Philips makes a few portable DTV models, including the 9-inch PVD900/37 reviewed here, as well as the step-down 7-inch PVD700/37 and PET729/37, which combines a portable DVD player with a 7-inch DTV.
The PVD900, which online costs a little more than $150, looks and feels like your typical inexpensive tablet-style portable DVD player (sans DVD player). That doesn’t mean it’s ugly, it’s just fairly basic and generic-looking, though at 9 inches diagonal, its screen is larger than some of the portable DTVs we’ve reviewed previously, like the Eviant T7 7-inch portable LCD TV and the Envizen Digital Duo Box Pro ED8850A. The TV is also surprisingly lightweight (1.5 pounds), so you can easily carry it. However, like all products that have shiny black finishes, the unit will attract its share of fingerprints if held in hand.
To prop up the TV for viewing, there’s a kickstand on back that folds flush against the unit when not in use. To be clear, this is not a high-definition TV, but it can pull in high-def stations and display them on the TV’s 600×220-pixel screen.
As for the DTV side of the equation, the PVD900 pulls in any TV signals being broadcast in your area, but you do have to attach a small, wired external antenna (its base is magnetized).
On the bright side, this model does have a built-in QAM tuner, so you can connect this to a cable TV outlet and receive basic unscrambled digital and HD stations via cable (so long as you have a cable TV signal coming into your house). We tried it out at home and had no trouble bringing in a wide variety of stations. However, on our cable system, the available channels were mostly the same we’d get via an antenna; don’t expect to get CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, ESPN, or any so-called “premium” cable stations.
It’s important to note two key caveats about the Philips PVD900. First, this model will not pull in any legacy analog or low-power stations that may still be broadcasting in your area–including analog over-the-air stations, analog cable channels, or those analog stations from Mexico or Canada available in border states. Secondly, this is a “portable DTV,” but it does not use the newer Mobile DTV standard that is scheduled to be rolled out in 2010 and beyond. Mobile DTV products are designed to work while in motion (in a car or on a train). By contrast, this product–while easily transportable from room to room or on the go–is designed to be used only when stationary.