From The Neuros Technology Wiki
|III||.||Wishlist, bugs and enhancements|
|V||.||Usage examples and stories|
|VII||.||Complimentary software and products|
|VIII||.||Expanded user guide & Tips and Tricks|
The vDrive is the name for a category of products that's essentially an external hard drive with video /audio outputs that allows you not only to store your media files, but also to play them directly on a TV or stereo. It has a remote control and on-screen menus.
As of 5/21/2005 the product was in internal testing. If you would like to volunteer to test the vDrive, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get your name on the list.
This is a prototype that we're testing. These specs are likely to change as we get closer to Gamma/production. This model can only Play video and not record. vDrive Pro is the model that can record video.
Beta Email Conversation about the vDrive
V Drive Email Conversation
Michael Smith: Is anyone beta testing the V-Drive? I haven't heard any chatter on it. Thought it was a cool product, but funds were limited at the time so I did not get one.
If you are testing, what are your thoughts on the product?
Joe Born: funny you should ask, since we do have a couple testers on here and I've been testing it myself (big surprise huh?) and we've had some private conversations, which I've tried to direct here.
I have to say I love this thing for a few reasons. First the price is pretty cheap, not much more than an external hardrive, second, it plays pretty much everything. No transcoding or anything, just dump files on it and they play, that file conversion is really miserable. Third it has a remote, which is pretty vital for home use. Fourth, it's small, the vDrive is pretty much the same size as my PDA, Fifth it powers off the USB, so you don't have to find a place for another wall adapter near your PC. Sixth, it plays the recorder files, so I can take recorded TV with me. A lot of these things are true for this entire category of product, but the vDrive has some nice touches within that like buttons on the device (in case you don't have the remote) and powering off the USB is very nice (but not common)
Things that need to be fixed (in my personal opinion): Still has a few bugs, every now and then it crashes, it's not very often, but still irritating. Second, it needs a case. The device is tiny, but if you are taking it somewhere to watch on the TV, you need the cables and power adapter and remote, and now they are just loose. Third, I'd like a DVD "navigator" now, if you are watching a DVD, you just have to browse by files to pick what you want. Not the most friendly.
Actually, I'm trying to drum up more support for the product internally, so if you have interest or think it's worthwhile, please speak up.
Joe McHugh: I havent played around with too many different file types, but it plays divx/xvid files with mp3 audio beautifully. I had problems with an mpeg file pulled off a vcd, but it may be encoded in pal and I just need to change a setting or something, because from what I understand from the manual, it can play pal. Very pleased overall and I'll write some more after I do some more testing with it. I do have some gripes and thoughts so far and I'll list those now.
I like that the remote is small, but I dont like that it takes a special battery. If you could do a design overhaul, I'd like to see the remote dock on the front of the case to recharge and work in line. With an actual spot to put the remote, I'd be less likely to lose it too. adding a few mm on the thickness wouldnt hurt the portability. The reception angle is also very limiting. Something more penetrating than typical IR would be great so you could keep the device out of sight
A battery would be VERY nice too, nothing huge, maybe 4 hour.
Does this need the usb cable with 2 plugs, or can it just run off a normal mini cable. If not, thats another cable you may need to carry around and make sure you dont lose.
When plugged in, the HD is constantly spinning. I can see that for connections through usb, but it does it anytime it is receiving power through the ac adapter. Even if you turn the power off, the HD spins.
I wish the video cable had s-video and i wish the vga port was dvi
The menu system for movies needs to be touched up. At least make it so the titles scroll, but it just looks ugly in general.
Would it be possible to scrap this design and make the v-drive out of the innards of the 442, but ditch the screen and possibly the sd slot for a docking remote. Firmware work would be alot easier if they were mostly the same.
Joe Born: actually, that's exactly our our plan (one platform). There are drawbacks though, namely cost the TI stuff is more expensive than the ESS chipset. I agree with your comments, they should be put in bugzilla. I can put them in myself, but believe it or not, it's more compelling internally when they come from real consumers.
The big question is, is the vDrive ready for launch as is, or should we wait until it's on the platform and we control the firmware and design more?
Joe McHugh: What is the planned release price for the v-drive and how much would that go up if you switched to TI? Would it ever be possible to open the source for this this product with ess?
For being ready for release, I'd say no, but it's close. The hard drive spinning all the time should be fixed. Why have a power button if it just cuts off the video feed. This puts a lot of unnecessary wear on the drive and thats also why it gets so hot.
I don't see the market for this device being people who want to hook it up to a computer monitor because you can just play the files through the usb. Those monitors are really the only things with vga ports. Some newer tv's have dvi ports. I think that or hdmi or some other newer standard needs to be used instead of vga. I don't know what parts inside you'd need to change to do this though. That along with rca cables should future proof it some while keeping it usable universally.
