SanDisk V-Mate memory-card video recorder
Keep your favourite TV shows on a memory card
Review Video content on mobile phones today is rich and diverse, but the cost is also rich and diverse - with an emphasis on rich. Are there any affordable alternatives to watching a variety of video on mobiles and other portable devices? SanDisk seems to think so...
SanDisk announced the V-Mate at Berlin's IFA 2006: a dinky device that can record video to various types of memory card for playback on mobile devices. Handy that, since SanDisk manufactures a wide array of memory cards. That's its angle, as simple as that.
The unit has the appearance of a plain card reader, which it can be, if you want, connecting to a PC via a USB cable. The V-Mate can handle any SD, MMC and Memory Stick PRO cards – only CompactFlash is off the guest list. This isn't a huge loss, but there's still a range of handhelds that will be left incompatible.
The V-Mate takes a composite-video input, converts picture and sound to digital, and writes the resulting video file straight to the memory card without any PC intervention. It sounds straightforward and is pretty much just that. Two cables plugged into the rear, one for the input signal - VCR, DVD, Freeview, Sky or Telewest/NTL box - the other for TV output so you can view the recording or just for set-up and scheduling.
Here’s where we hit a minor problem. Not many video sources have a composite-video output. What’s needed here - and is sadly missing from the box - is a composite-video to SCART adaptor. Realistically this is the only way to get a signal to the unit as no Sky, Telewest or Freeview unit we could find has composite-video output.
After this hurdle is overcome, setting up recording is elementary. The V-Mate boots and requires time and date to be entered via remote control. This is used to name video files, which are just the time and date. No other alternatives are possible. A minor quirk is that every time the power is lost, date and time has to be re-entered, which can be tiresome. For this review we kept the unit on standby when not in use – as it functions as a pass-through for the video signal.
Does the unit allow you to change the audio codec/bitrate as well and does it record the audio in stereo ?
RE images and fine details
The point we were trying to get across is that the SKY, Freeview and Telewest units we have seen, used and researched upon for this review did not have a native composite output (yellow rimmed receptacle socket).
Also, the commonly found SCART adaptor, which just provides the 'IN'
source for adapting the accompanying cables to be used – will not
suffice for deriving a signal for recording.
The more uncommon variety of SCART adaptor, that has the pins wired in
such a way that 'OUT' signal is available would need to be used here.
We discovered this by purchasing and using as you've mentioned '"scart
to three phono" cable, wired for L/R audio + composite video' adaptors
and could not get the signal through.
To resolve this we sourced the correct unit from a know specialist in
electrical components, where they put the record straight and
Awaiting power supply
I got one of these for xmas... still not used it yet so can't tell you all how great it is :-( Mine came with no power supply (in the sealed plastic packaging) and after numerous support logs and telephone calls I'm still waiting for one to be delivered. The latest update is "we don't have any, not sure when we will have some, could be weeks yet...". The support has been a mixed bag, some useful (and sympathetic to my request for a power supply!), others not so much.
scart == composite video
The SCART connector *does* carry a composite video signal on pin 18.
DVD players, satellite decoders and games consoles (which have RGB outputs) place an RGB signal on pins 15/11/7, a composite video signal (generated in real time from the RGB signals) on pin 18 and a switching voltage on pins 16 and 8. VCRs (which have only composite video outputs) place just a composite signal on pin 18 and a switching voltage on pin 8. TV sets wired for RGB respond to the voltage on pin 16, pick up the RGB signals form 15/11/7 and obtain only the timing information from pin 18. TV sets wired only for composite video (usually older sets and portables smaller than 35cm.) ignore pins 16, 15, 11 and 7, but respond to the voltage on pin 8 anyway and pick up the picture signal from pin 18.
At the moment, the SCART connector is just a bit too big for a modern, slimline device. Perhaps someday soon the electronics can be got small enough to squeeze the whole recorder into a package with SCART pins on one end and a card slot on the other? RGB output would be nice as well.
1. The description of the screenshots is wrong IMHO: the PSP picture is smaller than the W800i? shouldn't it be the Oppisite?
2. I'm not sure many portable devices can play MPEG files directly, it's too bad that they didn't have alternative codecs (MPEG-4 variants comes to mind)