We are reader supported. External links may earn us a commission.

Reviews

Neuros 442

By Adam Z. Lein December 5, 2005, 12:00 am

Media players that include video playback like the latest Apple iPod are all the rage these days. While this isn't within our typical realm of Windows Mobile coverage, we were eager to review the Neuros 442. What sets the device apart from the rest is its open-source Linux operating system. That means anyone who feels like it can soon contribute to the portable media player's operating system to add features (we are told that this particular model isn't true "Open Source," but the next model, set to be shown at CES, will be). While this does mean you'll be investing in a growing product which may be less expensive to develop and maintain, there may be some drawbacks. Read on for the thorough look at the Neuros 442.

POCKETNOW VIDEO OF THE DAY

HARDWARE

The Neuros 442 is about 5.35 x 3.07 x 1.04 inches (136.1 x 78 x 26.5 mm) at 11.46 oz (325 g). It's got a very sturdy stainless steel housing, a dual core processor (although no details on what kind), a 3.6' QVGA (320 x 240 pixel) color screen, and a 40 gigabyte internal hard disk. The non-removable battery should last up to 9 hours for audio playback, and up to 5 hours for video playback. The USB 2.0 interface also offers speedy file transfer.

The Neuros 442 has a nice solid feel. The home screen of the user interface is attractive and well designed combining easy to read text with icons and artwork.

The plain buttons are reminiscent of a VCR from the 80's.

The padded case includes a clear screen cover while maintaining easy access to all the ports and controls.

Included in the box is an AC adapter, USB cable, 2 stereo RCA cables (for recording and playing back video on a TV), stereo headset (3.5mm jack), software CD, manual, padded case, and the Neuros 442.

The back is just straight stainless steel, which easily accepts greasy fingerprints.

The Neuros 442 is much larger and heavier than the PDA's I'm used to carrying. Then again, my PDA's don't have a 40Gb hard drive.

It's a bit thick, too. On the bottom, you can see the SD card slot along with a Reset button. I wouldn't say it's an everyday pocket sized device, but would certainly be nice to travel with.

On the top end of the device you see a power button, volume up and down buttons, and the headset jack. Underneath a rubber flap (which can rotate out of the way), is a USB 2.0 port, line in port, line out port, and AC power port.

I hooked the Neuros 442 up to an old VHS player I had in the closet and digitally recorded an old tape of some "Wonder Years" episodes. You can also use this method to record from analog stereo audio sources at bit rates of up to 160kbs.

SOFTWARE

The Neuros 442 doesn't come with any drivers for connecting it to your computer. All you have to do is plug it into a USB 2.0 port and the device will show up as a hard disk. Then you can simply browse its folders using Windows Explorer or the Mac OS X Finder or whatever file browser is in Linux. Copying files and folders to the device is just the same as you would with any disk; use drag-and-drop or copy/paste.

The included CD has the Ulead Video Toolbox 2 software on it. You can use this to convert videos and DVD movies to a suitable format for the Neuros 442, though sometimes the video audio gets converted at too low a volume to be audible on the 442.

OPERATING SYSTEM

The device supports MP3, ADPCM, WMA, AAC-LC audio files as well as MPEG4, DivX 3.11/4.0/5.0/, and WMV v9 format videos. However, different encoding bitrates or other factors may cause incompatibilities. The Video Recorder saves files in MPEG4 SP with MP3 or G.726 audio or AAC, 30fps @ 640 x 240 (HVGA) and 320 x 240 (QVGA) resolution, MS ASF format, or AVI format (Divx).

The home screen is nicely designed with animated scrolling transitions, readable text and attractive artwork. One obvious mistake seen here is that the Video Player icon is a video camera (normally used for recording video), while the Video Recorder icon is a movie film reel.

Once you get past the home screen, the user interface beauty and usability drops significantly. Here's the video screen. You have to manually browse to the folder that contains your videos and it only lists files with extensions that it supports. On the right you can see some information about the video, but this will only show up if the device can read the file format properly.

During video playback, you can have the battery level and time show up at the bottom. Video playback is very smooth, probably a result of the power hardware running the device.

The Audio screen is just the same as the Video screen except it only shows audio tracks. It is only organized by folders. You can not choose to browse by artist or album name. You also can't see any album art.

If you press the menu button, and menu appears on the right where you can change play modes and "Update Playlist" which creates a playlist of all the music in a certain folder.

The Settings screen lets you change things like the time, auto-off time, backlight auto-off, brightness, and TV-out settings.

When you choose the "Video Recorder" or PVR (Personal Video Recorder) option, the above screen shows up. If you've connecting the Line-in port to a video source, the video will show up behind this band. It would've been nice if the band was transparent, so you could better see where you wanted to start recording video. A similar screen appears when recording audio from the line-in jack.

The Files screen shows you two panes where you can list two sets of files and folders. The hard disk is called "a:/" while the SD card slot is called "b:/". This is the 21st Century though, I don't know why they couldn't give them more descriptive names. Anyway, if you press the menu button, the above menu shows up. You can copy files, but there's no way to paste them. Choosing the copy command does not seem to move selected files from one pane to the other either. If you choose "Delete Files" when you have something selected, it will give you a confirmation dialog. After you press "Yes," you would think the selected file/folder would go away, yet nothing appears to happen. Maybe it will work in a future firmware version.

