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Neuros Recorder 2 Plus

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Review posted October, 2006 by Jacob Spindel

Editor's note, May 2008: Check out our review of the latest model, the Neuros OSD.

Some people say they hate sequels. Although this is an unfair generalization, there are sequels that definitely should not have been made. Although the Neuros Recorder 1 wasn't exactly a "blockbuster" with some audiences due to bugginess and limited audio/video quality, I found that it swiftly became a part of my daily life in spite of this, due to its usefulness and simplicity. I'm happy to say that the new Neuros Recorder 2 Plus has made major improvements over the NR1, addressing most of the complaints I have heard about the original. Even if you may have doubts, the NR2+ is one sequel that is worth taking a chance on.

neuros recorder 2

The Neuros Reloaded

The basic idea of the Neuros Recorder remains unchanged in the new model: plug in analog video cables (most likely composite / ''RCA" Cables for US users) and digitize the video in real time. However, whereas the NR1 recorded monophonic ASF files at a maximum resolution of 352x240 (an aspect ratio that is a perfect match for... nothing), the NR2+ records stereo MP4 files at 640x480 or 320x240, using a frame rate of 15 fps or 30 fps. The NR2 Plus also supports more types of memory cards than any of its predecessors, including SD, CF, and Memory Stick cards. In contrast, the Neuros Recorder 2 (not Plus version) supports CF and Memory Stick Duo cards. This means you can literally take a memory card directly from the NR2 Plus, place it directly into a PSP or most PDAs, and view high-quality video without even using a computer. Fifth-generation iPod video models can also play back 320x240 files from the NR2 Pluswithout conversion, although you will probably need a computer to do the transfer. Keep in mind that different devices have different limits, and a tighter compression format like MP4 requires more processing power to decode on the fly than ASF does - so if you load a 640x480 MP4 file from the Neuros onto a slower PDA or even an older computer, you may experience lagging or dropped frames.

Besides the resolution and codec being improved over the NR1, the video just looks clearer and more polished. The NR1 tended to insert static at the top of the frame in its recordings and sometimes created other artifacts as well. However, the NR2 Plus generates video files with a crisp picture that almost rivals the original in terms of quality, without static or similar problems. The stereo sound is also far richer than the sound output from the NR1, which used an obscure audio codec designed for voicemail that sounded scratchy and unfaithful to the original source material.

Beyond video capturing capability, Neuros has also added polish to the device in other areas; the interface is more intuitive, and the slightly larger remote has a more logical layout. The scheduled recording feature has been enhanced as well, enabling you to add more programs and make them repeat daily, weekly, or monthly. Although the repeat feature was something I really missed in the NR1, it still needs a little more improvement; for example, although you can now set a weekly repeating program, you will still have to input a specific date (which will be the date of the first recording), rather than entering something more user-friendly like "Every Wednesday." Since inexpensive VCRs have had features like this for over a decade, it puzzles me that an advanced device like the NR2+ is still trying to catch up in this area. However, the new "Quick Record" mode, which starts recording immediately and continues for an amount of time that you specify, is easy to use and convenient.

In spite of the vastly improved output quality, the NR2+ also produces much smaller files than the NR1, thanks to the advanced MP4 compression. One hour of material recorded on the NR1 at 352x240 would consume about 350 MB of disk space; on the NR2+, an hour-long recording at 320x240 is only about 150 MB. Since memory cards don't hold nearly as much data as a computer or most iPods, this is especially handy if you need to record multiple shows before you can return home and transfer the files to your computer.



Deals and Shopping

Neuros Recorder 2




The NR1 also featured an "Auto Record" mode that started recording whenever the device detected an input, which was very handy for connecting it to a VCR. Although Auto Record is still available on the NR2 Plus, this unfortunately seems like one area where Neuros is struggling to avoid slipping backward, rather than making advancements. The NR1's threshold was too picky, often stopping in the middle of a recording if the reception became even somewhat weak; I'm sorry to say that the NR2 has this issue as well, possibly even more so than the NR1. Earlier versions of the NR2+ firmware contained a bug that rendered Auto Record basically worthless, but Neuros thankfully provided an update in time for the review that has alleviated that issue.

Neuros has removed the ability to use the Recorder as a card reader for your computer, a feature that the NR1 had. In my opinion, this feature had little value, since in many households, moving the NR1 from your TV to your computer would require you to unplug the NR1, causing your clock and program settings to be erased. Since card readers can easily be purchased for under $20, and sometimes under $10, I don't miss the feature on the NR2+. The only benefit I ever gained from the NR1's card reader was that flipping the switch to "card reader" and then back to "recorder" was the only way I could find to reboot the device without unplugging it, and the NR1 was quite crash-prone. Fortunately, I have not experienced any crashes with the NR2 Plus, and simply fixing the bugs is a much more elegant solution.

The Love Bug 2

I suppose Neuros didn't actually "love" the bugginess of the NR1, but they never actually fixed it, either. The NR2+ has made massive improvements to stability, but it does still have some issues; for example, if the Recorder runs out of card space during the recording, the resulting file will seem like it is missing content. Specifically, suppose you record one one-hour program and one two-hour program, both at 640x480, and the Recorder runs out of card space during the second program. You will probably end up with a 400 MB file correctly containing the entire first show, but also a 600 MB file from the second show that only contains about 40 minutes. I inquired at Neuros' web site about why this might be happening, but have not found any cause.

The NR2+ also has a known limitation that its recordings have a maximum length of two hours. If you try to record something longer than two hours, it will be split into two files, and during the change-over, several seconds will be lost. Neuros says that this is because the device must keep a data structure for the entire file in memory the entire time, and the data structure simply becomes larger and larger as the recording becomes longer. Still, it seems like they could've added a little more RAM - a maximum of 3 or 4 hours would've been enough to record most movies and other material.


Revenge of the Neuros

Except for the two-hour limit, the NR2+ at least matches, and usually greatly exceeds, the capabilities of the NR1 in every category. The video and audio quality have risen to a level that makes them practical for archival purposes, even of music videos. Although there are still some bugs, the device is more reliable than the NR1 and easier to use. If you found the NR1 even mildly appealing, I think you will be quite impressed by the NR2+... and you won't even have to camp out near the computer store to get a ticket.

Pros: Excellent audio and video quality; features repeating scheduling capabilities; file format is smaller and more standard than the one used on the NR1; supports SD, CF, and Memory Stick cards.
Cons: Auto Record and scheduled recordings still have room for improvement; 2-hour limit on recordings.

Price: $139.99

Company: Neuros Technology

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