Ep.062 – Pinnacle PVT

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gadgetEpisode 062 – Pinnacle Video Transfer Unit

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What would you say if I told you that the fastest way to transfer video to your computer, was to leave out the computer?

Though it might sound strange, that’s exactly what Pinnacle has done with their PVT. The Pinnacle Video Transfer unit, or PVT, is a self-contained, one-touch, direct-to-device video capture unit that can record MPEG-4 H.264 video and audio directly onto your iPod, PSP, USB hard drive or flash drive. This diminutive device lets you record any S-Video or composite analog source and encode it, on-the-fly, to the media of your choice.

With one-touch recording, a setup process that redefines simple, and quality that goes above and beyond what its $130 price tag might suggest, we had a blast hooking up this box to our game consoles, video cameras and just about every analog video source that we could find.

If you’ve ever needed an easy way to record high-quality video in a pinch, the PVT might be for you.

The Pinnacle Video Transfer unit, or PVT, is a self-contained, one-touch, direct-to-device video capture unit that can record MPEG-4 H.264 video and audio directly onto your iPod, PSP, USB hard drive or flash drive.

It’s small… about the size of a large cell phone or a remote control, and it’s light — made even lighter by the fact that it performs its recording magic without the need for a PC.

The PVT has both S-Video and Composite video inputs, as well as a single set of RCA inputs for audio. Everything is labeled and color-coded for ease-of-installation so that connecting your camera, cable box or other analog device is a trivial matter.

The other side of the PVT houses a 5 volt power plug, a USB A plug for connecting the unit to the recording medium, and a USB B plug reserved for future use.

We tested the PVT with a variety of flash and hard drives of different makes and capacities: Everything from a 256MB flash drive, to a 160GB portable USB hard drive. Each device powered up and was recognized by the PVT. — It should be mentioned that the PVT is compatible ONLY with Fat16 or Fat32 enabled USB storage devices: You’ll at least need to have a FAT partition in order to use your device with the PVT.

There are only two buttons on the PVT, the Record button and the Mode button. Both are recessed into the Pinnacle logo on the front of the unit. Pressing the Mode button will switch the unit between three recording modes: If you have the PVT connected to an iPod, the mode button switches between 320×240, high quality 320×240 and 640×480. If you are connected to a PSP the mode button switches you between 320×240 at incrementally higher bitrates. If you are connected to a USB hard or flash drive, the mode button switches you between 320×240, 640×480 and DVD-Quality 720×480.

To use the PVT, you connect the video and audio source that you want to record to the input side of the device. The PVT will automatically sense which inputs are live and indicate the active inputs with a Blue LED. This is actually a pretty good system that removes a lot of confusion from the recording process.

You then connect the power and a compatible storage device on the other side of the unit. The storage device should automatically power-up and the PVT will prepare it for use, giving you a blue light when your storage is ready. If you’re using an iPod, the PVT will also charge the device, making sure that you don’t run out of juice in the middle of recording.

Pressing the record button will start recording your video/audio source. The LEDs will turn red and the indicator light on your USB device should start to show activity. Pressing the Record button again closes the file. The Mode lights will begin to oscillate and then turn solid blue when the recording is ready to be played.

That’s it, you’re done. The PVT has just made a ready-to-use MPEG-4 H.264 recording of your chosen resolution. — You can pull out the storage device and play it on your desktop, laptop or, if you are using a PSP or a video-enabled iPod, directly off your mobile device.

Recording quality was good — not High Definition, but far better than we though was possible from such a small device. Audio always sounded good, and at video resolutions up to 640×480 there was no artifacting, no stutter and no video tearing. This is especially noteworthy because the PVT encodes and compresses to h.264 on the fly — that’s a lot of power in a little box.

However, if you plan on recording at 720×480, DVD Quality, be prepared to buy a fast USB storage device, as the PVT automatically adjust the bitrate of the recorded video and audio to match the transfer speed of the storage device, and at DVD quality resolution you’ll want every last bit of performance. Using a plain-ole’ USB flash drive could lead to some unwanted video and distortion.

Recording time was great — 4GB of space will buy you 3 hours of DVD-Resolution video and audio. Dropping down to 640×480 increases that time to 5-1/2″ hours. Using YouTube sized video, 320×240, means that 4GB will last 11 hours.

The Pinnacle PVT is available now online for ~$130