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DogHouse Electronics RoverTV review: DogHouse Electronics RoverTV

The RoverTV comes in two versions: Wide Screen, with a 4.1-inch screen; and Big Screen ($299), with a 3.6-inch screen. For this review, we used the Wide Screen version, which measures 4.2 by 2.8 by 0.6 inches and weighs 5.5 ounces (respectably portable stats). The flash-based device has no discernable memory built in, but it does come with a 2GB SD card--not a whole lot of memory for the money, but at least you can update the capacity as you see fit. The RoverTV is white with black trim and the face of the unit is completely dominated by a bright color screen. The controls fall around the edges of the player, with Power, Menu, Volume, and Esc keys lining the top; and Up, Down, and Play buttons lining the right. All of the buttons are spaced well and easy to press, though using them to navigate the menu can be a hassle. A joystick or some other directional control would have been a better choice for the Rover's icon-based main menu. We're also disappointed by the lack of a physical hold switch. Overall, though, this device is soft in the hand, durable, and quite pocketable.

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6.7

DogHouse Electronics RoverTV

The Good

DogHouse Electronics' RoverTV is a compact portable video device with a design dominated by a large, nice display; utilitarian menus are easy to follow; recording media is a simple process; compatible with a wide array of video formats; UMS device; excellent video battery life.

The Bad

The RoverTV has no built-in memory and comes with only a 2GB SD card; tricky control set; nonstandard headphone port; no DRM support; pricey.

The Bottom Line

The RoverTV is one cool flash-based PVP, but beware of its price and tricky control set. It's best suited to tech-savvy users who appreciate convenience over value.
Now that many portable audio devices include video playback as an extra feature, the line between MP3 players and portable video players (PVPs) is more than a little blurry. But for the sake of argument, we'll consider PVPs to be any media player on which you could comfortably watch a feature-length movie--that is, something with a screen measuring at least 3 inches (diagonal). The latest PVP to cross the CNET desks is Doghouse Electronics' flagship product, the RoverTV Wide Screen ($349). This pricey flash-based device may be light on memory, but some users will appreciate its large file compatibility and be drawn by the convenience of recording video directly from TV.


The right side of the device houses the Up and Down keys (which are the main navigational controls), as well as the Play (or Select) button. There also appears to be a speaker, but no sound comes out of it.

The top menu for the RoverTV is very Archos-like, with functional icons laid out on a desktop backdrop. The choices are simple enough, denoting the device's various features: video, music, photo, eBook, record, files, resume, radio, and setup. Navigating through the choices is handled via the Up and Down buttons, while the Play key takes care of making selections. Files are folder-tree style (this is a UMS device), so you won't find music searchable by artist, album, genre, and so on. Our test unit didn't come with many instructions, but with a little trial and error, we figured things out fairly quickly. (Important: The Menu button is contextual and serves to pull up many of the features and settings.) The interface on the whole is plain--easy to get the hang of with a little practice but clunky and not particularly attractive.

The RoverTV has a decent smattering of features, though it doesn't support DRM-protected files nor does it integrate seamlessly with any media jukebox programs. It does support WAV, MP3, and WMA audio files; JPEG, GIF, and BMP image files; and MPEG-4 video (we were able to get DivX, unprotected WMV, and AVI files to work without a hitch--this thing can play much of what's thrown at it). Text files (eBooks) can also be viewed, along with lyric files (if your songs have them). An equalizer, accessed via the Menu key while you're on the playback screen, offers settings for pop, classic, jazz, and rock, along with a custom five-band EQ. And the built-in FM radio includes an autoscan function and 20 preset slots. Photos can be viewed in slide-show mode, and you can watch them while listening to music. (See the Tips section for instructions on how to do this.)


Unlike the iPod, the RoverTV records video. Its larger screen is also a much more enjoyable medium for watching movies and whatnot.

Of course, the RoverTv's main selling point is the fact that it records video, making it a simple matter of hooking it up to your cable box, VCR, or DVD player to get video to go. Unlike Archos devices, though, the RoverTV isn't Macrovision compliant, so keep in mind that most modern DVDs will be immune to its advances. However, the RoverTV unit includes scheduling, so you can set a timer to record your favorite television programs. In our cursory testing, we hooked the device up to a CNET TV (via a VCR) and recorded some material in highest quality. The resulting ASF file looked as nice as it could (blame static-ridden reception), but other recordings, which came preloaded on the device, were quite watchable, though we noticed some pixelation. We will continue our tests with a cable box and DVD player before making any final conclusions. Check back soon for those results.

All in all, the RoverTV is a decent device with a nice wide screen, but performance is far from outstanding. Navigating photos was slow at times, and audio quality could be better--our particular unit had a short in either the included earbuds or the headphone port, but we couldn't sort out which since the nonstandard port prevented us from subbing in another set of 'phones. Aside from that, tunes sounded clear and bass response was tight, but music seemed to be lacking in warmth and depth. Transferred videos looked excellent on the bright screen, and viewing angles were also good. Two people could easily watch at the same time; you just need to find a special headphone splitter for the tiny headphone port. Rated battery life for the player is a very impressive six hours for video and a less-than-stellar 12 hours for audio. CNET Labs test results came close to the rated numbers: 7.3 hours for video (great) and 11.3 for audio (not so great).

At the MSRP of $349 for the RoverTV Wide Screen, you're not getting that good of a deal; you're paying for sleekness and the flexibility of removable media. For $300, you can get the big-screen, but not wide-screen, Archos 404 with 30GB, then add recording capability for an extra 70 bucks. The video-playing 80GB iPod is $349, but the RoverTV will give you a much better video-viewing experience.

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6.7

DogHouse Electronics RoverTV

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 6