To be fair, the hardware encoder doesn’t do too bad a job, particularly when you give it a bit rate of 8Mbps or better to play with. However, hook it up to 4Mbps USB 1.1, and you’ll find the classic MPEG2 video artefacts (blocking, mosquito noise) popping up all over the shop – especially on fast moving scenes, or if your source video is already pretty noisy, or if you’re recording from a poor TV signal. We also found that the gamma curve is a little off, giving our test captures a slightly washed out feel. But while you may be limited to MPEG encoding, using a hardware- rather than a software codec means that you can use the Xrecorder with a much lower specification PC – Aopen claims a 500MHz CPU will do just fine – so it’ll be an attractive prospect to those with older systems.
However, this is where the VX2000 becomes a little difficult to classify. A hardware codec is great if you haven’t got a PC that can handle real time software-based MPEG2 encoding, but this probably also means that you’ve only got USB 1.1. As we saw in our tests, the 4Mbps limit on USB 1.1 captures makes for rather uninspiring video quality. That said, there are no other external capture devices that we know of offering this combination of hardware codec and TV tuner, so it has a certain amount of merit and will no doubt attract those looking for a simple all-in-one solution that can be plugged straight into their PC.
If you’re looking for a very simple TV tuner and Video capture combination, the AOpen VX2000 should fit the bill. However, it’s lack of key features such as downloadable EPGs and raw DV25 capture make the high price hard to swallow.