Those things should definitely be addressed before release. The angle of the remote reception is way too small and I'd like to see that fixed, but I can live with it the way it is.
putting a recharge and inline control dock for the remote would definatly turn some heads and yu could ditch the tink, cheap looking buttons that are on it now. If the battery runs out in the current setup, you're down to the very basic functions accessible from the buttons on the device and its not like you'll have another one of these batteries lying around the house. You also probably can't just go find one at a gas station or grocery store. In the new setup, you'll still have full control while it recharges, so you can use it wirelessly again soon.
The battery, s-video and menu system tweaks are just icing.
The v-drive works just fine with only one of the usb plugs connected, so I'm a little confused as to why the cord splits into 2.
Joe Born: planned release date dramatically depends on how much work has to be done. For a TI platform version, I'm sure it's 9 months away minimum. There are several products ahead of it. If it's tweaking on the ESS platform it could be before the end of the year. I would guess that TI would add $30-40 to the cogs. Basically ESS and TI are at opposite ends of the spectrum as far as cost goes. ESS is a small, hardcoded dedicated chipset that really just does one function, I'm not sure if we could open it up, but if we could, it would be very limited what you could do with it.
I agree HDMI would be more useful than VGA.
Overall, this feedback is very useful. If anyone else has other ideas, I would certainly be interested to hear them.
Joe McHugh: Why so long if its TI? You got the 442 pretty much ready to go. Its got an av line in and out. I can't imagine you'd have to tweak it too much to get it working as a v-drive. $40 isnt a huge difference, but if you'd be able open ess enough to throw more codec support on and get the user interface looking nice and pretty, thats all you really need. Though, if it does take a lot of work, the n3 needs to take priority.
If you're looking for something you can release sooner. I'd say go with something based off the Sarotech Avix. It already does wma and ogg in addition to every audio and video codec that the v-drive does. HD component out (480, 720, 1080) instead of vga. still has coaxial 5.1 audio and stereo but adds fm transmiter. external extender for the remote so you can hide the entire unit and still use the remote. This site shows some very small screen shots towards the bottom of the page and the interface looks nicer. They also make a 3.5" HD version that has all the same stuff but has full size connections on the back so you dont have to use mini plug adapters and it adds s-video, optical audio and a dc plug to hardwire it to your car. MUCH bigger though.
In the 3.5" size, there is also the Modix, which is a little smaller, has more buttons on the device, and small backlit lcd screen. These are the products we were talking about on the forums before and I think any of them would be better than the current v-drive because they have more codecs and features.
Comments and Ideas
I noticed the solicitation for comments above. Not sure if you want them on this page or if you'd prefer I use the google group or... In any case, it should be easy enough to alert me and move this to the appropriate place if you don't want these here.
I think the Avix Offerings make a good point for comparison in regards to outside offerings. They have three devices based on the EM8511 chipset - the DVP-254, which closely resembles the vDrive in options but with the addition of component HD output and WMA/Ogg support, the DVP-355, which uses a 3.5" HDD and adds S-Video output, and the DVP-370A which adds subtitle and additional format support with different housing. Then they have the DVP-570HD based on the EM8621 chipset, which adds DVI output and USB Host. I don't see that the vDrive offers much to differentiate itself from these and they seem to be mature already (though all the screens have chinese characters, so I don't know if they're just shipped over here or have english interfaces) and pretty cheap (though I don't know the vDrive would go for. The two things that the vDrive has that they don't are VGA output and an American company for support. Until it has recording capabilities, I don't know if it would be worth releasing. I think it's a good idea to wait and put i on the TI320 platform.
Looking at the usage examples, it seems most of the functionality of the vDrive would be replaced by the 442v2. Although the inclusion of a screen would increase the cost, I don't know how much of a market there is for portable devices that require an external screen for playback. I think most people would prefer something that has the option, but includes a screen as well. I think the vDrive could have a place either as a more advanced version of the OSD - a sort of hybrid between the OSD and a DVR. Most files could be recorded automatically and stored on the device and then people could load whatever they wanted to watch for the day onto a card for their PMP. Something like torrentocracy could also be used to automatically download and transcode programming for a PMP. One possibility would be using the OSD and an external HDD case that snaps onto it instead of making a seperate device, which would be small enough to reasonably pack in one's luggage or even backpack. I'd also love to see something like the OSD with VGA/DVI output and more onboard connectors with no dongles and perhaps a built-in USB hub and DVD+/-RW drive, maybe even some I/O switching. Maybe even HD in/out capabilities? Something that's more at home staying in a stereo cabinet. I was considering using the OSD as a low-power terminal, but it's hard to justify without higher-quality video output. Can the TI even support anything over 720x480? I suppose something like this could be used but just how many USB devices can I stick on and still expect good performance? Just some thoughts...
A Beta Tester Review
- ESS chipset ES6168FA
- Wolfson Audio Codec WM8728