Still lugging a notebook or a portable DVD player for watching movies on the go? The $299 GoVideo PVP4040 PocketCinema Personal serves up movies, music, TV shows, and photos from a device that's a fraction of the size. Indeed, it's among the few personal video players (PVPs) that can fit in a pocket. But while the PVP4040 gets a lot of things right in striving to be the ultimate entertainment center, it also gets a lot of things wrong. For starters, it has no hard drive--just an SD slot and 128MB of internal memory. We wouldn't mind that so much if not for two major annoyances: the PVP4040's relatively high price (you can buy the 20GB for just $100 more) and its incomprehensible lack of a bookmark feature, which effectively means that you have to finish watching your movie or show in one sitting. If you prize portability above all else, however, you may find the PVP4040 a worthy travel companion. Compact, lightweight, and decidedly sexy, the GoVideo PVP4040 earns high marks in the style department. It's mostly screen: a 3.5-inch TFT LCD surrounded by a control-laden silver shell. The device measures 3.7 by 3.1 by 0.7 inches and weighs a mere 5.2 ounces, making it just slightly wider and heavier than a deck of cards. Thus, it fits effortlessly in a pocket, which few other PVPs can claim. To help keep the screen pristine, GoVideo supplies a form-fitting gray case with a magnetic front flap and a belt loop.
The PVP4040 also includes a key-chain stand, which, while not really suitable for attaching the device to your key ring, does serve a very useful function: it plugs into either of two slots at the rear of the device, thereby enabling the player to stand at a 30- or 60-degree angle. That may not sound like a big deal, but you'll quickly come to appreciate not having to hold the player upright through an entire movie.
The GoVideo PVP4040's numerous controls and ports are well placed and clearly marked. Along the left side of the device are the headphone jack and a covered USB port, as well as Hold, NTSC/PAL, and LCD on/off switches, the last of which is great for prolonging battery life while listening to music. On the right side, you'll find the SD slot, a power jack, and an A/V-in port for connecting external audio and video sources. Playback and menu controls span the top of the unit and include everything from volume, record, and repeat buttons to a jog-wheel shuttle/select control. The removable, rechargeable lithium-ion battery is accessible via a panel on the bottom of the player.
The combination of smartly designed controls and an attractive, icon-driven interface makes the PVP4040 easy to operate. Within the various play modes (video, JPEG, and MP3), you're presented with lots of neatly organized information about the selected file--including thumbnail previews where applicable. The ease and convenience of a PVP often depends on its support for different file formats. Although GoVideo promises compatibility with ASF, AVI, DivX 5.0, MPEG, WMA, and WMV files, the PVP4040 can't play any of these formats unless you convert them first. The only native formats it accommodates are MPEG-4, MP3, and JPEG.
Before you can install Transcoder, the Windows utility that handles file conversion, you must first download and install 10MB worth of codecs and, if you don't already have them, Windows Media Player 9.0 and DirectX 9.0. GoVideo should have supplied all these items on the software CD rather than requiring you to download them.
Transcoder is a simple tool that uses an Explorer-like interface for finding files that you want to convert and copy to the PVP4040 (which gets its own drive letter when connected--no drivers required). We were pleased to discover that it can convert just about anything, even usually troublesome WMV files.
Although Transcoder makes it easy to drag and drop converted files to the GoVideo PVP4040, you're limited to accessing either internal memory or the SD card, whichever is selected in the player's settings. This anomaly carries over to device operation as well. The PVP4040 can't read internal and external memory at the same time. If you have, say, music stored in RAM and videos on an SD card, you have to venture into settings whenever you want to switch between them. This gets old in a hurry.