Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- Record video sources to flash memory, Easy to use
- Low resolution image quality could have been better, no function buttons on the device
While it is a bit of a niche product, the SanDisk V-Mate is good at what it does
Price$ 129.95 (AUD)
The SanDisk V-Mate is an interesting little device that records video from any composite source directly to a memory card. By hooking up the V-Mate to your VCR or DVD player, you can record movies and television in a number different of formats. These can then be played back either by using the V-Mate or by inserting the card into a compatible portable device.
We tested the device by making videos in each of the supported video formats and checking the image quality, audio integrity and frame rate. Overall, we found that it worked reasonably well but the interface was sluggish at times and the picture could have been better.
The image quality will solely depend on what format you output to. At full resolution, it is of a high quality, but if you need to compress it down to iPod video or one of the many mobile phone video formats, you will lose a lot of quality, frame rate or both. Across all formats, the sound quality was always clear without any problems to report. We did find one thing interesting though. While playback on a DVD player or iPod looked great, we couldn't get it to record from the Xbox360 at standard definition. However, this is understandable since there are a wide range of copy protection protocols in place to prevent Xbox content being copied.
The V-Mate supports recording in MP4, 3GP and 3G2 formats which use both MPEG-4 simple profile and h.263 codecs to a maximum resolution of 640 x 480 at 30fps. However, you don't need to know any of this in order to record to the right device. The on-screen menu does not ask what format you wish to record in but rather which device you are going to use it on. In addition to iPod and PC playback, a wide range of mobile phones are also supported from all the major brands.
If you want to record television, the V-Mate can also work in sync with your VCR via the handy IR transmitter. When a recording is about to start, the transmitter can send a signal to your VCR so it changes to the channel you wish to record in. This makes it useful for people who want to record the late night soccer highlights to watch on the train on the way to work the next day, for example. At full 640 x 480 resolution, the V-Mate can record 3.5 hours of footage for every Gigabyte of memory card space. However, since it ships with a 128MB SD card you may need to look at upgrading. It supports all SD card formats, all MMC formats and the Sony Memory Stick/PRO/Due/PRO Duo.
Setting up the V-Mate is extremely simple; all you need do is connect it to your devices and to a television. The rest of the operations are handled via the on-screen menu using the remote control. Unfortunately, there are no buttons on the device at all, so if you loose the remote, the device becomes inoperable. The on-screen menu is fairly straight forward and gives you options to change the recording format, schedule recordings and play back video from a memory card.
While it is a bit of a niche product, the SanDisk V-Mate is good at what it does. We would have liked the low res video quality to have been a little better and for the on-screen controls to be a little more responsive but apart from that, the device worked well.
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