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

Reviews

Neuros 442

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


Neuros 442 Firmware v2.4.1
December 5,
2005

Review by: Adam Z
Lein
,
Senior Editor

Jump to: PAGE 1 | PAGE 2


INTRODUCTION

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.

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.

(all images link to higher resolution)


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.

 

google_ad_channel ="5630157517"; google_color_border = "ffffff";

google_color_bg = "ffffff"; google_color_link = "336699";

google_color_url = "336699"; google_color_text = "333333";

// ]]>

// ]]>



Neuros 442 Firmware v2.4.1

December 5,
2005

Review by:
Adam Z
Lein
,
Senior Editor

Jump
to: PAGE 1 |
PAGE 2



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 AND 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, 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
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean?


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.


Latest Articles

Search