The main menu is logical and sensible. There’s a Getting Started entry, which is basically an extended version of the quick-start guide, meaning it’s easy to learn all you need. Even better, if at any stage you are confused about a particular menu entry’s function, just press the ‘help’ button on the remote, which will bring up a handy and specific explanation. Unusually, Record/Schedule is above Play/Browse, followed by Settings and More Applications. I dived straight into the settings menu without looking at the quick-start guide and, though you do have to trawl through a load of entries, the lack of submenus means everything is easy to find – eventually.
Of course the first place I headed after setting the Neuros up was Firmware Upgrade. A quick detour to Network to get it to recognise our LAN setup later, the OSD endeared itself to me tremendously by showing a retro pong game during the firmware update. That’s the thing about homebrew; it can ”potentially” be far more inventive and charming than its rigid ‘professional’ counterparts. To my disappointment, the update did not activate the Samba Server firmware functionality, which should turn the Neuros into a NAS (Network Attached Storage) box, and was mooted for the fourth quarter of last year.
Let’s look at some of what the Neuros OSD can be used for in the meantime. Right now it’s still fairly similar to any other media box out there, save for its interesting recording abilities and a few unique features. Of course it can act as a photo viewer, music and video player, but in addition you can also stream music and watch YouTube videos directly from the Internet – sorted by time, popularity or category – without needing a PC. This is a user-added feature which, just like the as-yet unimplemented NAS functionality, was in the pipeline for a while, but is now fully realised and works rather well. More importantly, it goes to show how flexible the OSD can really be.
For now, until someone programs it to make tea for you while teaching you Japanese, the most interesting aspect of the Neuros is its recording ability. The headline feature on the front of the box is that you can “digitally store and easily access your DVDs and VHS tapes”. Well, yes, but it’s not as straightforward as it sounds. What the company means is that its device will let you record ”any” source that offers composite or S-Video out. And while this does make it very flexible indeed, you’re not only getting SD content, you’re getting it over two poor quality analogue connections available.
If you know enough to be reading this review, you’ll probably be able to figure out how to rip DVDs from your PC onto an external hard drive, which will of course give you far better quality. One of the potential barriers to this is that you might be one of those few people who don’t actually own a computer with a DVD drive – but are you really likely to spend £135 on a media station instead of a computer upgrade under these circumstances?
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