First Looks Special: Nyko Movie Player | iLounge Article

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First Looks Special: Nyko Movie Player

Seventy-five movies in the palm of your hand? With the upcoming Movie Player accessory for Dock Connecting iPods, the answer could be “yes” by November, 2005. Over the iPod’s short lifespan, accessories have already evolved Apple’s digital music player into a mini-PDA, voice recorder, photo box, laser pointer, and walking iGuy. Now video game accessory maker Nyko plans to take a giant evolutionary step forward: its Movie Player morphs any iPod, iPod mini, or iPod photo into a full-fledged video player and recorder. Plus, thanks to a high-resolution color screen, it also displays considerably more detailed digital photographs than even Apple’s own iPod photo.

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In offering iLounge a demonstration of prototype Movie Player hardware, Nyko recently answered a wide range of open questions regarding the unit’s features and performance. What follows is an extended first look at the Movie Player prototype, and not a review of any sort, with the express disclaimer that any and all of the details we point out are subject to change. For example, the unit’s price and release date are not yet set in stone; the company is considering options in the $199 to $249 price range, and targeting a release for late October or early November.

Design

As suggested by Nyko’s surprise announcement of the product at January’s Consumer Electronics Show, the prototype Movie Player resembles a white book with 50 pages of thickness on one interior side, 400 pages on the other. However, it has undergone cosmetic surgery since then - now clear acrylic is as liberally used in the unit as white plastic, generally matching Nyko’s earlier iPod accessories such as iBoost and iBoost mini in style.

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The thinner half opens to reveal a 3.6”, 4:3 (standard) aspect ratio LCD screen with approximately 640x480 resolution, 65,000 colors, and a bright backlight that runs evenly from corner to corner. Movie Player’s thicker half includes a hole in which you dock any 3G, 4G, mini or photo iPod - bottom first, back down - such that its headphone port and hold switch become part of the accessory’s right side. (A spacer will be included for iPod mini units.) Above the iPod’s top are two separate headphone ports, a feature designed to let two people listen and watch at once, and what appears to be an iPod eject button or external volume slider.

On the unit’s back are two 3.5mm video ports - one for video out to a television, and one for video in. Read that again: video in, as in “plug a video source into the Movie Player and it’ll record in real time,” and “oh wait, that means I can use the Movie Player to record live TV or direct from a camera.” Yes on both counts. The unit’s back also includes a USB port - presumably to permit iPod-to-computer synchronization when the iPod’s docked - and an AC power port. Its bottom housing includes a rechargeable battery pack that allows the Movie Player to run for six hours in movie playback mode. It won’t charge the iPod, which will still need to have a working battery in order for the combined hardware to operate.

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At least at first glance, the Movie Player’s control system seems complex, but the features make sense. Immediately below the unit’s screen is a gray pad with a set of three concentric circles, the outer one with play/pause, forward, backward, and stop at its north, east, west and south positions, the middle one with up, right, left, and down buttons, and the inner circle as an iPod-like “action” button. You navigate movies with the outer circle, menus with the middle circle, and make selections with the inner one. Above the control pad are two buttons, the first a “back” button to reverse through menus, and the other a power button. Small stereo speakers sit to the left and right of the control pad, facing upwards.

Menus and Basic Functions

Thankfully, Nyko realizes that one key to Movie Player’s success or failure is its ease of use, and has kept the unit’s features simple and straightforward. The main menu provides only three options: Movies, Pictures, and Settings, the latter of which currently lets you control volume for the speakers, TV output, and video capture. The company may add a brightness control for the screen as well; no word yet on iPod music playback while docked inside.

Select either Movies or Pictures and you get pretty much the same screen: four thumbnail images on the left side of the screen, and a larger preview window in the center and right. The name of each file is currently shown at the screen’s bottom; movies appear in ASF format. A slideshow feature is also planned for photo display. Selecting any photo or movie is as easy as pressing the middle circle’s up and down buttons, then the inner circle to display it. Within a second, the screen is filled with the still or moving image.

