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Appeared on: Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U


1. Installation - Retail Package

Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U - Page 1

Plextor is the leading manufacturer of DVD/CD Recorders. However, in an attempt to provide more complete solutions covering from DVD creation to DVD recording, Plextor has introduced the ConvertX series for real time video encoding. Their latest product in this series is the PX-M402U.

The PX-M402U follows on the footsteps of the M401U, but has real-time, hardware based MPEG-4 encoding, along with real-time Dolby Digital audio encoding. This external device is also suitable for laptop users, making encoding as easy as possible. It can capture DVD quality video from multiple sources, such as TVs, VCRs or camcorders.

- Features

The device uses the Hi-Speed USB2.0 interface, making it compatible with all computers running Microsoft Windows XP. Of course, it can be connected to a slower USB1.1 port, but this is not recommended, since the transfer rate on such ports will not allow for real time video encoding. On the other hand, USB2.0 connectivity allows high bitrate video capture using MPEG-2 compression, maximizing data throughput to the host computer.

Most available encoders will encode audio in normal stereo or wide stereo 2-channel format. Dolby Digital is a key feature of the M402U. It converts the audio input to Dobly Digital channels, muxing them with the produced video stream. However, this is not hardware based real time encoding, but instead, the software handles the audio signals in such a way that produces Dolby Digital audio.

The PX-M402U is the first capture device to be officially DivX certified. This is a very interesting feature, since users can benefit from this popular format for sharing videos easily over the internet.

- Specifications

The device is compatible with both PAL and NTSC transmission formats, ensuring compatibility for all users around the world. The following table shows the main specifications of the ConvertX.

Video Standards PAL/SECAM (720 x 576, 352 x 576, 352 x 288)
NTSC (720 x 480, 352 x 480, 352 x 240)
Video Input S-Video or Composite (RCA connector)
Audio Input Stereo audio (2 x RCA connectors)
PC Interface USB 2.0
Power Supply 100 - 240 V, 50/60 Hz
Dimensions (WxHxD) 184 x 32,4 x155 mm
Weight 0,5 kg

It should be noted that the video record time may vary based on the selected bitrate, frame size, disc capacity and video source.

  Compression Bit Rate Video Record Times
Video Encoder/Decoder Video (Kbps) Audio (Kbps) CD-R/RW DVD±R/RW
MPEG-1 (VCD) 1150 224 80 -
MPEG-2 (DVD-Video) 6000 - 2000 224 12 - 27 79 -169
MPEG-4 4000 - 700 224 - 128 22 - 115 141-721
DivX® 4000 - 768 224 - 128 22 - 107 141 - 666

Unfortunately, the M402U will not work with operating systems prior to Microsoft Windows 2000, and it is not compatible with the Mac OS.

CPU Pentium III 800 MHz or higher (minimum configuration)
Pentium IV 1.6 GHz or higher (recommended configuration)
Hard Disk Drive 10 GB free disk space
RAM 256 MB
Monitor Resolution 1024 x 768,24-bit color
Graphics Card Video card with 24-bit resolution capability and DirectX support
Sound Windows compatible sound card that supports 48 KHz playback (PCI recommended)
DirectX DirectX 9.0b (included in the WinDVD Creator application)
Interface USB 2.0
CD-ROM A CD-ROM drive for installation (CD installation)
CD-RW To burn CDs, Video CD or mini DVD (DVD format on CD)
DVD±RW To burn DVDs
OS Support Windows 2000/XP

Users can select from a wide range of available video formats that the device will use to convert video. MPEG stands for Moving Pictures Experts Group. MPEG-1 is used for VideoCD creation and was the first format introduced by the group. The MPEG-2 format is used for DVD creation and offers advanced video encoding producing better quality. MPEG-4 is the latest format created by the group, providing high compression levels, making video sharing popular. The DivX codec is the most popular MPEG-4 based codec, created by DivX Networks.

The DivX codec has several coding profiles to ensure compatibility with most stand-alone DivX players. For example, the "DivX Home Theater" profile can be used to encode files that are meant to be played in stand-alone DivX players. On the other hand, the "DivX Portable" profile is used for creating video streams compatible with all portable devices, like palmtops. The following table is provided by Plextor, showing different recording formats.

