Digital media from card or disc is displayed in neat folders, and although it’s sluggish to respond you can find files quite easily. They’re listed on the left while a list of options and JPEG preview box is shown on the right. On the downside JPEG files look overtly soft and blocky on the low-res screen, which makes the feature fairly pointless.
DivX files load up immediately and the 7in screen is perfectly suited to this file format as it helps to mask the blurring and block noise in poorly encoded files. We also listened to a few MP3 files through a high quality pair of headphones and the sound quality is very impressive. There’s a lovely balance across the frequency range, with perky treble and a healthy dose of bass. The SDP74 won’t play WMA files.
However, the SDP74S was primarily conceived for DVD playback and despite its obvious limitations it does a great job with movies. After loading up Avatar, and tweaking the screen settings to make it less murky, we were very pleased by how bright and vibrant the picture looks. It allows you to appreciate the movie’s stunning CGI, from the dazzling blue skin tones of the Na’vi to Pandora’s vivid landscapes.
But as well as delivering these forceful colours, the SDP74S also renders more natural elements of the picture, such as human skin and spacecraft interiors, with a convincing, well-balanced tone. The night-time scenes on Pandora are surprisingly well contrasted, allowing blacks within blacks and shadow detail to remain visible. The screen also boasts a wide viewing angle, and therefore remains watchable even when you’re not straight on to the screen.
However, the low pixel count causes banding on background walls and leaves edges looking soft and jagged. You can also see a hazy, shimmering chicken wire effect that lessens the impact of the movie’s intricate CG detail, but these are par for the course with a 7in screen and probably will go unnoticed by young viewers. If you don’t analyse it too deeply, the SDP74 delivers very enjoyable images and at this price you can’t really ask for better than that.
Although there’s nothing particularly new or original about the SDP74, and its low screen resolution causes a few problems, it’s certainly a likeable portable DVD deck. It offers bright, colourful movie playback, a stylish design and (limited) digital media playback via SD card, but the best part is the price. At well under £100 means the SDP74 is a relatively affordable way to keep the kids amused.