May 29 2006
Ever since the iPod with video came out, there’s been something of a mad rush
to find ways to get content to your iPod. Apple’s doing a pretty amazing job
of bringing programming to the iTunes Music Store, but they can’t hope to bring
every show currently being broadcast to the iTMS, at least not for a while.
So, in the interim, we have to find ways to get our own videos into our iPods
and PSPs, and Neuros Audio has addressed that need with the MPEG4 Recorder
The MPEG4 Recorder is like an easy-to-use, free-standing VCR that records
onto digital memory cards instead of VHS tapes so that the video is playable
directly on the Sony PSP (using memory sticks), other handheld devices, or
ready for easy transfer to the Video iPod.
Let me first say, the Neuros (I’m going to call it that, because “MPEG4
Recorder 2″ is just unwieldy) absolutely gets the job done. Within minutes
of wiring the Neuros between my Tivo and TV, and digging up my 1GB Compact
Flash card, I was recording video. I had almost no problem at all setting the
Neuros up to record an hour playback from the Tivo (an episode of CSI), then
popping out the CF card, putting it into my 6-way reader, and transferring
the file to iTunes for staging to the iPod.
That said, that whole process may not be the most user friendly path,
even for a serious geek like me.
The On-Screen Interface of the Neuros, combined with the rather unintuitive
layout of the credit-card infrared remote, made it something of a struggle
to navigate the interface. But in the long run, that probably an after effect
of basking in the glow of user interfaces like the iPod, Tivo, and iTunes.
After a little practice, the interface makes sense, and again it’s important
to note, gets the job done. In the long run, it’s probably no worse than the
onscreen programming of VCRs, but I haven’t seen one of those for about 5 years.
Yes, Tivo does spoil you.
So how did it look? This is always subjective. (I suppose I could have pulled
the files into Final Cut and analyzed them with a waveform monitor, but dammit
Jim, I’m a doctor, not an engineer!) I used 2 episodes recorded from the Tivo
to the Neuros, one of CSI (it’s the most popular show on TV, but it’s kind
of dark, since most of the crime investigations are at night), and one of Monk,
on USA (which took place in daylight). Amazingly, once I transferred both files
to the iPod with video, in the 320×240 MPEG format for the iPod, I was surprised
at the overall sharpness of both videos.
I did notice a vertical darker bar
that would scan left to right across the screen (see the screengrabs below,
click for fullsize, and here
to watch an example). I can’t say if
this was an artifact of recording or cabling (I used the cables provided by
Neuros), but I did notice it rolling through the video on my TV when passed
through the Neuros Recorder. I also noticed a slight whine in the audio track,
once I started listening to the show on the iPod, only really noticeable in
quiet passages of the program. Overall, the quality was quite good, though
when compared to an episode of LOST from the iTMS, the difference is obvious.
NOTE: We contacted Neuros regarding the quality issues in video and
audio, and as of this posting, haven’t received a reply. We also tried
different wiring paths to try to eliminate the interference, without success.
At this time, we’re unsure if there’s an update to firmware or software
that might fix this, but, still don’t think that if you’re watching on
an iPod that the interference is severe enough to not reccommend the product.
UPDATE 2006.05.30: Neuros has replied to the issues in the review, and tells us: “…We are addressing the defects you noted, not just in audio and video recording, but in the user interface as well. In fact the whine you heard in the audio has already been eliminated (it was a defect that didn’t impact every unit nor every setup, but it was unacceptable regardless).”
Good to see they’re responsive, and we’ll be watching for further updates. – BD
But really, you’re watching on a 2.5″ screen on the iPod. We’re not about
a theatrical experience here. The goal is to be able to watch episodes of Good
Eats or Degrassi on the iPod. And for that, the Neuros recorder delivers, and
gets the job done.
- Records in iPod-friendly format, no muss, no fuss
- Simple transfer to PSP via Memory Stick
- Unattended recording (if your cable box cooperates)
- Interface far from iPod fabulous
- Quality somewhat below shows purchased from iTMS
- Storage Media and adapter for computer not included (1GB Compact Flash
or better suggested, Memory Stick DUO/PRO DUO for PSP)