're particularly keen on silence, the MV700HR supports infra-red sending of audio to supported headsets, which could lead to some spookily quiet car journeys indeed.