  

Mode(click to view sample video)

Video Size
Video Bit rate
Approx. File Size
Size
Aspect Ratio
Peak
Average (Mbit/s)
MB/Minute
MPEG-1
VCD
SIF
0.9157 NTSC 1.0950 PAL
1.5M
1.15
10.3
MPEG-2    
HQ (High Quality)
F-D1
4:3
9.8
6.0
46.7
GQ (Good Quality)
F- D1
4:3
9.8
4.5
35.4
SP (Standard Play)
1/2 D1
4:3
9.8
3.0
24.2
LP (Long Play)
1/2 D1
4:3
6
2.0
16.7
EP (Extend Play)
SIF
4:3
6
2.0
16.7
MPEG-4
HQ (High Quality)
F-D1
4:3
6
4.0
31.7
GQ (Good Quality)
F-D1
4:3
6
3.0
24.2
SP (Standard Play)
F-D1
4:3
4
2.0
16.0
LP (Long Play)
SIF
4:3
4
1.5
12.2
EP (Extend Play)
SIF
4:3
4
0.7
6.2
DivX®
Home Theater
F-D1
4:3
6
4.0
31.7
Home Theater (Long Play)
F-D1
4:3
6
2.0
16.7
Portable
SIF
4:3
4
0.768
6.7

The following table shows the audio specifications of the device. The following table is provided by Plextor. Althouth the converter can encode mp3 audio, Plextor's web site does not provide any information regarding this. You will see a more detailed table about audio conversion later on in this review.

  
  Video encoder
Streaming
Sampling
Bit rate
MPEG-1
VCD
MP2
44.1KHz
224
MPEG-2    
HQ (High Quality)
MP2
48KHz
224
GQ (Good Quality)
MP2
48KHz
224
SP (Standard Play)
MP2
48KHz
224
LP (Long Play)
MP2
48KHz
224
EP (Extend Play)
MP2
48KHz
224
MPEG-4
HQ (High Quality)
MP2
48KHz
224
GQ (Good Quality)
MP2
48KHz
224
SP (Standard Play)
MP2
48KHz
128
LP (Long Play)
MP2
48KHz
128
EP (Extend Play)
MP2
48KHz
128
DivX®
Home Theater
MP2
48KHz
224
Home Theater (Long Play)
MP2
48KHz
224
Portable
MP2
48KHz
128

- Retail Package

The retail package includes the PX-M402U, audio and video cables, s-video cable, USB2.0 certified cable, power cable with AC adapter and scart adapter. The audio and video cables provided are not high quality cables, but standard low quality cables, 1 meter long. These cables may produce extra noise in the video files created by the device, but this is something that only advanced users should consider. Most end users will not have any problems with the provided cables.

The device comes with 2 years On-Site Collect&Return Warranty for all EU countries, Norway and Switzerland. For the U.S.A., the device is covered by a 1 year warranty.

The User's Manual in 4 language and a quick installation guide in 16 languages are also included. An additional applications CD is provided by Plextor with Intervideo WinDVD creator 2.0 and WinDVD player 4.0, along with the device drivers. You can read comments on this software by Intervideo in the following pages.

Video and audio connections are located on the front panel of the converter. The above picture shows a simple description of every connector shown. The device has two operation leds. The power led lights blue when the device is connected to a computer and is powered on. The recording led lights red when the device is converting/recording video and audio from any external source.

On the rear panel, we can see the power connector and the USB connector. You might notice that there is no control panel available. The device's control is handled through the bundled software included in the package.

- Installation

Video converter installation was never as easy as it was with the PX-M402U. The only thing you have to do is insert the disc provided by Plextor containing the device drivers and you are ready to go.

The following screen was shown, which helped us install the device drivers without the need to use Window's device manager. The whole procedure was like installing any ordinary software package.

Remember not to connect the device before installing the device drivers. The software checks to see if the device is connected and it warns you of every error found.

When the installation is complete, you can connect the device and it will be recognized automatically by the operating system. All you have to do from this point on is connect the appropriate cables and you are ready to go.

