Pinnacle Systems – Video Transfer review

digitising video without a computer
Photo of Pinnacle Systems – Video Transfer

Until recently, if you wanted to transfer video from TV or disc to iPod or PSP, you needed a computer somewhere in the mix to do the data-crunching. Pinnacle, a company that knows a lot about video, has gone one step further and released a little plastic box which does the same thing, but without any external processing muscle.

The intelligently branded Pinnacle Video Transfer takes in Composite or S-Video signals at one end and spits out MPEG4 in H.264 encoding at the other. To do this it has three RCA sockets and a mini-DIN at one end and a simple USB socket at the other. There’s a DC power socket, too, for the supplied power supply.

The gadget is controlled with just two buttons, positioned at top and bottom of the silver ring surrounding the Pinnacle logo on the front. The Mode button turns the device on and off and selects the video quality level, while the Record button toggles recording. An array of four LEDs flashes red when the device is searching for a signal, shines steadily when recording and turns blue when the device is idle.

Three small blue LEDs indicate the quality level selected and the device offers different resolutions, depending on the device connected for output. For example, if you connect an external hard drive to the USB output, Better mode records at 640 x 480 and Best at 720 x 576, while with a PSP connected the resolution is always 320 x 240, with the bit-rate increasing with mode instead. The device knows what it’s connected to, so you don’t have to set things manually.

You can record directly to a USB memory drive by plugging one into the output socket, but there are no SD or MemoryStick slots, which would be a useful addition for those using non-iPod media players. It seems a bit mean not to include an S-Video cable, too, though a Composite lead is supplied.

In use, Video Transfer copes well with 4:3 ratio video, such as that from VHS tapes, but doesn’t handle 16:9 widescreen so well, producing vertically stretched output. There are some compression artefacts apparent, too, with jaggies showing in some modes. Most of these problems won’t be apparent on a PSP or iPod screen, as the small display size hides them. If you intend to use Video Transfer for converting VHS video to DVD, though, you may notice a difference in quality.

Company: Pinnacle Systems

Contact: 01753 655999

Pinnacle has done well with the Video Transfer, producing a video digitiser that's simple to use without needing a PC. It converts analogue video for iPod or PSP well, but the higher resolution screens of normal TVs or PCs may cause it some problems with compression and interlacing artefacts.