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DogHouse Electronics RoverTV review: DogHouse Electronics RoverTV

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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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