Audio-Video Quality

On one of the sample movies we saw, specifically a demo filmed by the company’s engineers from a live video camera, the frame rate looked pretty close to superb - likely between 24 and 30 frames per second, give or take a couple of frames. No ghosting of images was evident on the screen, a fact attributed by Nyko to its use of a relatively expensive LCD that doesn’t compromise image quality too dramatically. Though it’s a hint or two shy of Sony’s PSP larger widescreen display overall, we thought that the screen’s viewability in normal and direct lighting (through a window) was surprisingly good, and the screen’s resolution (level of apparent detail) was better than the iPod photo by a substantial amount. (Editors’ Note: All images on the Movie Player screens above and below are simulated.)

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Each of the sample videos we watched used Movie Player’s full screen - either completely filling it with video content or with letterboxing at top and bottom. A full-screen version of the French film Immortel transcoded from a DVD showed some compression artifacting, as did a sample of Dreamworks’ Time Machine in letterboxed widescreen. It wasn’t enough to bug average viewers, but wasn’t as clean as in a comparable PSP film, and Time Machine’s widescreen imagery became quite small given its sizable anamorphic-formatted letterboxes. A zoom function of some sort could help tremendously. While we were impressed by the fluidity of the directly encoded engineered videos, neither computer-transcoded movie was totally smooth, showing stuttering that most likely will be eliminated by tweaks to the encoding software and the Movie Player hardware before release.

We weren’t able to hear audio output from the prototype Movie Player, as it wasn’t implemented in the unit. However, Nyko’s work on Sony PSP audio peripherals, plus Movie Player’s two speakers and two headphone jacks, strongly suggest that typical users won’t be disappointed by its performance.

Software

On the software front, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that Nyko will be heavily customizing X Software’s PC program Video Vault for Movie Player video encoding and management, and will bundle the software for free with every unit. As currently shipped, Video Vault is described by its vendor as “a ‘Rosetta Stone’ for the digital video age, enabling you to convert DVD’s, VCD’s, Tapes and Downloaded videos to virtually any device .... The amazing part is you don’t need to know anything about codecs, formats, bit rates, frame rates, or any other technical information, simply select your device from a list and Video Vault does the rest!”

The bad news: there’s no Mac support for Movie Player planned until February of 2006. Nyko estimates that the installed userbase of Mac users on the iPod platform is considerably smaller today than ever before - 15%, give or take - and does not want to hold up the accessory’s release while a Mac version of Video Vault is developed.

In its presently available ($120 retail) form, Video Vault boasts encoding compatibility from “DIVX, WMV, ASF, MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, DVD, SVCD, VCD, VOB, AVI, [and] MS-DVR,” video formats, with audio support for “WMA, MP3, MPEG1 Layer II, WAV, PCM, LPCM, [and] AC3.” How much of this functionality will appear in the Movie Player version of the software is presently unclear; but X Software clearly has plenty of already-developed codecs to choose from.

Nyko has confirmed that files will be output into ASF format, and users will be able to choose from three initial quality settings - best, medium, or low quality - with more advanced features in menus only for advanced users. The company says that a two-hour video such as Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith at best quality with fluid action will consume 800mb, while medium quality (say, for movies such as Sideways) will use 500mb for two hours, and low quality will take 300 to 400mb over two hours. Television shows and shorter movies will obviously consume proportionately less space.

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Nyko notes that it’s committed to preventing piracy of content stored on the iPod, and will both lock out iPod to iPod movie transfers, and support digital rights management. It is also working with content partners to create Movie Player-ready video files that will be available for download at or around the time of the accessory’s launch.

The most exciting part of all of this is that the Movie Player and Video Vault together will turn your iPod into a portable video library - with films that are of sufficient quality to be watched on a standard resolution television set via video-out. Because of the transcoding software - assuming it’s tweaked to make totally stutter-free imagery - you’ll be able to fit five high-quality (or ten low-quality) two-hour films on the lowest-capacity iPod mini, with as many as 75 (or 150) on an empty 60GB iPod photo. Because of the Movie Player’s video output, you’ll suddenly have the equivalent of a portable DVD player - and recorder - with a collection of your favorite discs to enjoy anywhere. Does this sound at all familiar, iPod lovers?

