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Neuros Mpeg-4 Video Recorder 2: Free Your Media
game: Neuros Mpeg-4 Video Recorder 2
four star
posted by: Shawn Rider
publisher: Neuros Technologies
developer: Neuros Technologies
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date posted: 09:07 AM Mon Mar 13th, 2006
last revision: 10:42 AM Mon Mar 13th, 2006

Click to read.Mobile video is hot right now. That shouldn\'t be news to anyone reading. iPod Video might be the latest thing, but Sony\'s PlayStation Portable put the media experience front-and-center almost exactly a year ago, shipping the first units with complimentary UMD copies of Sony Pictures\' Spider-Man 2. In the wake of a long, slow trickle of games, the PSP\'s media functions became even more important to the success of the product. UMD movies have actually become fairly common for mainstream movie releases, in spite of the fact that the very idea of purchasing a low-quality, proprietary version of a film strikes many people as inherently wrong.

Here\'s a question that is central to the whole digital media revolution: When you purchase a song or a film or an episode of a television show, are you buying a copy of the media file? Or are you in some way buying the right to experience that media piece in perpetuity, regardless of medium?

In videogames, this is often brought up in relation to emulators and game ROMs: If I own a cartridge copy of Super Mario Bros, is it OK for me to download a ROM of Super Mario Bros and play that on an NES Emulator? This is an area of debate, but I\'m of the opinion that emulation and legitimate ROM usage is covered by the notion of \"fair use.\" I also think we have a right to convert our CDs into MP3s, and transfer our old videotapes onto DVD.

It has always struck me that at the very least, I do own a specific copy of whatever media I have purchased on CD or DVD. Since the quality of video on the PSP or iPod video is much lower than that of a DVD or broadcast TV, it is not hard to understand why I\'d rather convert the video I already pay for into a format that I can enjoy on my PSP than purchase that content formatted for every device I own. I pay the cable company monthly to broadcast Lost into my home each week. I pay extra to borrow a DVR from the cable company, yet there is no easy way to get my digital copy of Lost from the DVR to my PSP. And this has always been a problem.

Unless you own a Media Center PC or are very savvy about working with digital video, it is very difficult to move video from your cable feed or DVDs onto your PSP or iPod Video. Even if you are knowledgeable enough to handle converting the video and installing it on your personal devices using your personal computer, it takes a long time to do that. Video conversion and compression are some of the most intense computing activities the average user attempts, and the procedure is often clunky and troublesome.

Enter the Neuros Mpeg-4 Video Recorder 2. Neuros Technologies have a mission: To help you use the media that you legitimately own. Neuros is concerned with helping users get the most out of their media and devices, and they happily fill a hole left in the marketplace by less open, more \"Hollywood-friendly,\" companies like Sony and Apple.

The Neuros Video Recorder 2 is a sleek little device that shares the PSP\'s shiny black and muted silver design. It weighs about five ounces and measures 4.6 inches x 3.42 x .71 inches. The Video Recorder comes with a wafer-thin remote control, not much larger than the Compact Flash (CF) cards to which it reads and writes. The unit is powered by a standard AC wall plug with an only slightly bulky head on it. Using the standard headphones-jack to composite (red, white, yellow) cables, the Video recorder plugs into any analog video output for recording and/or display.

I began by plugging input on the the Video Recorder 2 into the back of my Sony DVD player, which also has a pass-through for my cable signal. I plugged the Video Recorder\'s output into my television and had no trouble finding the device on the TV\'s auxiliary input. The home button on the remote brings up a main menu that allows access to video recording and playback, as well as audio and image playback. An added bonus of the Video Recorder is the ability to play audio and image files from CF Cards and Memory Sticks.

But the video recording is the meat of the unit, and that is where the interface requires a little bit of getting used to. The documentation is not very thorough, so I had to poke around a little to get a feel for the way things worked. The Neuros website would have been very helpful if I had finally broken down to consult the Internet. But after a little experimentation, I had recorded several highlights from The Colbert Report and a few music videos from my Adelphia On Demand service.

The Video Recorder 2 records to either CF Cards or Memory Sticks. I focused on recording video for the Sony PSP using a 512MB memory stick. I could record at either a normal (4:3) or widescreen (16:9) aspect ratio and either economic (384kbps) or normal (768kbps) quality. Recording at full VGA quality video is also possible, but renders videos incompatible with the PSP. (The full-quality videos do, however, look very nice when played back on a regular display.)

After recording the videos to the Memory Stick, I placed it in the PSP and was delighted to see a list of video files displayed with handy thumbnails. The videos play back flawlessly and look really wonderful. There is a small difference noticeable between the normal and economic recording quality, but overall the difference is very minor and not worth the extra disc space. Audio is encoded in 128kbps AAC format, and sounds wonderful, especially if routed through headphones or a stereo.

I found that I was getting about 5mb/minute at economic quality and over 7mb/minute at normal quality. I could get about 90 minutes of video onto a 512mb Memory Stick, and Neuros says the device has been tested with Memory Sticks up to 2GB.

Of course, huge Memory Sticks and CF Microdrives are expensive. The PSP is expensive, and so is the iPod. So if you have some or all of these things, how much is the Neuros worth? For an iPod video user, the Neuros Video Recorder 2 seems like a natural tool, and it\'s also fairly pricey: about $150 at retail. And not all PSP owners are consumed with the media functions. The PSP does also play games. If you\'re not really interested in video on your PSP, I think it\'s unlikely that the Video Recorder 2 will do enough to get you interested enough to drop that kind of cash.

But if you are a portable video lover, then the Video Recorder offers a lot of helpful tools. Not only does it bridge the gap between your TV screen and your portable screen, but it is truly a functioning \"VCR-style\" device. It can be set for timer recordings (up to 5 scheduled programs with daily, weekly and monthly record features), offers robust file management, and works conveniently entirely through the remote control.

The device is also built very well. There are no moving parts, and it seems like a sturdy piece of equipment. Neuros has added the ability to upgrade the firmware, which should allow the Video Recorder to stay current with the changing face of portable media. The topping on the cake is the Neuros attitude to independent development, which is very open. The software is available to modify and develop, which also bodes very well for the longevity of the Video Recorder product.

The Neuros Mpeg-4 Video Recorder 2 is an excellent device. For fans of mobile video who own an Mpeg-4 and CF Card or Memory Stick compatible unit, the Video Recorder 2 is an incredible tool. Since receiving the Video Recorder, I\'ve found myself using my PSP\'s video functions a lot more. I keep my memstick slotted and drop whatever weirdness I see onto the PSP for later review. It is useful enough for my daily commute that I\'m actually looking forward to my next long airplane flight so I can take along a feature length film of my own choosing for in-flight viewing.

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