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Old 7th August 2006, 10:26 PM   #1
Azrael Thread Starter
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Default Review: MP4 Player/Recorder

Well, it has been quite a while since the last review i wrote up for OCAU. But i think this little device which i got recently deserves a quick review.

For a while now i have been searching around for a little solid-state device to use as a video recorder in the race car as well as for recording crazy stunts and silly tricks on snowboards and mountain bikes alike. After a lot of searching and shopping i came across this little PMP MP4 recorder on Ebay (no-current auctions listed).

A measly $120 later and i had one of the units in my grubby little hands to play with and see what it could do for me. It arrived looking suprisingly a lot like this:


It came nicely decorated in a "gift box" (hate to see what the non-gift packaging would be) with a swathe of cables and adaptors:




Interestingly it seems that the charger brick which they have sourced for the unit comes direct from our favourite phone supplier Nokia, and is somewhat of a sticking point as we will see later in the article.
The other items it arrived with, from left to right, are a pair of fairly average earphones, a small CD with generic USB host drivers, a 2.5mm to RCA video input cable (same as many camcorders) a 3.5mm jack to jack cable, and a spiffy pink neoprene sleeve, very reminiscent of the old iPod sleeves.

After spilling all the contents out onto the table i found another burnt and unlabelled cd floating around at the bottom of the box, which contained some interestingly "borrowed" software from a few, lets say, less than legal suppliers.

The Unit
Anyway onto the unit itself. The entire unit is about the same size as your average queens slipper pack of cards, with the 2.5" LCD taking up most of the room. It is constructed out of a combination of composite plastic and pressed aluminum which has been nicely anodised and silk screened, and lends highly to the durability as seen later. The 4way+click joystick takes up most of the room on the right hand side, along with an obligatory LED and a tinny speaker which makes my phone seem hi-fidelity.
On the bottom it sports a nice SD/MMC card slot, while on the sides a swathe of sockets and switches reside. However, all these are nicely indicated on the back of the unit in some reasonably sturdy silk screening.
Here are some more obligatory photos, with my semi-trusty K750i for scale:




Software
But we arn't here for eye candy, although it does make a reasonable piece of coffee table conversation starter. Onto the operation of the unit. The unit quickly boots up in 1-2s with a nice splash screen of the Sydney Opera House, and then in wonderful contrast a pink and blue menu with 6 options. All of which are extremely straight forward, from Video, Audio and Photo playback or display, and what we are really interested in, Recording. There are some other menus devoted to the seeminly ubiquitous games on portable devices gimmick.

As soon as i booted it up i wanted to see if there were any demo movies to see what the unit could do, sure enough there was a small 9minute clip of a very famous movie by George Lucas.... but nothing else to be found. The quality of the clip and the playback was good, with the controls easy to use and abuse, and the menus dissapearing after a short amount of time so as not to obstruct your already miniscule viewing portal.
The inbuilt speaker on the other hand makes my K750i appear to have a full blown 5.1DTS surround system built into it. Thankfully when hooked up to a proper pair of headphones the sound isnt compromised.

Recording
But again, im not particularly interested in the playback options of this device, i bought it for one reason, and that is to take little recordings of stupid and fast stuff. So the best and most obvious place to try this was at Falls Creek where i was for the week. However, it was not to be, the little camera i have had kicking around in my box of bits will only run on 12v rather than 9v as i thought it did and so i didnt have the requisite parts. However, with some deft trickery i managed to take some footage from inside the car on the way home, i had never realised that the camera was really that crap.



Video here...


Thats a short clip of the drive back from Falls Creek to Adelaide. I managed to record about 30min to about 230mb which i consider to be quite reasonable compression, although of course your mileage will vary.
*note* i will update this review in the future with other vids that i take with the unit
I also did a recording from my DVD player of part of Love Actually which came out extremely well and transferred over to the computer nicely. But obviously for copyright reasons i cant upload this here. I will however be doing a record of a small amout of home rally footage from a Southcare event run in 2004 which i will be able to get permission to put online.
The resolution of the video is slightly small at 320x240 but for such a small and hardy device i dont consider this to be such a disadvantage.

Durability
One of the items i was quite concerned with when picking a recorder for the race car was durability, so for $120 i didnt particularly mind wrecking this one for the sake of science, and so for the week it was at Falls it lived in my jacket pocket along with a little bottle of Jager and my park tool.
The only real damage was a bit of scratching on the back of the case, with the rest of the unit coming out unscathed.




However, the real story of durability starts much earlier. When i first got the device i was somewhat concerned that the Nokia plug pack had a nice friction fit with the power socket it needed to be inserted into, and sure enough after the 2nd or 3rd charging the socket detached from the board and started floating around inside the unit. However, for once, an eBay retailer was decent with this and after having the unit for 2 weeks i recieved a replacement item. That said, i am now extremely careful with inserting the power adaptor in order to not cause any further damage. Im also considering cutting up a spare Nokia power brick in order to create a quick plug adaptor which i can leave connected to the unit.... not sure how good an idea that is yet though.

Conclusion
So thats about it, i am quite impressed with the durability of the unit itself, if not of the power adaptor, normally in the race car itll be housed in an adapted penguin case, but for boarding and riding ill simply chuck it in a soft case and run it from there. The camera really let the unit down this time, although with the new camera unit im intending to buy the unit should really shine.
All in all im quite happy with the unit, and simply need to get off my butt and actually get some proper recording done with it.

EDIT: I can speel.
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Last edited by Azrael; 7th August 2006 at 10:30 PM.
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Old 9th August 2006, 9:08 AM   #2
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nice article mate. Something to think about for my s13 - I don't have a video camera and I'd love to record footage when on the track.