- Testing software/procedure

It should be noted that throughout this review, and especially on zoomed images, by clicking on images, a full sized high resolution picture will be shown for comparison reasons. In general, we were interested in capturing still images, moving pictures and test screens. These test screens are used mostly to investigate the clarity of the external converter. Of course, we used not only light images and scenes, but also darker ones. In any case, the created image files/snapshots are compared with the images included in the "Plasma TV Demo DVD" provided by Pioneer, without any kind of conversion or compression.

We tested the device on several computers, to ensure that the minimum requirments are correct. The device produced audio/video synchronization problems with CPUs lower than 800MHz. We also tested the device with several Pentium IV systems, but the results were the same, regardless of CPU speed. We decided to use the recommended configuration that Plextor suggested, i.e a Pentium IV at 1.6GHz.

In order to perform our tests we used:

  1. WinDVD Creator 2
  2. Cyberlink PowerDVD 5.0
  3. WinDVD Platinum 6.0
  4. VirtualDUB 1.5.10 (18160)
  5. AviChecker 2.0
  6. MovieID 1.02
  7. Nero Burning Rom v6.3.1.17

2. The Converter

Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U - Page 2

The Converter

It is very interesting to see how this device works. The PX-M402U is capable of encoding/decoding video and encoding/decoding audio. But let us take a closer look at the device's mainboard.

Opening the device's case will void the warranty, so we advise against it. Instead, use the photos in this review for a closer look under the hood.

For reference reasons, we unscrewed the case and took the following photos. Clicking on the image below will open a higher resolution image.

click to enlarge!

One of the main advantages of this device is that the processing modes and methods are stored on the host computer. This is a clever approach by Plextor, since users can upgrade the used algorithm the device uses (since it is stored on the computer), without requiring any upgrade on the device itself. A simple update program is all you need.

Looking at the mainboard a little closer, we can see that it consists of a series of chipsets used for encoding or decoding the video and audio streams. To be more precise, it consists of the following:

Philips SAA7115HL NTSC/PAL/SECAM Video Decoder

WIS Technologies GO7007SB Video Encoder

Cypress CY7C68013 USB 2.0 controller

AKM 5355VT Stereo Sigma Delta ADC

Micron 4MB SDRAM

The mainboard uses rather simple processes to encode video/audio. It uses 4MB SDRAM to handle temporarily stored data. It receives the video signal from the S-Video or Composite input and transfers it to the Philips SAA7115HL that decodes the signal, sending it to the WIS Video Encoder for conversion, according to the selected user settings. The WIS encoder is the first encoder that is DivX Certified.

Audio is passed via the audio connectors to the AKM Stereo analog/digital converter, that converts analog audio signals to digital audio signals that can be handled by the M402U. The WIS Video encoder synchronises the video streams with the audio streams and transfers the video/audio digital signals to the Cypress USB2.0 controler to be saved to the hard disk on the host PC. \


3. Intervideo WinDVD Creator Software

Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U - Page 3

Intervideo WinDVD Creator Software

- Installation - First time configuration

WinDVD Creator 2 is the primary application included in Plextor's retail package. There is a newer version available from Intervideo, but we used the original version that Plextor provided in order to test the performance of the device with Plextor's package and to see what it has to offer. We applied all the necessary updates available from Plextor's web site.

When the program is launched for the first time, a configuration wizard helps configure the device.

From this screen we can select the television standard to use (we used PAL/25fps) and our prefered audio format.

WinDVD Creator can split files to overcome operating system shortfalls, or disc capacity limitations. A very useful feature is the slide show format used for still images. What this means is that when the device is trying to capture still images, it can capture the images as image files, and a slide show containing these images is produced by the software. This method saves space and improves quality.

WinDVD Creator supports Direct Recording. The converter captures video and sound from the source, converts them in real time, and then burns the files onto DVD media. All this is done with only two clicks, one to start and one to stop capturing. As easy as that. Direct Recording can be applied with the video profiles shown on the next snapshot.

These simple steps completed the main software/device configuration. Of course, if an error is made during setup, this wizard can be re-launched at anytime.

- Software/Device performance

The software provides DVD Authoring capabilities, along with video capturing and disc burning capabilities. For our tests, we used the "Plasma TV Demo DVD" provided by Pioneer. This disc provides the required still images, moving pictures and test screens that will be shown later on this review. We also used the Philips DVP720SA DVD Player. The ConvertX was connected with the analog audio output of the DVD Player and the S-Video output (we also made test captures with the composite input/output, but there was no difference in quality).

