The solidly-built mPack P600 borrows its basic 'clamshell' design from portable DVD players.
Its top half is dominated by the 16:9 TFT LCD display, while the bottom sports stereo speakers and a series of sensibly-arranged controls focused a round a 'joypad'. These operate an intuitive user interface that configures the device and selects files for playback.
Measuring 4in diagonally, the screen has a 480 x 272 resolution and will simultaneously show up to 16-million colours. More importantly, images looks crisp and detailed with no 'lag'. Its only drawback is the glossy finish, which tends to distractingly reflect light sources.
As an alternative to the onboard display, you can drive an external display via composite or (unusually) component using the supplied cables - the latter, amazingly, will upscale to 720p or 1080p hi-def. The socketry is - along with headphones, analogue and digital audio outputs - located on the rear panel.
Because there's no AV input, content must be transferred from a personal computer via USB. Do this, and the P600 appears as an external hard disk with a 20GB capacity ( with the supplied adaptor, the USB port will also view or transfer pictures from a digital camera).
The better-than-usual AV output connectivity is justified because the P600 is capable of playing 'ripped' DVDs - unlike most PMPs, it's directly compatible with MPEG2 and Dolby Digital audio. In fact, it's difficult to tell the P600 apart from a good budget player when playing ripped DVDs using the component output.
Use a freeware program like DVD Decrypter to 'break' the CSS codes, and then copy the VIDEO_TS folders that the program creates on your PC's hard disk to the player a cross USB.
That said, a better (but more time-consuming) alternative would be DVD Shrink, which rips and recompresses a dual-layer DVD primarily so it can be 'backed-up' to a 4.7GB DVD-R. Without such treatment, an average movie would occupy 8GB; in other words, your 20GB will only occupy two.
The P600 is also happy with other types of MPEG2 file, like digital TV rips and MPEG1. As an alternative, you can compress your movie into DiVX or XViD - both produced without nasties like lip-sync errors. JPEG and RAW still images are also playable, while the P600 supports MP3, WMA and CD-ripped WAV files.
Pleasingly, the sound quality matches those superb visuals, providing that you use decent headphones, and even the on-board speakers are better than expected. Battery life is more than acceptable - a single charge yielding up to four hours of video or eight hours of audio. Oh, and the battery (a lithium-ion type) can be unclipped and replaced if required.
In all, this is a gem of a player that's reliable, easy to use and performs superbly. Its only drawback - price apart - is the smallish 20GB capacity of the tiny (1.8in) hard drive. Pricier 40GB and 80GB versions are, however, available.