As with any portable DVD player, Philips is aware that what you're interested in is the display screen, so from a design perspective, they've kept things very simple indeed. The DCP951 features a 9-inch widescreen LCD display that sits above a speaker grille which also incorporates playback and menu controls in a nicely stylish fashion. We've seen a lot of inexpensive portable DVD players that have, to be frank, felt pretty flimsy in actual use, but the DCP951 bucks that trend, as it's a solid unit with some weight behind it.
Down the left-hand side, you'll find two headphone sockets — ideal for keeping multiple back-seat passengers happy, along with 3.5mm AV input and output sockets, a volume wheel and an SD/MMC card slot and the unit's AC adapter input. Philips provides a wall socket adapter as well as an in-car charger with the DCP951.
The right-hand side houses a pop-out slot that can be used to hide the DCP951's rather chunky remote, but it's also got one other trick up its sleeve, as it also houses a standard iPod Dock connector. This will allow you (in theory) to play back iPod audio and video content on the DCP951.
As a DVD player, our DCP951 came out of the box locked to Region 4. We're not fond of consumer-unfriendly limitations like that, and thankfully a quick bit of googling soon saw our test unit placed in a much more flexible region-free situation. Aside from commercial DVDs, the DCP951 will also play back DVD+/-R and DVD+/-RW, (S)VCD, DivX and MPEG4 discs and SD/MMC cards, as well as the video formats supported on any connected and video-capable iPod. Discs are loaded into the back of the unit via a flap that drops open.
Most portable DVD players see most of their action in an in-car context, and with that in mind, Philips provides a sling to hang the DCP951 off the back of a car seat headrest.
We struggled somewhat to install the DCP951 within its supplied sling, which is substantially more flimsy than the DCP951 itself. Eventually, within our test vehicle, we gave up and installed it in between the front two seats, which afforded our test subjects in the rear seats a better viewing angle anyway.
For regular DVD playback, the DCP951 shone. The screen is nice and clear, and dealt well with times when we were driving in extremely glare-prone conditions. Audio was crisp and actually had some definition even at higher volumes. Many portable DVD players have awful speakers that distort and lose definition, and the DCP951 is thankfully not one of that type. Philips rates the DCP951 as being capable of up to 2.5 hours of playback time when not on a charger, and we managed that easily in our tests, with the battery finally conking out at two and three quarter hours of DVD playback.
On the iPod front, the DCP951 worked acceptably in our tests, but with a few interesting quirks. The basic navigation screen is exactly that — basic, not to mention a little slow.
If you're browsing for video, you have to pop the iPod out (in our case, an iPod Touch running the 2.1 firmware) and navigate on-screen to your video file of choice, which is a touch annoying, especially if you're on the move while you're doing it. And just so we could tick off the little box that says that we've done something, we plugged an iPhone 3G into it, and predictably, it suggested that Airplane mode might be a good idea. It would make a stupidly large phone — and we even tested that, with the iPhone dropping audio in and out at the right junctions. It's still not a good idea, but at least you now know it can be done.
There's any number of cheap portable DVD players if that's all you want, so a premium-priced unit does have to work a bit harder to stand out, and that's exactly what the DCP951 does.