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Clié Video Recorder VR100K Review
Posted Fall 2003 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

Think of it as a VCR or Tivo for your Clié. The VR100K, introduced in the late Fall of 2003 is the size of a portable CDROM drive and can record your favorite TV shows and more. The Clié Video Recorder has a built-in TV tuner and can record from channels 2-13 VHF and 14-69 UHF broadcast over the air, and 1 through 125 for cable or dish. It can also record from other standard RCA connector-based input sources such as your VCR, DVD player and satellite receiver and supports NTSC format. Be warned that the VR100K will not record copy-protected materials which includes premium channels such as HBO and commercially sold VHS and DVD movies.

Sony Clie Video Recorder

Above: the Clié Video Recorder with the NX73V and UX50

Sony Clie Video Recorder

Front of the unit.

VR100K rear

Back of the unit.

 

The video recorder saves movies in .MQV format to Memory Stick, MagicGate, Memory Stick Pro and Memory Stick Duo (requires adapter) media.This is the same format that Cliés with built-in cameras use when shooting movies, and it is the same as Apple's QuickTime variant of the MPEG4 format which can playback on PCs and Macs. Simply change the file extension to .MOV for desktop playback or associate the .MQV extension with QuickTime on your computer. It's compatible with the: UX50 /UX40, NZ90, NX80V, NX73V, NX70, NX60 and TG50.

Recorded Movie Specs and File Size

As you can see from the charts below, the Clié Video Recorder can save movies in four quality settings. I found that Standard Play (SP) offered very good video and audio quality without creating terribly large movies. These are highly watchable on the Clié. While the sound quality is excellent, you may want to use headphones since the audio volume isn't that loud. LP2 is something you'll want to stay away from unless you're desperate for more storage space on your Memory Sticks. LP1 isn't the greatest but is watchable. High Quality (HQ) is the best of course, but really isn't necessary unless you're wanted the sharpest possible videos and have a 1 gig Memory Stick Pro.

recording specs

 

 

 

Deals and Shopping!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Recorder

The VR100K is a compact and attractive unit with relatively few buttons and controls. You don't need many controls because you'll use your Clié to set up recording settings and save them to a Memory Stick. Insert the Memory Stick in the recorder and it will read your settings and recording times.

So what controls are on the unit? There's a power button, a manual record button in case you want to start a recording right then and there rather than setting up a record time in advance and a Stop button to end recording manually. There's also a set button which you'll use to the set the clock on the unit (this is the only setup not done using the Clié) and channel +/- buttons for setting the time and date as well as selecting a channel for manual recordings. The Memory Stick slot is located on the front face of the unit as is the monochrome LCD which displays the time, shows whether a stick is inserted and is also used to set time/date and manual channel recording selection.

On the rear of the video recorder you'll find a standard 75 ohm cable TV connector (the VR100K comes with a short cable or you can use your own), and RCA inputs and outputs for left, right and video. If you're using an antenna or cable TV service, you can either use a cable TV splitter available at Radio Shack and other consumer electronics stores, or you can plug the cable into the video recorder and then plug your TV into the RCA outs (one RCA cable set is included). You'll probably want to get a video splitter because TV picture clarity is better when using a cable connection rather than the RCA out from the VR100K. We tested the VR100K with cable TV. Dish users can either plug into the 75 ohm connector or the RCA ins if you have a satellite receiver with RCA outs. If you wish to record from a VCR, you'll plug the VCR into the RCA in connectors on the VR100K. When recording from RCA inputs, you'll select Line In rather than a channel for your source.

The VR100K comes with and uses a standard Clié PDA power supply just like the one that came with your handheld.

Software and Installation

The included CD contains a 320k Video Utility application for your Clié and a PDF manual. A printed manual is also included in the box. Simply install the application onto your Clié and you're ready to setup the VR100K and create preset recordings. The first time you run the recorder application it will have you set up your input source (air or cable) and select the channels available for your type of service. Selecting channels can be tedious if you have cable: you'll see a long scrollable list of 125 channel numbers and accompanying checkboxes. You must check each channel individually to select it (there is a Clear All button but not a Select All button for some reason). Fortunately you won't have to go through this again, even when changing Memory Sticks. Though if you do need to revisit the settings and make changes, you can do so.

screen shot

main application screen

screen shot

creating a new recording

Creating new record times is fairly straight forward and is more friendly than the average VCR. The manual is clear and concise and that makes matters even easier. Press the New button to create a new recording. You'll specify the date using the standard Palm OS date picker, and set recording time, channel (use Line In if recording from an RCA input rather than air or cable TV), repeat (daily, weekly, Mon-Fri, Mon-Sat, all with options to overwrite the previous recording of that program) recording mode and sound (SAP or no SAP) using pop-up menus. You'll also give your recorded movie a name and the title field will accommodate long titles. The recorder application indicates the approximate remaining record time on this screen, and you can also check available space on your Memory Stick from the main application window. You can have 100 presets saved on your handheld and up to 20 on a Memory Stick. Once you're done creating your preset(s), you'll remove the Memory Stick and place it in the video recorder. Just as with a VCR, you'll need to turn off the video recorder so it can wake itself up to record at the proper time and date. When you power off the video recorder the standby LED illuminates to indicate it's ready to record from presets. Note that the VR100K allows you to record no more than 2 hours per preset (why!?). So if your program is longer than 2 hours, you'll need to create back-to-back presets: one from 8-10pm and another from 10-11pm for a 3 hour movie, for example.

Conclusion

If you're a TV fan, or just want to watch your favorite shows or movies while riding the train to work each day, then this is a very cool device. The videos look and sound great in standard quality and are a pleasure to watch on the PDA. Of course you'll need one of the compatible Sony Cliés too . But you aren't limited to watching the recordings on your Clié since they're in QuickTime format. You can watch them on your desktop or notebook, and even convert them to other formats for use on other devices such as handheld movie players and Pocket PCs that support MPEG4, AVI and other formats. To convert movies you'll need QuickTime Pro, which costs $30 while the basic QuickTime Player is free. Keep in mind that you will need a decent collection of Memory Sticks (the larger capacity Pro ones if you want to record movies) and that headphones are a very good idea since the sound quality is excellent through headphones and the volume is a bit low when played through the Clié's speaker.

 

 

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