Part of the reason the iPod has been so successful is that compatible content is so simple to acquire--and there's plenty of it. Now, the iRecord Pro, a simple one-touch personal media recorder, makes content even easier to get. And the beauty of it is that it's not only for the iPod, you can also record directly to the Sony Walkman, the Sony PSP, and other devices. Unfortunately, the iRecord Pro is way overpriced at $259, and while it will save you money on content in the long run, the fact that it's crippled by its lack of a scheduling feature--and that it offers only real-time recording--makes the price tag exceedingly hard to swallow.
The black, plastic iRecord Pro box offers a noticeable improvement over the sterile design of its predecessor, the iRecord. It offers some rounded edges and some muted silver piping that accents it nicely. At 5.5 inches by 3.6 inches by 1 inch, it's noticeably larger than the iPod but smaller than any other part of a home theater system. Only two buttons grace the top of the device: power and record. The back houses the necessary inputs--RCA AV, S-Video, and power--while the left edge contains the standard USB port for connecting portable players and the right incorporates a mini USB for attaching computers.
The iRecord Pro's final physical characteristics of note are the various LED indicators on the front of the unit. The one stamped "Streaming Networks" glows blue when the unit is powered on, and a simple rectangle record indicator glows or flashes different status colors. Steady green means it's ready for recording, and flashing shows it's detecting the USB device; orange blinks for busy and glows for audio-only recording; and red turns on for a firmware upgrade and flashes during video recording. The unit also features LEDs stamped with 30, 60, 120, and 180, which glow to show which recording time has been set. Timers are set by pressing the record button a certain number of times in succession, and instructions are laid out clearly in the manual. Streaming Networks also includes a remote that has a dedicated timer button, keys for recording video or audio only, and buttons for stopping and pausing the recording.
As for features, the prior LED status lights pretty much cover them. The iRecord can record video (MPEG-4 or H.264, depending on the device) or audio only (MP3), and it's firmware-upgradable, which will allow the unit to expand its device compatibility in the future. Currently, it supports all iPods (audio-only for the earlier models without video support), the Sony PSP, recent versions of the Sony Walkman, and USB flash drives, and it's the only device that can record video to the iPhone 3G. It can also do audio-only recording to the Creative Zen Vision, the Toshiba Gigabeat S, and the SanDisk Sansa e200 series. Plus, you can use it to record to your laptop or PC (Windows or Mac), and the included iRecord Desktop software lets you convert between video formats. Unfortunately, the iRecord doesn't let you schedule recordings via a built-in timer. Although this feature would probably take away from some of the simplicity of the unit, it would still be a welcome addition, and frankly we expect it given the price point. On the plus side--and this is a big plus--the iRecord can record from protected DVDs, although we should stress that this is only legal for DVDs that you own.
We're pleased to report that the iRecord Pro is as easy to use as advertised. All of the necessary cables (RCA AV, S-Video, mini USB, and power) are included with the unit, so all you need to do is hook it up, turn it on, and press Record. The unit automatically detects your device and determines the correct recording format, and it uses the cable connections to determine whether to do video or just audio recording. No software or computer is required. Video quality is also impressive--clear with no pixelation or audio delays. It's as good as anything purchased in iTunes, and the TV out looks good as well. Of course, you can only record in real time, and unless you want to sit in front of the unit pausing for all the commercials, those will be in there as well. Still, even with the limitations, the iRecord Pro may be a good investment for anyone who wants to easily record content for a portable device without having to deal with computer software and video transcoding.