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Neuros MPEG 4 Recorder

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Review I was so disappointed when I first tried Neuros' MPEG 4 Recorder (NMR). I knew this amazingly compact PVR's size came at the cost of a hard drive, dropped in favour of memory cards, but I figured I could easily copy the files to a computer for archiving.

Neuros MPEG 4 RecorderThen I saw the picture quality. I should have known better: MPEG 4 was developed for mobile devices, not standard TVs, let alone HD displays. But I should also have figured out that Neuros' little gadget isn't a PVR. Yes, it records TV broadcasts into a digital format, but there the similarity ends.

When you stop thinking of the NMR as a PVR and see it as a way of getting video content onto mobile devices, it's stops being a disappointment and becomes a desirable item.

The 140g NMR is, at 11.8 x 8.7 x 1.8cm, a little larger than your average Pocket PC and is cunningly shaped to sit flat or vertically on its end. Kitted out in patent black with silver trim, there are two memory card slots on the front, one for CompactFlash cards, the other for SD cards, alongside the remote control IR port. Round the back, there's a USB 2.0 connector, AV in and out jacks, and the power socket.

There's a switch on the back to, which flips the unit between PC and TV modes. The former forces it to work like any other memory card reader, interfacing with a PC or Mac via USB, and with any inserted cards mounting as USB Mass Storage devices. Switching to TV mode activates the AV ports. Both use identical cables, two of which are included in the box, terminating at a trio of RCA jacks, for composite video, and left- and right-channel stereo sound. The NMR supports the European PAL TV standard and NTSC for North American and Asian users.

Being based in Europe, my TV, DVD, VCR and FreeView digital TV receiver all interconnect using SCART cables, which I've rigged through BlueDelta's rather good SmartSCART intelligent signal switch. Fortunately, my DVD player has RCA jacks on the back.

Neuros doesn't ship the NMR with a memory card, and given the rapidly falling prices of solid-state storage, that's probably a wise move, if a little inconvenient for the buyer. I tried the unit with a handy 64MB SD card, but you'll probably want to make sure you have at least a 512MB job ready.

Connecting the power to the NMR brings up the icon menu, from where you can play video or music files, view photos and record video. It's not a particularly attractive UI, but it works. The unit handles MP3 files and, depending on which parts of Neuros' website and the manual you read, it's said to play AAC-encoded tracks too. MP3 playback is fine, but the unit didn't recognise the .M4A files I copied over from my iTunes archive.

Viewing photos isn't satisfying either. The series of five megapixel snaps I loaded my SD card with appeared blocky when scaled down, interlaced and pumped through the TV.

Next page: Recording

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