So what is a decent camera worth then?
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Old 9th August 2006, 2:08 PM   #3
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The ones i was playing with at Jaycar were between $100-120. Gave quite good quality. If i had more presence of mind i would have recorded some snippets from one, although ill probably be buying one from there relatively soon.
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Old 9th August 2006, 3:42 PM   #4
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What about a cheap digital camera with a 256MB card, should be enough for 20mins or so at 320x240? Pick all that up off Ebay for less than $200, why is that not an easier solution?
Does this device come with an onboard drive of some type? I noticed you mentioned it came with media slots.
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Old 9th August 2006, 3:58 PM   #5
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Can you view the recording in real time? So it shows what you're looking at while its being recorded?
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Old 9th August 2006, 5:38 PM   #6
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If only it recorded at a 640x480 @25-30fps i'd jump for one.
I've had a bit of luck recently actually recording with my Nokia 6280. If only that had a camera input it'd be perfect! For the money however i might just splash out and get one.

Here's a couple of samples just for comparison.
The Black Spur 2 [return pass] - FZR1000 - YouTube
The Black Spur - FZR1000 - YouTube

A couple of questions about the unit that you've got... how easy is it to switch the recording on & off, as if i'm on my bike i'd want to be able to start and stop as i felt like it.
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Old 9th August 2006, 5:44 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Azrael
on Ebay (no-current auctions listed).
You can buy a very similar unit at Jaycar. It is quite a bit more pricey, though not much more than the usual ebay vs retail difference, with 12 months warranty and minus the dodgy software, charger and sample clip (the sample clip in this one is of a very hot latino singing a madonna song). I've set up a few helmet cam packages for customers using the PMP, a bullet-style weatherproof camera, an SLA battery and a dc-dc convertor (needs the convertor to regulate the power so the battery doesn't cook the camera). Bit of gaffer to stick the tape onto the helmet, and the rest fits in a hydrapak.
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Old 9th August 2006, 5:50 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LethalCorpse
You can buy a very similar unit at Jaycar. ...
I guess the advantage is that the Jaycar one will do the 640x480 @25fps that i'm after... but i'd be paying for a camera sensor that i'd never use. I might see if i can find out how much those things are from Altronics or if they have a slightly lower spec'd version.
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Old 9th August 2006, 6:46 PM   #9
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koma: nice road whereabouts is it?

640x480 @ 25 fps would be ideal 320x240 is just a lil low that too much detail gets lost

would love to strap on into the supra and do a nasho or mac pass run
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Old 9th August 2006, 7:16 PM   #10
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nice review mate.

interesting... 230mb for a 30min video?

i currently own an iriver clix (and previously owned samsung yp-t8's and d1's) and when you convert a 22min show it's usually arounmd 40mb to around 60mb.

my clix displays a res of 320x240 @ 60mb for a 22min video. it's clear but only 15fps.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LethalCorpse
You can buy a very similar unit at Jaycar. It is quite a bit more pricey,
you could get that one. but if you are leaning towards storage then you should go for the samsung YP-D1Q 2GB for $279 @ DSE. it comes with a 2.0mp CMOS camera but only a 1.8" lcd screen. i havent seen anywhere else beat that price.. quite amazed DSE had it that low. my friend bought the last one in the adelaide city ahhaa.
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Old 9th August 2006, 8:07 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xinzhitan14
you should go for the samsung YP-D1Q 2GB for $279 @ DSE. it comes with a 2.0mp CMOS camera but only a 1.8" lcd screen.
I can't seem to find that on the DSE site, but does that actually let you record video from an AV source?
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Old 9th August 2006, 8:35 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nuxie1
I can't seem to find that on the DSE site, but does that actually let you record video from an AV source?
actually it doesnt :P. in fact the video recording is bad because it saves it in a propietary format which cannot be converted. thats why i said if you are leaning towards storage instead of good features. i wrote up a reivew on it on kgadget. i'll post it up soon.

its not on the site. my friend got his last week, but it just somehow disappeared from the site. it's still there at marion DSE in adelaide for $279.
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Old 9th August 2006, 9:01 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by naten
koma: nice road whereabouts is it?

640x480 @ 25 fps would be ideal 320x240 is just a lil low that too much detail gets lost

would love to strap on into the supra and do a nasho or mac pass run
Thats the road from Marysville to Healesville known as The Black Spur. It's one of the motorcycle mecca's in Victoria and forms the loop known commonly as 'the spurs' (Warbuton-->Reefton Spur-->Marysville-->Black Spur-->Healesville-->Warbuton). It's a 100km/h zone the entire way through there so it's quite easy to enjoy yourself and still stay legal. For the majority of those corners in good conditions you can take them at 100km/h (both 2 and 4 wheels) whilst safely and happily staying in your own lane. The only hazard is the morons who decide to use it as a racetrack.
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Old 9th August 2006, 9:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by koma_white
The only hazard is the morons who decide to use it as a racetrack.

And the people on cycles... and motorbikes that overtake blindly...

-- DJ
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Old 9th August 2006, 10:33 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DJ-Studd
And the people on cycles... and motorbikes that overtake blindly...

-- DJ
Not sure if that was a stab at the video's i posted or just a general observation, so i'm going to assume it was a general observation. People on pushbikes (cycles) are generally alright aslong as they keep to the edge of the road and don't ride two-abrest. Motorcyclists overtaking blindly are as significant a hazard as anyone crossing over without a clear line of sight. Anyway, we'll leave this discussion to somewhere else.

Back on topic... anyone know if there are any similar units on fleaBay that do 640x480?
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