Intervideo WinDVD Creator uses several format profiles to make it easier for the end user to select the desirable video format. The following snapshot indicates the available profiles as available from the software.

As described in previous pages, the MPEG-2 format is used for all profiles, except for the VCD profile where the MPEG-1 encoding method is used. We tested all available profiles, and carried out several captures that will be shown later on this review.

The M402U managed to capture all scenes without any problems, and it recorded very low CPU usage, barely reaching 45-50% with high resolution moving scenes. Average CPU usage was around 25-30%.

Again, profiles are used by the software to determine the desired quality of the MPEG-4 files produced. Below you can see the available profiles, a rather wide variety of profiles.

Although MPEG-4 profiles make things easier, more advanced users might not like them. It is a fact that when profiles are used, certain parameters of the encoder are automatically configured, not giving the user the choise of activating or deactivating some minor features, like S(GMC)-VOP QuarterPixel. In general, profiles limit the uses and functionality of the codec but ensure compatibility with DivX players.

The converter did not have any problems converting audio/video streams with all these profiles. CPU usage was again very low. We could surf the internet, or use Nero Burning Rom in the background to burn DVD media, and CPU usage, even under these conditions barely reached 70%. Great performance from the PX-M402U.

- Burning Capabilities

We tried to burn some video files we created with the converter, using the WinDVD Creator software. Compared with the latest Nero version, not many parameters were available to the user, but you should remember that the main purpose of this software is not burning discs. We created a new project and inserted some of the created files. The followng picture shows the file types that can be inserted. When still images are inserted, the software generates slide shows that can be further edited by the user, adding transition effects or background music. This is another advantage of winDVD Creator, it provides basic DVD authoring.

The discs we used should first be formatted in VR format. You have the option to do a quick or full format.

The whole procedure is simple enough, even for novice users. We ended up with succesfully burned media in VR format.


4. Video/Audio files analysis

Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U - Page 4

Video/Audio files analysis

We used WinDVD creator to produce several video files. The following snapshots show the information we captured with MovieID 1.02 and AviCheck 4.06. Note that some videos are captured with 352X576 resolution to reduce file size. Also note that all files are captured using 4:3 TV aspect ratio. We could not capture 16:9 aspect ratio with this device.

- MPEG-2/MPEG-1 files

- MPEG-4/DivX

.

5. Video Quality Tests Page 1

Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U - Page 5

Video Quality Tests Page 1

Test Screens and MPEG-2/MPEG-1 Format

Test screens are used to test the clarity and brightness of the created files. The test screens are compared against the images provided on the Pioneer disc, without any kind of conversion. Black and white lines are introduced, coloured images with all kind of colours, as well as dark and light areas on the screen.

On this page, MPEG-2 and MPEG-1 profiles were used (DVD and VCD). Clicking on the images will reveal high resolution images for better comparison.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
DVD High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Good Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Standard Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Long Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Extended Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
VCD MPEG-1 Conversion
click to enlarge!

We were expecting better performance from the Plextor ConvertX at this point. As it can be seen above, colours are darker than the source image. Very good converters produce brighter images. However, software configurations can produce brighter images. In terms of colour clarity, all profiles seem to produce a rather good performance, except for the VCD profile, but this is acceptable since the VCD format is not a high quality MPEG-2 format.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
DVD High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Good Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Standard Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Long Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Extended Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
VCD MPEG-1 Conversion
click to enlarge!

This is a mixed, colour and black and white image. From the images above it can be seen that again colours became duller than the original source, but black and white areas remained almost the same as the source. Again, a small exception was the VCD format.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
DVD High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Good Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Standard Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Long Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Extended Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
VCD MPEG-1 Conversion
click to enlarge!

We used the above test pattern to investigate the distortion in the captured image. Small black lines are introduced in different shapes, and a bright white layer in the background. Good convertors should produce an image in such a way that the black and white areas should be cleary identified as different, distinct areas. ConvertX M402U managed to do this with no problem. Excellent performance.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
DVD High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Good Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Standard Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Long Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Extended Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
VCD MPEG-1 Conversion
click to enlarge!

Brightness was again reduced, but as before, clarity remained at high levels. Black, white and grey areas are identified clearly as different areas and no colour distortion was observed.


