Review: Elgato’s turbo.264

by James Bain Jul 06, 2007

There are three types of things in my world: things I am sure I do not need, things I’m not sure I need, and things I am sure I need.

There are many things I am sure I do not need: chrome mags for my Subaru, a pet tarantula, liposuction, a wing tattoo.

There are some things I am not sure I need, like a sandwich, permanent laser facial hair removal, night vision goggles, a kayak, caffeinated soap, a trilobite fossil, an iPhone, granite counters in my kitchen, a trip to the international space station, a pony.

There are things I am sure I need, like getting my foundation fixed, a second or third generation iPhone, to go camping more often, to spend more time with my family, a 120Gb iPod drive.

When I heard that Elgato had a dedicated, hardware-based video encoder, the turbo.264, I wasn’t at first sure what category it would fit in.

Since I bought my Video iPod 60Gb, I’ve used it constantly, minus some repair and replacement time. One of the first things I did was encode video onto it and watch movies.

I found that my PC at first and then my MacBook Pro (when I bought one) both did a very good and what I thought was a very fast job churning out mp4 files. One to one time. A one hour movie took an hour to encode and that seemed pretty good. Mind you, while video was encoding, I couldn’t do too much else at the same time, as in nothing, without seriously degrading my performance. I ran my converts at night then. It worked.

So, there I was looking at this small, very portable, very carry-it-everywhere-with-you USB key wondering why I was trying it. I installed the software, plugged it in. And it converted a movie, a DIVX I had, a fansub of some obscure anime.

And it worked. A little faster than I was used to. Just a bit. I do a lot a resizing, and that taxes the processor.

Then I opened Photoshop. And started working on some images.

The movie’s fps encode rate didn’t change.

I opened several very large images, resized them to be extreme. Did an unsharpen mask, normally a processor hog. And the encoding kept chugging away. Same rate, same speed. It didn’t care. I burnt a backup DVD. Same story. It just kept bob-bob-bobbing along.

Okay. I’m not used to this sort of performance. I expect my system to get pig-in-molasses slow when I ask it to do two incredibly hard things at once. It seems reasonable. In this case, it didn’t.

That’s the hardware encoder I guess. Pretty impressive.

The turbo.264 will encode files for a variety of resolutions, including all the useful Video iPod resolutions as well as resolutions specifically for the Apple TV. Very neat indeed. You don’t have to be an expert to use this. Install the most recent software, plug in the turbo.264, and it’s a basic drag and drop to load your files. Choose your resolutions and press start. And the most important part, you don’t have to interrupt your work at all while it’s running.

Output is very good in all formats, for both audio and video, viewing on your iPod or onscreen (I don’t as yet have Apple TV).

If you have an older computer, you’ll see a really drastic increase in speed. The encoder does it all for you.

Now that I’ve worked with it for a while, I’ve moved this into a fourth category: things I am not sure I need, but am very glad to have. My feelings are, however, as I get more and more used to using this, that I’ll eventually put it in the need to have category. As my daughter says, it’s “very sweet.”

If you do anything more than casual video encoding for your devices and have work to do while you encode, then this is a definite must consider. The price at $99 is very good and now that I’ve used this, I’m thinking that there must be many more things that can be tossed off to a dedicated USB stick. Audio encoding, for example, can be very processor intensive. I wonder if Elgato’s up to coming out with a dedicated audio cleaning/remastering plug as well. If they did, I’d be sure to put that into the things I need category.

It earns a solid 85% and if you ever see me wandering about with my laptop bag, I’m guaranteed to have it with me, if you ever want to take a look at it yourself. ;>) This is a great product and I was very surprised and very impressed at just how finished, effective, and easy to use it was.


  • Couple of screenshots would be great…

    Benji had this to say on Jul 06, 2007 Posts: 927
  • “ spend more time with my family, a 120Gb iPod drive.” Kinda ironic don’t you think?

    Tanner Godarzi had this to say on Jul 09, 2007 Posts: 70
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