Parting Thoughts

If its final form is as polished as we expect it to be, the Movie Player will give millions of third-generation, fourth-generation, photo, and mini iPod owners the opportunity to enjoy high-quality videos and better-than-iPod photo-quality photos using their existing iPods as storage devices - a killer idea that could be the must-have accessory of the holiday season. Whether Apple releases its own video-enabled iPod hardware between now and then remains an open question, but for the ten million-plus people with Dock Connecting iPods, Movie Player may wind up being a more affordable alternative. We look forward to seeing it in final form.

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Comments

1

This is quite creative, and I love the idea of the video input. However, I can’t really see myself dropping a few hundred on this when I can just bring my laptop on the plane. It would be amazing if Nyko condensed this technology into a dock with a video output and input that could be hooked up to any tv. Of course, then a movie would take up far more than 800mb.

Posted by jmaurand on June 21, 2005 at 8:38 PM (CDT)

2

Looks good! Much more attractive than the original concept they showed too. Can’t wait to try one out.

Posted by benjs on June 21, 2005 at 8:57 PM (CDT)

3

THIS LOOKS AWESOME!

Posted by Joshdude in Long Beach, CA on June 21, 2005 at 8:59 PM (CDT)

4

This looks great!  I was just talking with a friend about something like this the other day.

Question- outside of the small screen issue, is there anything holding anyone back from developing some kind of software that would enable an iPod photo to playback a movie and watch it on the iPod photo screen?

Posted by mraarons on June 22, 2005 at 12:07 AM (CDT)

5

So, no Apple support…Nucking futz…...Why can’t these fucking developers understand that Macheads would totally support something like this from the start.

Posted by Fitzgerald Gonzalez on June 22, 2005 at 2:24 AM (CDT)

6

Pretty dumb product in my opinion. I see no sense to use an iPod in there since it is only used as a hard disk. I think the product could be much more compact if it incorporate the HD right from scratch.

Posted by Wysiwyg on June 22, 2005 at 8:05 AM (CDT)

7

I think it looks pretty awesome—just the thing to use my 3G for if I decide to upgrade (which I have been for a while). Looks like fun for a trip.

Posted by Prudence in Somerville, MA on June 22, 2005 at 8:11 AM (CDT)

8

Pretty cool, but what are they gonna do when/if the iPod Video makes it’s debut at the Macworld Expo next month.  Even if it doesn’t then, I’m sure it’s going to sometime soon.

Posted by LilAlienD in Maryland on June 22, 2005 at 9:33 AM (CDT)

9

it says it plays mp4… does that include H.264?

here’s an entire dvd ripped to H.264 playing full resolution off an iPod shuffle.

Posted by weevil on June 22, 2005 at 2:40 PM (CDT)

10

guh, no OSX support, on an iPod? bah.

Posted by weevil on June 22, 2005 at 2:43 PM (CDT)

11

NO OS X!!!! damn you nyko!! After all the gameboy accessories i bought from you!!!! THis is what I get!?!??!

Oh well, my dads got a PC, no problems, its pretty sick how its so tiny, looks like it could double as a case…a $200 case…

Posted by demonic_bunny on June 22, 2005 at 2:50 PM (CDT)

12

I think the coolest use of this device is for outputting video to a television or recording video from a television or camera. However, for this purpose the Movie Player is too bulky, and certainly doesn’t need a screen.

What I really want to see is an iPod with video out (a jack right on the iPod itself) so you could attach it directly to a television and play movies that you’ve ripped from dvds that you own. Or you could connect your iPod to a projector and give presentations. Of course, the iPod itself would act as a remote.

Posted by pewtey in columbus, oh on June 22, 2005 at 4:32 PM (CDT)

13

“Pretty cool, but what are they gonna do when/if the iPod Video makes it’s debut at the Macworld Expo next month.  Even if it doesn’t then, I’m sure it’s going to sometime soon.