6. Video Quality Tests Page 2

Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U - Page 6

Video Quality Tests Page 2

Test Screens and MPEG-2/MPEG-1 Format

Test patterns are used to test the clarity and brightness of the created files. The test screens are compared with the images provided on the Pioneer disc, without any kind of conversion. A gradual range of Black to White bands are used, as well as dark and light areas on the screen.

In this page, MPEG-2 and MPEG-1 profiles were used (DVD and VCD). Clicking on the images will reveal high resolution images for better comparison.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
DVD High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Good Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Standard Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Long Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Extended Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
VCD MPEG-1 Conversion
click to enlarge!

In this test screen you see different hues of black to white bands. Color level 1 should always be seen as pure black, while level 16 should always look like pure white colour. We were happy to see that colour levels were maintained after the conversion. As before, bightness was slightly reduced.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
DVD High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Good Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Standard Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Long Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Extended Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
VCD MPEG-1 Conversion
click to enlarge!

Similar screen as before, only simpler. No colour levels are shown but the same results are observed. It should be noted that not all hardware based converters can reproduce colours the way ConvertX did. Very good performance.


7. Video Quality Tests Page 3

Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U - Page 7

Video Quality Tests Page 3

Test Screens and MPEG-4 Format

Test screens are used to test the clarity and brightness of the created files. The test screens are compared against the images provided on the Pioneer disc, without any kind of conversion. Black and white lines are introduced, coloured images with all kind of colours, as well as dark and light areas on the screen.

In this page, MPEG-4 based profiles were used (MPEG-4 and DivX). Clicking on the images will reveal high resolution images for better comparison.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Good Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Standard Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Long Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Extended Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Long Play Conversion

click to enlarge!

When MPEG-4 and DivX profiles are used, image brightness seems to be maintained better than before when MPEG-2 and MPEG-1 profiles were used. Great colour clarity, even at the lowest bitrates.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Good Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Standard Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Long Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Extended Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Long Play Conversion

click to enlarge!

With this image we observed very good, coloured area conversion. However, black and white areas are not as well reproduced, but still within acceptable boundaries, since we are using higher compression methods.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Good Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Standard Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Long Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Extended Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Long Play Conversion

click to enlarge!

As with MPEG-2 format, we used this image to check the colour distortion of the converter when MPEG-4 format is used. We were amazed with the result, since even DivX LP and MPEG-4 Extended Play profiles produced great images.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Good Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Standard Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Long Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Extended Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Long Play Conversion

click to enlarge!

With this darker image, small distortion was observed, but again we observed great results.


8. Video Quality Tests Page 4

Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U - Page 8

Video Quality Tests Page 4

Test Screens and MPEG-4 Format

Test patterns are used to test the clarity and brightness of the created files. The test screens are compared with the images provided on the Pioneer disc, without any kind of conversion. A gradual range of Black to White bands are used, as well as dark and light areas on the screen.

On this page, MPEG-4 based profiles were used (MPEG-4 and DivX). Clicking on the images will reveal high resolution images for better comparison.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Good Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Standard Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Long Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Extended Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Long Play Conversion

click to enlarge!

Excellent black and white reproduction. Converters are not used to produce images of this quality when MPEG-4 coding method is used. Black areas remained black, and white areas remained white.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Good Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Standard Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Long Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Extended Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Long Play Conversion

click to enlarge!

Nothing more to say. Again, excellent performance, even at low bitrates.


9. Video Quality Tests Page 5

Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U - Page 9

Video Quality Tests Page 5

Still images and MPEG-2/MPEG-1 Format

Still images are used to investigate the behaviour of the converter with a wider range of colours. Clarity, distortion and brightness is also investigated. Still images are compared against the images provided on the Pioneer disc, without any kind of conversion. We tried to use dark images as well as light images.

On this page, MPEG-2 and MPEG-1 profiles were used (DVD and VCD). The same frame was extracted for every occasion, and the image was zoomed by 400%. Clicking on the images will reveal full sized high resolution images for better comparison.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
DVD High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Good Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Standard Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Long Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Extended Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
VCD MPEG-1 Conversion
click to enlarge!

This is a normal bright image. We were disappointed to see that not all colours are maintained exactly as in the original image. Video quality was reduced as expected. DVD high quality profiles produce the best results, almost the same as the DVD source we used.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
DVD High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Good Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Standard Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Long Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Extended Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
VCD MPEG-1 Conversion
click to enlarge!

