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March 25, 2005

Review: PSP Video 9

Along with many others, I waited in line patiently Thursday to purchase the new Playstation Portable (PSP), and thankfully with the many units on the shelf at the local Bestbuy, I didn't have to wait too long. Like others in line, I was eager to try out some of the new game titles, but I also was very eager to try out the Videora founder, Sajeeth Cherian's latest software project, PSP Video 9, a freeware software product that makes it easy to move video on to the PSP. While the PSP is cool product for gaming, PSP Video 9 also makes the PSP a good product for viewing videos.

Like his other product Videora, PSP Video 9's strength is in its elegantly simple user interface and its seamless execution. Installation and setup were a snap, and PSP Video 9 will, at the user's request, search for the PSP and configure the proper file paths automatically. In less than 5 minutes, you are good to go.

Copying video files to the PSP is really a two step process with PSP Video 9, and if you have a version of Videora installed, you can automate the whole process even further. The first step is transcoding, the process of taking a video file and converting it into a format the PSP will accept. While you can tweak the settings for transcoding (I set mine up to a profile called "Movie 0-2 hour"), all you really have to do is pick the file you want to transfer to the PSP, and Video 9 will automatically convert it to the proper format. PSP Video 9 handles most common video formats including avi, mpg, and decrypted dvd vob files. The transcoding process is time and cpu intensive, and in my case, it took my old P4 2.4Ghz laptop 2 hours to convert a single hour of video. Thankfully,you can queue up any number of videos in the software and let it work on them overnight.

The second step in the process is to move the resulting files to the PSP. I used a 512MB Duo Pro card (a note to PSP users, don't purchase the standard Memory Stick Pro memory cards because they don't work on the PSP), and with the "Movie 0-2 hour" profile, it appears that it will just fit a 2 hour movie within the 512MB card limit. The quality wasn't quite as impressive as the Spider Man 2 UMD movie that comes bundled with the first PSPs, but is almost as good and certainly very viewable on an airline flight. I tried transcoding both an Xvid encoded AVI file as well as simpler MPEG2 MPG file, and both worked flawlessly on the PSP with no audio synch problems or visual glitches. As I've found with other transcoding products, your mileage may vary depending on the source that created the original video files.

If you install a version of Videora, two other features are enabled which help automate the process. One in particular is the ability for PSP Video 9 to monitor a selected folder for new video files and automatically transcode them when found. The second feature checks for the presence of a PSP and will automatically move the transcoded video to the PSP. The features were designed to fully integrate with Videora, but according to some forum posts, you can use these features to automate moving video from other products like DVR software.

The only missing feature I wish PSP Video 9 had is the ability to automatically determine the proper quality profile based on the size of the PSP memory card. While you can do some rough calculations in your head to determine the profile, being able to specify file size as opposed to quality, a feature of other similar products like Gordian Knot, would really come in handy until the 1Gig and 2Gig Duo cards come down in price.

I've noticed a trend in the mainstream reviews of the PSP that it's a great gaming device but lacks good support for other media. PSP Video 9 radically changes that equation with a simple, seamless app to move video to the PSP. If you have a PSP and want to watch videos, PSP Video 9 is a must have.

Posted on March 25, 2005

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