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 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.
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.