This is a much brighter image, but brightness is not maintained through the produced, converted files. Of course, light enchanchments that can be applied by the software can correct minor problems with brightness. We expected to see better quality from the ConvertX device.


10. Video Quality Tests Page 6

Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U - Page 10

Video Quality Tests Page 6

Still images and MPEG-2/MPEG-1 Format

Still images are used to investigate the behaviour of the converter with a wider range of colours. Clarity, distortion and brightness are also investigated. Still images are compared with the images provided on the Pioneer disc, without any kind of conversion. We tried to use dark images as well as lighter images.

On this page, MPEG-2 and MPEG-1 profiles were used (DVD and VCD). The same frame was extracted for every occasion, and the image was zoomed by 400%. Clicking on the photos will reveal full sized high resolution images for better comparison.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
DVD High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Good Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Standard Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Long Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Extended Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
VCD MPEG-1 Conversion
click to enlarge!

Again, the distortion factor seems to be rather high. Colours could not be 100% reproduced under any format, not even when the high quality profile was used. However, image quality was acceptable, but very good converters can produce better images than the Plextor ConvertX.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
DVD High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Good Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Standard Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Long Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Extended Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
VCD MPEG-1 Conversion
click to enlarge!

Again, the converter introduces minor brightness problems. It should be noted though that the DVD High Quality profile and the DVD Good Quality profile produced almost the same files, in terms of video quality.


11. Video Quality Tests Page 7

Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U - Page 11

Video Quality Tests Page 7

Still images and MPEG-4 Format

Still images are used to investigate the behaviour of the converter with a wider range of colours. Clarity, distortion and brightness are also investigated. Still images are compared with the images provided on the Pioneer disc, without any kind of conversion. We tried to use dark as well as light images.

On this page, MPEG-4 based profiles were used (MPEG-4 and DivX). The same frame was extracted for every occasion, and the image was zoomed by 400%. Clicking on the photos will reveal full sized high resolution images for better comparison.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Good Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Standard Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Long Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Extended Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Long Play Conversion

click to enlarge!

Again, colour distortion was noticable, but the distortion factor seems to be lower than before. DivX conversion and MPEG-4 high quality conversion are almost the same. DivX LP conversion produced the worst results but with smaller file size.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Good Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Standard Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Long Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Extended Play Conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Long Play Conversion

click to enlarge!

Brighter image and better quality results. Although there is still colour distortion, colours are more accurate. Compared to MPEG-2 conversion, MPEG-4 high quality conversion produces better results than MPEG-2 conversion, but with a similar file size.


12. Video Quality Tests Page 8

Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U - Page 12

Video Quality Tests Page 8

Still images and MPEG-4 Format

Still images are used to investigate the behaviour of the converter with a wider range of colours. Clarity, distortion and brightness are also investigated. Still images are compared with the images provided on the Pioneer disc, without any kind of conversion. We tried to use dark as well as light images.

On this page, MPEG-4 based profiles were used (MPEG-4 and DivX). The same frame was extracted for every occasion, and the image was zoomed by 400%. Clicking on the photos will reveal full sized high resolution images for better comparison.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Good Quality conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Standard Play conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Long Play conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Extended Play conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Long Play conversion

click to enlarge!

Worst results were produced with the DivX LP and the MPEG-4 EP conversions. Colour distortion is again present and it looks like this disortion is common to all conversion profiles for this device.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Good Quality conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Standard Play conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Long Play conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Extended Play conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Long Play conversion

click to enlarge!

Nothing unusual again. Worst results came from DivX LP and MPEG-4 EP conversions. In general, MPEG-2 high quality profiles produce almost the same results as the MPEG-4 high quality profiles. Only the coding method is changed and both formats produce similar file sizes.


13. Video Quality Tests Page 9

Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U - Page 13

Video Quality Tests Page 9

Moving pictures and MPEG-2/MPEG-1 Format

The Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U's performance is most interesting when moving picture and live scenes are investigated. Afterall, most end users will use the device to capture moving picture and not still images. Clarity, distortion and brightness are also investigated. Still images are compared with the images provided on the Pioneer disc, without any kind of conversion. We tried to use dark as well as light images.