By LilAlienD on 06.22.05 at 05:33 AM”

Nyko doesn’t have to worry, they’ve beat Apple.  Also steve jobs has said taht people don’t want to watch movies on a small screen, hence why Nyko has a screen that’s 2x larger than an iPod’s screen.  And besides, wiht a video iPod, will probably come a bigger HDD, which means it could hold more videos to show using a Nyko player.

-Brian

Posted by brianbobcat on June 22, 2005 at 4:43 PM (CDT)

14

MY question is will the 20 gig 4G fit in there with an iSkin on?

Posted by maxman on June 22, 2005 at 4:45 PM (CDT)

15

“Looks good! Much more attractive than the original concept they showed too. Can’t wait to try one out.

By benjs on 06.21.05 at 05:57 PM”

I’m sorry, but I have to disagree.  The clear acrylic of this product is very similar to many of MacAlley’s products, products which I feel are cheap.  The old design looked VERY comparable to a new iBook, solid white and grey.  Now with a clear-ish case, you can see where the pieces of plastic snap together, not to mention the odvious screws.  Apple does a very good job of not showing how their products are assembled (screws are hidden on the bottom under the rubber feet) but this product is the complete opposite.

I LOVE the idea, but at least offer both an all white and a clear model for the consumers.

-Brian

Posted by brianbobcat on June 22, 2005 at 4:48 PM (CDT)

16

If I saw any use in portable video of this sort I would be most annoyed that NYKO is unable to come along with OS X support straight away. It creates bad precedence.

Posted by Bad Beaver on June 23, 2005 at 3:51 AM (CDT)

17

One HUGE Caveat.  The Ipod’s hardrive supposedly only has a lifespan of 10 hours of constant use.  (the ipod harddrive does not spin up very often during normal music use).  Encoding Video on the fly, and playback may seriously reduce the lifespan of your ipod’s harddrive.

Note: The info on the harddrive lifespan was taken from an interview with one of the guys at apple, and is not an official Apple statement.  I tend to agree with this assesment based on the intended use of the device and it’s size.

Posted by versatek on June 23, 2005 at 5:46 AM (CDT)

18

I don’t know about the 10hrs lifespan thing, versatek. They’re selling those drives over at http://www.mini-itx.com. They are intended for use in ultra-quiet and energy efficient computers. This implies (but doesn’t guarantee) that the 1.8” drives are okay for constant use.

Another point: brianbobcat, on paper you are right about Apple’s current attitude towards video on the iPod, they never discuss or even hint at future products. Their reasoning that photos on the iPod are okay but videos aren’t is pure rhetoric - because they know that if this issue is debated they’ll lose. Most people will have forgotten that by the time the video capable iPod is released. (Anyway I think the real reason is battery life ;-) ).

Posted by Pikemann_Urge on June 23, 2005 at 5:59 AM (CDT)

19

Apple will get jealous.This will sell millions.No need to buy a PSP for videos and iPod for music buy this and get the best of both worlds is what I think.It’s worth the wait,thanks for the first-look really good one.

Posted by TheCritic in Mumbai,India. on June 23, 2005 at 6:08 AM (CDT)

20

tune in next week for further development news of the Apple iPorn….

Posted by IDSmoker on June 23, 2005 at 10:17 AM (CDT)

21

I have one nitpick about this device.  Actually I consider it a MAJOR nitpick bordering on a show stopper for me:

4:3 (standard) aspect ratio


What the hell were they thinking?  This thing should have been designed as a widescreen since conception. I’m still interested in the device but I’ll wait until next year when the price will doubtlessly drop a bit.  $199 or higher for 4:3 is stupid IMHO.

Posted by SiliconAddict in US, Minnesota on June 23, 2005 at 11:19 AM (CDT)

22

I hope Apple finally gets a clue and just provides an add-on that provides a bigger screen as well as video/photo support.  With Apple doind it, it could easily be the size of a large iPod sleeve.  iPod photo sales are low I hear, so maybe they are working on something.

