If you’ve a keen eye for detail, our reference earlier to the PET723’s resolution of just 480 x 234 will have already set alarm bells ringing. And, sure enough, downscaling DVDs and then stretching the picture onto the 7in screen has undesirable consequences: small text is almost unreadable and fine detail thrown out the window.
Get any closer than 30cm and you’ll be hard pushed not to be distracted by this – it’s difficult not to spend time picking out the individual pixels. Sit a little further back, though, and things look rosier. The resolution issues largely disappear, and the picture looks clear and sharp; fast-paced action scenes are dealt with well, and colours are vibrant without being garish.
You will, however, be left squinting to see all the action in dark scenes, while brightly-lit sequences tend to look a little washed out – fiddling with the brightness and contrast settings did little to help. We also noticed a small amount of backlight creep at the bottom of the screen – nothing detrimental, but it can be irritating at times.
As a digital photo frame, the PET723 is fine, just as long as you make sure your guests view from a reasonable distance. Get up close and the low resolution display absolutely murders your snaps. No less than 17 transitions help ease the boredom between shots, with a choice of intervals from five seconds right up to two hours.
Snaps can be loaded from an SD card or CD/DVD, but there’s no internal memory. A small annoyance is that the power cable can be seen poking out from the side of the chassis – not great if you’re planning to have it on show in the lounge.
At 800g, the player won’t weigh you down too much when on the move, but with no battery level indicator you’re left guessing whether or not a recharge is required before you head out. An unnecessarily large warning icon merrily flashes away when battery level reaches critical, so your last ten minutes of viewing pleasure will be all but ruined.
It wouldn’t be so bad if the PET723 could muster up the strength for a decent trip away from the mains, but with a fully-juiced battery we only got one hour 50 minutes into Casino Royale before the player decided enough was enough. You’ll be able to improve on this if you’re watching a movie from an SD card, but we were hoping for more. And, since the battery isn’t removable, you can’t simply take a second power pack around with you.
An effective anti-shock feature is present, making in-car viewing possible, and Philips helpfully includes a 12V car adaptor along with the standard mains lead.
Thanks to decent horizontal viewing angles, group viewing sessions aren’t a problem but, as ever, vertical viewing angles aren’t so hot – place it above eye level and the screen loses all clarity, meaning it’s next to useless as a photo frame if you put it on a high shelf.
Meanwhile, the anti-glare screen means you won’t have to dodge reflections caused by indoor lighting. But if the sun’s doing its job, you’ll have to resort placing a towel over you head when watching the PET723 outside.
The battery life stretches to just 110 minutes, and if Philips were serious about the PET723’s credentials as a photo frame, why didn’t it fit the device with an 800 x 480 resolution screen?
With vibrant colours and a decent picture, the PET723 certainly has its plus points. But unless you view from a reasonable distance you’ll be constantly reminded of its low resolution. Take it outside, and it’s battery life will disappoint. It’s a nice idea, giving a photo frame DVD playback, but ultimately Philips has failed to pull it off. For now, we’d recommend purchasing two separate units if you want a portable DVD player and a digital photo frame.