The Gadget: Elgato's turbo.264HD video encoder, a USB dongle meant to be a fast and easy way to potentially speed up video conversions to H.264 file format for your iPhone/iPod/AppleTV.
The Price: $129.95
The Verdict: Elgato's turbo.264HD is a great encoder for those who need to basically do a lot of video encoding and want it done quickly. It's extremely intuitive, making it quick and simple to use, and is also the fastest one we've tried to date.
Using an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (which was 20.5 minutes long and a 175MB AVI file) as our guinea pig, we tested the turbo.264HD converter against older encoding programs including iSquint and the previous version of turbo.264.
Encoding times for an h.264 file
From these results, iSquint's conversion times seem to jump drastically depending on what platform it is converting for. But with turbo.264HD and it's previous version, they were both consistent in their conversions—a couple of them only differing by 3 seconds, with Elgato's upgrade being consistently faster—up to 5 times as fast as iSquint in some cases— than the others. However, one thing you have to remember with the turbo.264HD though is that you cannot use the program unless you have the USB plugged in, forcing you to use something else (iSquint) if you don't have it on you. Also, the dongle only works with its designated turbo.264HD software,
rendering it useless when used with any other program
and with any other application that has Quicktime export as well.
As for quality, I honestly can say that all the encoders produced pretty much the same type of video when converted for the iPod: slightly grainy and blury like a crappy, pirated video rip, but nothing to truly nitpick considering the medium it's for.
Before purchasing turbo.264HD, it would be smart to think about whether you have $130 worth of video you need encoded, or if you'd rather spend more time encoding to save some money. Basically, what is worth more to you: time or money?