The Photos screen is pretty basic. You have the file browsing capabilities on the left, and a preview of the image on the right.

You can also play a slideshow of the photos in your folder. There are no transitions and no way to change how long you see each image. If you press the play button while watching a slideshow, it will start playing some of your music. There's no way to choose which songs you want to hear though, and pressing the back button stops the slide-show and music.

Help & Support

While the included paper-based Quick Start Guide is extremely slim in terms of explanations, the PDF user manual on the CD is a bit more informative. Of special interest is the limitations section, which covers exactly what types of file formats and bit rates can or cannot be played on the Neuros 442. It's pretty confusing and normal people won't understand it at all, but it's something you'll need to learn.

Beyond that, the Neuros website offers great forums where you can post questions or help with the development. There's also a place to download firmware updates. There's also a Wiki with more information.

System Requirements

The Neuros 442 is compatible with just about everything. All you need is a USB port on your computer to transfer files. It should show up as a hard disk automatically on Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, Mac OS X and higher, and Linux Kernel 2.4 and higher.

Bugs & Wishes

As I said earlier, I was unable to get the file transfer to work between an SD card and the hard disk. It would've been cool if I could copy photos from my digital camera's SD card to the Neuros' hard disk.

The audio player interface is very plain. All it is is a folder list. You can't sort the music by artist, album, or genre, and there is no album art display. At least not my library which uses the Windows Media Player 10/Media Center 2005 method of storing album art. Anyway, it is very difficult to find a particular song.

No automatic syncing! I know the whole USB hard disk thing is nice for people that want to do things manually, but is so much nicer to just set up an auto-sync list of rules in Windows Media Player or Media Center 2005 that automatically converts all your chosen media content and copies it to your portable media player. If the Neuros showed up as a removable drive, this might be possible, as Windows Media Player 10 can set up auto-sync rules for removable media in card readers. That way, I could have my newest favorite recorded TV shows automatically updated on the portable media player whenever it connected. Actually, there is a driver that you can

download, which makes hard disks show up in Windows Media Player 10's Sync tab. That way you can sync WMP10 content to the Neuros, but you still can't set up an automatic sync. You'll have to go in and choose the syncing playlists by yourself. The Neuros 442 will also be able to play DRM protect WMA files (bought from Napster, MSN Music, Wallmart, etc.) if you transfer them in this manner. It will not support Plays For Sure subscription content though (yet?), nor will it support Recorded TV file transfer/conversion from Media Center 2005. I haven't plugged the Neuros 442 into my Mac OS 10.4 machine, but I'm sure some people would like support for iTunes syncing and of course Apple's Fair Play DRM scheme.

There's no home button on the Neuros 442, and it is practically impossible to do any kind of multitasking. I wish I could start listening to a playlist of audio and then continue to browse my media library without interrupting the music. Currently this isn't possible since the back button doubles as the exit button. Furthermore, using the up/down buttons to scroll through different music, also makes the player start playing those selected tracks. You can't select a song you want to listen to and then go over to the Photos section to look at some pictures at the same time either. The music will stop as soon as you press the back button.

Purchasing

The Neuros 442 can be ordered directly from the Neuros website for $399, but if you look at [ Froogle](http://froogle.google.com/froogle?q=Neuros 442&sa=N&tab=wf), you'll find it for as low as $350. Buy.com also has it for $379.99.

Pros

  • Terrific video playback
  • 40 GB hard disk
  • Digital Video Recorder capabilities
  • A/V out port
  • USB 2.0 high speed file transfer
  • Upgradeable and customizable operating system

Cons

  • No auto-syncing capabilities with Windows Media Center
  • Poor user interface for navigating large libraries
  • Difficult and time-consuming process for converting videos
  • No OGG Vorbis support
  • Screen only QVGA
  • No external speakers

Overall Impression

I really disliked the interface for playing audio and lack of multitasking capabilities. I found it very limiting and frustrating. The capability to view photos is nice, but there's no way to zoom and pan. On the other hand, the video playback and video recorder capabilities were excellent with the onboard dual core processor. I copied a whole VHS tape of old college videos to the Neuros, and I love it. The ability to plug it into any A/V source with the line in and line out jacks is a really great feature as well. So to summarize, if you're going to use it for watching movies and videos away from home... Great stuff! If you're going to use it for listening to music or looking at photos... not so great, yet.

Search

Latest Articles

iOS

Here's how the Apple iPod changed the world in 21 years

iPod was an industry-changing device at its time, and it had a massive impact on modern smartphones, and the way we listen to music. We take a last look at the now-discontinued Apple iPod and the history it leaves behind.

By Roland Udvarlaki May 11, 2022, 10:00 am
iOS

How to use Mic Modes in VOIP and FaceTime Calls

This guide will go over the steps you need to follow to activate one of the available Mic Mode settings on Apple Devices to begin using the feature and improve your calling experience.

By Aryan Suren May 10, 2022, 10:00 am
Phones

This iPhone 14 feature might urge users to upgrade

Until now, it appeared that iPhone 14 would only be a minor upgrade over the iPhone 13 series. However, a new leak suggests that the iPhone 14 will come with one feature that might urge users to upgrade.

By Sanuj Bhatia May 9, 2022, 5:00 am