The best 7in DVD portable Philips ever made boldly proclaims the sticker on the company's latest disc-spinner, which means we could be in for a real treat if its previous portables are anything to go by. At first glance the PET744 certainly seems like a terrific proposition, with a healthy feature list and a design so desirable it'll make even the most ardent hard-disk devotee suddenly want to start taking DVDs on their travels.
The PET744 is conveniently compact, supermodel slim and clad on the top and bottom in a high gloss black finish. You might question the logic in using such styling on a device destined to be fondled by sticky fingers in the back of the car, but it looks great all the same.
Flip open the top section and you're faced with a 7in, 16:9 screen that can be swivelled 180 degrees and laid flat on the base section. The speakers are located just below the screen and kick out a mighty 660mW of power (headphones advised, in other words) while all of the controls are located on the lower section. These cover most of the frequently used functions, such as menu, playback, volume, source and setup, which means you won't need to use the supplied remote very often.
The last Philips portable we looked at, the PET712, failed to provide any card readers or USB device support, so the PET744's SD card slot is a welcome inclusion. It supports SDHC cards too, potentially putting 32GB of music, video and photos at your fingertips. Alongside the card slot is an AV output that lets you send stereo audio and composite video to a TV and sound system, and two headphone outputs for communal listening.
Many portable DVD decks feature snap-on battery packs, but the PET744's is built in, which means you're not adding any unwanted bulk. Fully charged, it offers up to six hours of playback time - a good innings by anyone's standards, although if you're watching at full brightness and listening through the speakers it won't last anywhere near as long.
Another spec sheet stand-out is the screen's 800 x 480-pixel resolution. That's almost high enough to display DVDs in their native resolution, which means less picture information needs to be discarded and therefore you should get more detailed pictures than most of the 7in portables we've tested.
The player's format support is solid but doesn't stretch beyond the norm. It plays DivX, MP3, WMA, JPEG and MPEG-4 clips taken on a digital camera, but not DivX HD, WMV or XviD. You can play the supported formats from SD card, CD-R-RW, DVD-R/-RW or DVD+R/+R.
In the box you get a car headrest that's a cut above the usual pouch holder that accompanies most portables. This one's made of plastic and clamps onto the metal headrest poles, with a bracket that attaches to the back of the player, enabling you to tilt the screen to your desired position. Also in the box is a car power adapter and a minijack-to-composite/analogue stereo cable.