Philips' top-lining portable DVD deck has the feel of a micro laptop about it. It is fairly heavy (especially with the battery pack attached) and has a rather swish silvered finish to it.

Open it up and you're instantly greeted by the deck's main selling point - the large 16:9 ratio screen. Measuring 10.2ins and with a 800 x 480 resolution image, it's substantial and should go a long way to avoiding the viewer fatigue that you can get with smaller screens.

Connections include component video (but not progressive scan) and S-video outputs, as well as composite in/out, and a digital audio-out jack that feeds a Dolby Digital signal to an amp.

File compatibility is good, with MP3 and JPEG playback as well as DiVX - and this includes a DiVX VOD registration code. WMA files are not on the menu,sadly. Playback options run the usual gamut, including a zoom, slo-mo, freeze frame, A-B repeat and a dynamic range control.

The battery pack can keep the deck running for 2.5 hours and there are both AC and car battery adaptors for recharging and running the deck off an alternative power source. A super-slim remote control houses most of the operational keys, but the major ones are duplicated on the deck itself.

Overall, then, a very pleasing design that just needs a top performance to justify the price.

Performance

And how the PET1000 delivers. The picture is wonderful.There is a ton of fine detail, excellent colour rendition and biting clarity to the image.

Some of our trickiest test sequences, including the cavalry charge from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, posed few problems.The image remains watchable even with vast amounts of onscreen information.

There is inevitably less impact than you'd get from an ordinary TV, but there is no problem with the picture smearing or becoming indistinct when the screen is packed with moving objects.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was also given a warm welcome. Dazzling CGI effects leap from the screen, and the occasional bright scenes are not washed out, but retain contrast and detail.

On the audio side, we hardly ever bother to listen to onboard speakers on portable decks.Those offered here do not impart anything in the way of depth, but are okay for occasional use. Far better is the provision of a pair of headphone sockets, through which the sound is much better.

The viewing angle of the screen is okay. Horizontally, it is more forgiving then vertically, but the fact that you can adjust the screen easily unfortunately means you keep reaching out to do just that.

This is something that'll be less of an issue as you get used to the PET1000,which must be hailed as one of the best portables we've seen. Suddenly, business trips and long train journeys have just become more bearable. David Smith