Streaming Networks, Inc.

Price: $199.99

The iRecord is billed as your “Personal Media Recorder.” I was hoping I’d be able to use this unit to pull some video from a few DVDs I wanted to use in another project. Read on and we’ll find out how successful I was and what the iRecord is all about.

The iRecord is a small (2″ x 3″) analog video/audio hardware conversion device that connects to a wide range of recording media. iRecord doesn’t require a computer, since it can record directly to a video iPod, a USB stick or hard drive, and even a PSP.

The iRecord can record from a variety of devices: TV/VCR/DVD, Cable or Satellite box, PVR, DVR, LP/Cassette, Camcorder, Internet or Satellite radio.

It’s easy to hook up the iRecord. Simply plug the included RCA composite video cables, or the S-Video cable, into the unit you want to record from. Then plug the device you want to record to into the USB port on the side of the unit and you’re all set to go.

The iRecord only has two buttons. One button turns it on and one button starts or stops recording. The record button glows green when it’s ready to record, and once pressed, the button flashes red as it is recording. Not the best method for someone who is colorblind like I am. There are no other settings, which is good and bad at the same time. You can’t adjust anything. iRecord does its thing and either you are happy with the results or not.

I tried the iRecord with a DVD player, and a Satellite DVR. I recorded video to a USB stick drive and a portable USB hard drive. Note, the USB drives must be formatted in FAT32 (Windows format). I had no problem connecting these drives to a Mac.

Hooking up the iRecord to a DVD player yielded mixed results. I popped in a DVD of the “Rat Patrol” and successfully recorded a segment I was watching. When I played it back on my Mac, I thought the recording was a bit darker than what I was seeing on the DVD player, but that could just be the difference in the players.

Compression is impressive. The device encodes in hi-quality H.264 video with AAC audio at 320X240 resolution. I used a USB stick drive and an external hard drive for my testing.

The compression is really pretty good. What is “video compression?” From Wikipedia, “Most video compression is lossy i.e. it operates on the premise that much of the data present before compression is not necessary for achieving good perceptual quality. For example, DVDs use a video coding standard called MPEG-2 that can compress ~2 hours of video data by 15 to 30 times while still producing a picture quality that is generally considered high quality for standard-definition video.

Video compression, like data compression, is a tradeoff between disk space, video quality and the cost of hardware required to decompress the video in a reasonable time. However, if the video is over compressed in a lossy manner, visible (and sometimes distracting) artifacts can appear.” The documentation claims that the iRecord “automatically recognizes the type of mass storage device and optimizes the audio and video resolution for the target device.” Using a USB 4 GB stick, I recorded one hour of video from my Direct TV DVR, which consumed about 350MB of disk space.

Using the iRecord to record something from commercial, protected, DVDs yielded mixed results. Using the device to record from a “Get Smart” DVD was no problem. However, attempting to record a segment from an “Indiana Jones” movie came back with only a message stating that the DVD was protected and copying was prohibited. I found this to be most annoying. After that, it was hit or miss. Some DVDs I could record from, others I could not.

The iRecord also has the ability to record music. Using the RCA jacks, you can hook this device up to a stereo, and record from cassettes and LPs (remember those?) or any analog audio source. The iRecord formats these as MP3. Just like video recording, there is no way to edit what you are recording. You’ll have to own an audio editor to do that. The device will automatically split tracks.

The iRecord is quite versatile. It will record from just about any device that plays music or video. The video and audio quality are good and the device is small and lightweight. However, you can’t record from “protected” video sources you may own and the iRecord inserts an annoying watermark at the beginning of every video you record. These can be edited out in iMovie, but it is annoying nonetheless.

Pros: Easy to hook up. Will record from just about any device. Good compression with the H.264 codec for video and MP3 audio formats, both at pretty good quality. Will record to a variety of USB media, stick drives, hard drives, PSP, iPods or any mass storage device. Firmware is upgradeable. You can connect via S-video or composite for video.

Cons: Once you begin to record something there is no way to see what is going on other than a flashing light. Even when trying to record off of protected DVDs the light was flashing even though I was not recording anything. If you want to edit anything, you’ll have to do it on your Mac. Any USB drives you want to copy to must be formatted in Windows FAT32 format, but iRecord will copy directly to either Mac or PC formatted iPods. Annoying watermark at the beginning of every video. Will not allow me to copy from protected DVDs I own.

MyMac Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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