On this page, MPEG-2 and MPEG-1 profiles were used (DVD and VCD). The same frame was extracted for every occasion, and the image was zoomed by 400%. Clicking on the photos will reveal full sized high resolution images for better comparison.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
DVD High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Good Quality conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Standard Play conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Long Play conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Extended Play conversion
click to enlarge!
VCD MPEG-1 conversion
click to enlarge!

We recommend you see the full-sized pictures to investigate video quality. Above we present only the zoomed images, but by clicking on the images, you will see the full sized picture. VCD conversion was the worst of all, but this was to be expected since it uses MPEG-1 coding methods. The colour distortion factor was not as high as before.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
DVD High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Good Quality conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Standard Play conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Long Play conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Extended Play conversion
click to enlarge!
VCD MPEG-1 conversion
click to enlarge!

Light effect and colour reproduction seems to be as vivid as the original file. Excellent performance. With these moving scenes, the M402U performed better than any other converter we used before. We were amazed to see that this picture that consist of dark and light areas is almost perfect.


14. Video Quality Tests Page 10

Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U - Page 14

Video Quality Tests Page 10

Moving pictures and MPEG-2/MPEG-1 Format

The Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U's performance is most interesting when moving picture and live scenes are investigated. Afterall, most end users will use the device to capture moving pictures and not still images. Clarity, distortion and brightness are also investigated. Still images are compared with the images provided on the Pioneer disc, without any kind of conversion. We tried to use dark as well as light images.

On this page, MPEG-2 and MPEG-1 profiles were used (DVD and VCD). The same frame was extracted for every occasion, and the image was zoomed by 400%. Clicking on the photos will reveal full sized high resolution images for better comparison.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
DVD High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Good Quality conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Standard Play conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Long Play conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Extended Play conversion
click to enlarge!
VCD MPEG-1 conversion
click to enlarge!

Although the zoomed images seem to be highly distorted, this is not the case. You should always compare the images with the original source. Again, excellent performance from thr Plextor device.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
DVD High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Good Quality conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Standard Play conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Long Play conversion
click to enlarge!
DVD Extended Play conversion
click to enlarge!
VCD MPEG-1 conversion
click to enlarge!

Very small differences can be seen from the original file, in comparison with the DVD high quality format. Open the full sized images and be impressed. Vivid colours, as vivid as a convertor can provide.


15. Video Quality Tests Page 11

Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U - Page 15

Video Quality Tests Page 11

Moving pictures and MPEG-4 Format

The Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U's performance is most interesting when moving pictures and live scenes are investigated. Afterall, most end users will use the device to capture moving pictures and not still images. Clarity, distortion and brightness are also investigated. Still images are compared with the images provided on the Pioneer disc, without any kind of conversion. We tried to use dark as well as light images.

On this page, MPEG-4 based profiles were used (MPEG-4 and DivX). The same frame was extracted on each occasion, and the image was zoomed by 400%. Clicking on the photos will reveal full sized high resolution images for better comparison.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Good Quality conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Standard Play conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Long Play conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Extended Play conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Long Play conversion

click to enlarge!

Very good quality for MPEG-4 based conversion with this moving scene. Objects are presented exactly the same way as in the original file. The slight distortion in the colours was not as noticable as before, in the case of still images.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Good Quality conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Standard Play conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Long Play conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Extended Play conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Long Play conversion

click to enlarge!

With this moving scene, more vivid colors were observed when MPEG-4 good quality was used, even better that MPEG-4 high quality. This is strange, since better results were expected with the high quality profile. However, all profiles produce excellent results.


16. Video Quality Tests Page 12

Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U - Page 16

Video Quality Tests Page 12

Moving pictures and MPEG-4 Format

The Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U's performance is most interesting when moving pictures and live scenes are investigated. Afterall, most end users will use the device to capture moving pictures and not still images. Clarity, distortion and brightness are also investigated. Still images are compared against the images provided on the Pioneer disc, without any kind of conversion. We tried to use dark as well as light images.

On this page, the MPEG-4 based profiles were used (MPEG-4 and DivX). The same frame was extracted for every occasion, and the image was zoomed by 400%. Clicking on the photos will reveal full sized high resolution images for better comparison.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Good Quality conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Standard Play conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Long Play conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Extended Play conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Long Play conversion

click to enlarge!

