Pros: Fast transcoding times ; Drag-and-drop conversion ; Robust file support ; Supports ATI Stream and Nvidia CUDA
Cons: Doesn't recognize DVD Video TS folders
Verdict: This app makes converting videos simple, and works on notebooks with ATI as well as Nvidia graphics cards.
CyberLink's MediaShow Espresso is a video conversion application that aims to make converting your video files fast and simple through the use of Nvidia's CUDA technology, which offloads much of the work from the processor to the graphics chip. While this $39.95 app makes it a simple process to get video from your PC to your iPhone, PSP, or Xbox, backing up DVDs is a messy process at best. Nevertheless, this is still a good option for users with newer PCs who want an easy drag-and-drop experience, and MediaShow Espresso supports ATI's Stream technology (which works like CUDA), giving it an even broader appeal.
Espresso's user interface is similar to (but more sophisticated than) Badaboom's. When you first launch the application, you're presented with a clean, black window, accented with yellow and orange icons arranged along the top. However, some tiny aesthetic touches--such as small animations that popped up when we hovered over a video file or clicked a menu option--made it feel more polished.
Espresso's drag-and-drop conversion is simple, but still involves a few more steps than Badaboom. To get started using the software, simply drag the file you want to convert onto the application. If you're converting a video folder from a DVD, you can also navigate to that folder and Espresso will import the videos into its library.
At the top of the window are five icons representing different types of gadgets: Apple Devices, Microsoft Devices, Other Formats, Sony Devices, or YouTube. After selecting one of these groups, a window pops up; at the top is a large icon of the specific device selected. Using the drop-down menu to move to a different device from, say, an iPod classic to an iPod touch changes the icon, as well as the compatible output resolutions. After you've chosen the device and resolution, simply click Ok, and the process begins.
You can also select Custom Format under Other Formats; here, you can choose between MPEG-2, MPEG-4, MPEG-4 AVC, and WMV, and--depending on the format--resolutions from 320 x 240 to 1920 x 1080, as well as different bitrates and audio compression settings.
CyberLink MediaShow Espresso supports 21 different input formats ranging from common file types such as AVI and MPEG to more rare ones like VOB, VRO, and WTV. It outputs MPEG-2, MPEG-4, MPEG-4 AVC, and WMV files with the appropriate formatting set for the iPhone or iPod (classic, nano, or touch), along with the PlayStation 3, PSP, Xbox, and Zune media players.
Unlike Badaboom, Espresso also supports Stream, ATI's competing platform to Nvidia's CUDA, which means you can use it with a host of ATI's graphics processors. Espresso also supports multithreading with quad-core processors, and lets you encode up to four videos at once, so that you can load up your iPod or PSP with content faster. However, unlike Badaboom, Espresso doesn't recognize Video_TS folders inside DVDs, so while it will convert every VOB file, it will not stitch them together into a single movie.
To test Espresso's prowess, we converted a 1.27GB AVI video to an iPhone-ready MPEG-4 format. We noticed that Espresso incorrectly defaulted the iPhone resolution to 480 x 270, when the phone in fact has a 480 x 320-pixel display. (Badaboom was the only CUDA application we've recently tested to get the resolution right.) Since we ran the tests for Badaboom and Move it using the 480 x 270 format, we left the default setting (but changed the bitrate to 1 MBps) and ran the test.
The file finished converting after 18 minutes and 52 seconds, which is more than two minutes faster than Badaboom (20:56) and Move it (21:15). Handbrake, which doesn't take advantage of CUDA technology, finished in 61:32. When we tried converting four similarly lengthy videos at the same time, Espresso's progress meter told us it would take well over an hour for all of the videos to finish. We will update this review once we've had a chance to test Espresso with a compatible ATI Stream notebook.
CyberLink MediaShow Espresso's drag-and-drop interface is dead simple to use, which means anyone will be able to convert video files easily. While the fact that you can't convert DVDs into a single video file is a drawback, we love that Espresso lets you convert more than one file at once, and that you can output to several formats. And this program gets bonus points for supporting both select ATI and Nvidia graphics cards. At $39.95, MediaShow Espresso costs $10 more than Badaboom, but the slight premium is worth it for those who want even more speed and versatility.
|Required Processor||1.6-GHz Intel Atom N270, 3.0-GHz Intel Pentium 4 with HyperThreading or equivalent AMD processor|
|Software Required OS:||Windows XP (SP 2)/Vista, DirectX 9 or greater|
|Required RAM||1GB (2GB or above recommended)|