Posted by Gordy. in Atlanta, GA on June 23, 2005 at 2:13 PM (CDT)

23

Apple will get jealous.This will sell millions.No need to buy a PSP for videos and iPod for music buy this and get the best of both worlds is what I think.It’s worth the wait,thanks for the first-look really good one.


By TheCritic on 06.23.05 at 02:08 AM

He’s right about the PSP thing. No need to buy a $150 memory card just to fit one or two movies. Plus the 640 x 480 resolution trumps the PSP’s 480 x 272. This makes me wish I didnt buy a PSP.

Posted by demonic_bunny on June 23, 2005 at 8:30 PM (CDT)

24

I just weeped then crapped myself. That is how happy I am. I might get two just so I can watch one while I am making out with the other.

Posted by Rascal_King on June 23, 2005 at 9:24 PM (CDT)

25

Its a good idea. Its a good alternative to portable DVD players and its also around the same price as a good one too. The review also says that Nykon mite out movie files that can be read by this but who would want to download a 1 gb file from the internet. Unless you have a very fast internet it would take way to long. Also no mac support is bull****. What about the small group of mac people who would buy this like me?

Posted by Macromedia on June 23, 2005 at 10:53 PM (CDT)

26

looks like a pretty awesome device, but no mac OS X support is some bull shiznit. anyway, if you use the video in port from say a dvd player, can you then hook this device up to your computer and copy the ripped dvd file to your computers hard drive. that would be pretty sweet. if any one knows if this possible, please respond.

Posted by podskater on June 24, 2005 at 4:42 AM (CDT)

27

I think that the idea is great but what is up with the screen??? Why is it 4.3 and not 16.9?? If they made it widescreen I would buy one, but with only a standard 4.3 screen I would not waste my money.

Posted by DENISEEE on June 24, 2005 at 8:54 AM (CDT)

28

You all forgot about one thing, with all those movies on your ipod it takes away the space from music! what I got the ipod for in the first place. If I want something for portable video where I cant use my widescreen laptop, I’ll get something just for that. Something that only needs one battery to charge, and is smaller, which although will be more expensive, I believe you can find better options out there.

Posted by Mike Bayuk on June 25, 2005 at 3:56 PM (CDT)

29

sounds like a good idea! id buy it if it was a little less expensive.

Posted by mini_me2 on June 25, 2005 at 6:44 PM (CDT)

30

looks cool but the price I hope will be 150 cause I’m not paying 250 for some !@#$%^^ movie player needs so much space,it better come with cd’s or be able to play/record movies

Posted by darktaylor on June 26, 2005 at 12:46 AM (CDT)

31

this is in american dollars right?......what would the price range be for a canadian kid like me be to get a peice of brilliant technoligy like this(best thing iv ever herd of)

Posted by skullskates on June 26, 2005 at 4:13 AM (CDT)

32

lots of money for me too!

Posted by skullskates on June 26, 2005 at 4:15 AM (CDT)

33

SWEET!! i’m saving up for this.

Posted by punkrockavocado in VA on June 26, 2005 at 11:02 AM (CDT)

34

1. would it work with ipod photos, could it view the photos on the ipod?

2. wouldn’t the slimmer ipods be all loose, or would it have that cool plastic coat like on the mini ipod. 

3. and wot bout the chunky 60gb ipod photo how is that ever going to fit?

Posted by iPodgummy on June 26, 2005 at 12:50 PM (CDT)

35

This looks pretty cool.  Would it be able to view photos too?  Even from a non-photo iPod?

Posted by Sputnîk on July 7, 2005 at 6:18 PM (CDT)

36

If it weren’t for Apple’s iPod these sometimes dumb accessories would not even be thought of. So no Apple support.  ‘Oh we must satisfy the Windows people.’ Bull, Mac is where it is at. I will not buy something like this because the Mac would hold it up. BLAH!

Posted by DarthPod in Oxnard on July 9, 2005 at 2:25 AM (CDT)

37

could you plug in a psp put it in usb mode and view that on it

Posted by fom_4_life on January 3, 2006 at 1:45 PM (CST)

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