This dark moving scene is best comparable when the full sized image is viewed. Again, slight colour distortion was introduced.

DVD unconverted image
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 High Quality Conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Good Quality conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Standard Play conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Long Play conversion
click to enlarge!
MPEG-4 Extended Play conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX conversion
click to enlarge!
DivX Long Play conversion

click to enlarge!

The best MPEG-4 conversion we have ever seen, especially with high quality profiles.


17. Audio Convertion

Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U - Page 17

Audio conversion

The M402U can capture audio at the same time that video is captured, and it synchronizes these two streams to produce a single video/audio file.

When MPEG-2 and MPEG-1 profiles were used, we could convert audio into normal MP2 audio, into Linear PCM audio (similar to the Audio CD format), and Dolby Digital audio. Dolby conversion (AC3 file) is not hardware based but software based. Since the ConvertX can receive simple stereo audio channel data, it cannot in anyway convert audio to 5.1 channel. Even if the software could allow it, the produced audio stream would not be 5.1 channel data.

When MPEG-4 and DivX profiles were used, we could convert audio into MP2 or MP3 format. We used all available audio formats to investigate changes in CPU usage. Only when Dolby Digital encoding was used, the CPU usage was slightly increased. This occured because Dolby Digital encoding forces the software to encode the audio using a more advanced algorithm that requires more CPU power.

The following table shows all supported audio formats, along with audio sampling and bitrate.

     
Audio
Streaming
Sampling
Bit rate
MPEG-1 VCD
MP2
44.1KHz
224
MPEG-2     HQ (High Quality)
MP2
48KHz
224
GQ (Good Quality)
MP2
48KHz
224
SP (Standard Quality)
MP2
48KHz
224
LP (Long Play Quality)
MP2
48KHz
224
EP (Extend Play Quality)
MP2
48KHz
224
MPEG-4 HQ (High Quality)
MP2
48KHz
224
MP3
48KHz
224
GQ (Good Quality)
MP2
48KHz
224
MP3
48KHz
224
SP (Standard Quality)
MP2
48KHz
128
MP3
48KHz
128
LP (Long Play Quality)
MP2
48KHz
128
MP3
48KHz
128
EP (Extend Play Quality)
MP2
48KHz
128
MP3
48KHz
128
DivX® Home Theater
MP2
48KHz
224
MP3
48KHz
224
Home Theater (Long Play)
MP2
48KHz
224
MP3
48KHz
224
Portable
MP2
48KHz
128
MP3
48KHz
128

Dolby Digital is encoded at 384kbps. We were impressed with this audio format. High sound clarity. There was a big difference between this audio format and the other formats. Vocal frequencies were never this clear. No loss at all in the midrange, and bass frequencies were deep enough, even for small audio systems.

Using the mp3 and mp2 formats, we heard losses in the midrange, but we were happy to see that bass frequencies remained deep. However, there is not much we can expect from these audio formats.

Linear PCM is encoded at 16bits/48kHz. This was the best format for audio conversion, even better than Dolby Digital. Dolby is encoded at 384kbps, while Linear PCM is encoded at 1536kbps. Of course, this difference produces bigger audio files, resulting in a bigger video/audio file.


18. Conclusion

Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U - Page 18

Conclusion

Plextor offers complete DVD creation solutions. As a well known DVD Recorder manufacturer, the company is now trying to step into the video conversion and DVD-VIDEO creation field. And, in general, we can comment that they're doing it rather well.

The stylish aluminum case is the first thing that users will notice. The retail package has everything that users need to start capturing. We whould like to see longer connection cables though. Not all users have a TV set, a DVD player or a VCR only one meter from the computer.

Video quality and sound quality was good in some cases, and excellent in others. This means that, in general, the device can produce very good quality video files. Sound conversion was as good as video conversion. Unfortunately, video was always captured using 4:3 screen aspect ration. This means that with all 16:9 scenes, we produced a video file with black areas at the top and at the bottom of the screen. This is usually done automatically by all DVD players, since most DVD movies are 16:9. These black areas produce bigger file sizes than those of 16:9 captures.

We were not happy to see that only Intervideo's software officially supports the M402U device.

- The Good

- The Bad

- Like To be fixed



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