I took a look at the ADSTech Instant Video To Go (PC) and Elgato Turbo H.264 (Mac). Both are H.264 USB Hardware encoders. Users can plug one of these little devices into your USB port and then instead of using the computer’s CPU to convert the video it uses the USB dongle to do it faster.
H.264 is the video format used by many modern video players, such as the iPod, iPhone, PSP, PS3, and the AppleTV. Unfortunately a lot of time is spent converting video files from other formats to play on these devices.
Even though both devices look the same on the outside, they aren’t compatible with each other’s software. The Elgato supports higher resolutions than the ADSTech, such as the iPhone. The ADSTech Version can produce video for the iPod though that will work fine on the iPhone. Elgato uses the native Quicktime video encoder to front end its hardware. This means any program that can export selecting Quicktime profiles can use the H.264 Hardware to speed up the process. The ADSTech uses a third party program that only includes the profiles that the USB encoder supports.
The Elgato H.264 Turbo can recognize DVDs and put the main movie in chapter marks from the original DVD.
ADSTech treats DVDs as individual Video files. This means that your movie will likely be multiple files, instead of one total file. It also has no idea what to do with the IFO and BUP files on a DVD, so it will complain about these if you simply drag and drop a DVD onto it. They both work fine for converting one video format to another, such as one H.264 to another resolution, or a Divx file to a H.264.
Both companies claim that users can get up to four times faster encoding using their hardware over your computer’s CPU.
On my Dual core Macbook 2.0ghz, both USB Encoders performed about the same. I got about half the time using the hardware as using software methods. I was using the free software HandBrake to run software conversions as a comparison. In my case, I’m using a fairly new computer, and I’m still seeing a 2x speed improvement. If the USB encoders were used on an older computer the difference between software, and hardware would be more pronounced. Actual times, though, will vary depending on the hardware you are using. Even if the H.264 is offloading the encoding, your computer’s CPU or video card will still need to decode the original video files.
One complaint: neither solution will work directly with an encrypted DVD. If users want to convert a store-bought DVD to play on their iPods, or iPhones, they will need to either use a software solution that converts and decrypts at the same time, or decrypt to the hard drive, and then convert the video using their software.
Overall, the Hardware is great for people who play a lot of video on their iPod/iPhone, PSP, AppleTV, or PS3; it saves a lot of converting time. If you have more than one of these devices it also makes it easier and faster to convert from one to another, since the resolutions supported on the iPod are not supported by the PS3. If you have an older laptop, or desktop you will also find this useful. Those with newer computers, who mostly convert to one device from DVD probably won’t gain any time with the decrypting and converting time.