Philips has made a real effort with the player's user interface, using the same stylised fonts and icons found on its latest Blu-ray players. Pop in an SD card for example and a funky-looking menu offers a choice of Photos, Music or Videos, and it looks a lot classier than the sub-spectrum graphics found on some rivals.
The setup menu is also easy to work with, splitting the options into sensible submenus and offering useful features like brightness, contrast and backlight adjustments. There's also a choice of JPEG slideshow transition effects and a frequencies, which means it also makes a decent digital photo frame.
The remote is very easy to use, helped along by a neat button arrangement and a light, ergonomic shape. The volume keys could have been more prominent but that's the only fault with this surprisingly unfiddly zapper.
The PET744 produces exceptionally good picture quality by portable DVD standards. The key is that 800 x 480-pixel resolution, which ensures sharp detail reproduction with none of the visible pixel structure problems or wishy-washy definition that beset the PET712's pictures. It makes our Men In Black DVD look terrific - the grotesque alien make-up and Tommy Lee Jones' craggy face are crisply and smoothly rendered, plus the tight edges give the image a solid, striking look.
We're also impressed by the Philips' colour reproduction - skin tones appear natural with well-handled shading, plus loud reds and yellows blaze from the screen without looking like garish neon signs. Blacks are punchy too, as evidenced by the agents' deep and three-dimensional suits - folds, creases and shadows remain visible and don't get swallowed up in a 'black hole'.
On the audio side, the speakers are actually more dynamic and forceful than we expected, but that's not a huge endorsement - the sound is still thin and hard, and gets fatiguing at maximum volume. As ever it's designed for use with headphones, and with a decent pair of cans wrapped round your bonce you get excellent movie sound quality, and that goes for CD, MP3 and WMA playback too. It's also worth pointing out that the high-res screen also makes JPEGs look wonderfully sharp and detailed, plus sideshow transitions are fun to watch. DivX and MPEG-4 clips play without glitches and look great.
Some say that portable DVD decks are on their last legs due to the prevalence of hard-disk portable media players, but if companies like Philips keep making disc spinners as good as this they'll be around for years to come.
Apart from the lack of a USB port, the PET744 gets it right in every way. It boasts a healthy feature list, solid format compatibility, dashing looks, great onscreen presentation and (most importantly) gorgeous picture quality, all of which makes it worth every penny of its price tag. If you're torn between this and the Toshiba SD-P73S, the Philips' longer battery life and higher resolution screen makes it the outright winner in our book.