Review: VisualHub

Convert your media for any device with VisualHub. (December 4th, 2007)

MacNN Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: Techspansion

Price: $23.32 US

The Good

  • Simple to use. Powerful. Great queuing options. Can pause conversion. Xgrid aware. Sense of humor applied in the Interface and manual. One household can share the same license.

The Bad

  • Time estimates may be incorrect. Works better on Intel Macs than PPC. May heat up your portable to an unacceptable level.

It is tough to keep your files types consistent when you mix and match video, audio, and text on your Mac, iPod, or iPhone. Video conversion is the most space and time-consuming. Video conversion utilities can take a lot of time to convert files and most baffle the basic user. VisualHub by Techspansion aims to simplify the process with a solid, versatile video conversion program.

Available Help

VisualHub is the logical upgrade to the free iSquint, which has served many of us as the iPod video conversion software of choice for quite some time. Both products are available as downloads only. The question to answer is, do you need Visual Hub when iSquint does an admirable job for free. Ilene and Galen think Visual Hub is well worth the small fee. First, VisualHub includes a well-written manual, while iSquint gives you the lyrics of a popular song in the Help menu. It's funny, but of little use. Second, VisualHub converts video into nine different formats, while iSquint only converts files for your iPod and TV.

Easy Install

The VisualHub download includes the application, Users Guide, a link to TiVo support, and a change log. Installation is a simple click and drag into your Applications folder. Techspansion is very good about releasing bug fixes, and released two during MacNN's testing period.

The first surprise upon launching VisualHub is that another download screen appears. By default, not all the needed libraries are included due to restrictions in some countries. While the solution is implemented well, the download neglects to say how big it is, nor how long it will take.

Download screen


Download Extras Dialog (Version 1.2.8)


The easy to navigate VisualHub is well laid out, but doesn't follow Apple's typical interface. Oddly placed tabs let you quickly choose your intended destination for your converted files. Choices include iTunes, PSP, DV, DVD, AVI, MP4, WMV, MPEG, and Flash. Each tab presents a set of simple adjustments, as well as an Advanced button.

Batch Conversion

You can queue processes in VisualHub, so that you can convert a batch of video files, and it works very well. Galen gave VisualHub a set of files and went about his day without having to constantly feed it files. While Galen thought conversion was quick on his 2.16 GHz iMac, Ilene still thought it was a bit slow on her 2.4GHz iMac. Ilene ripped a few DVDs and converted them for all iPods. While the time to convert one of them displayed as 48 minutes, it actually took 68 minutes, and it was a less than 3GB, hour and a half black and white movie. Oddly enough, some longer movies took less time to convert.

Conversion screen


Conversion Screen


Galen found that his workflow remained undisturbed; thanks to an option in VisualHub that makes the application play nice and prevents it from monopolizing system resources. You can disable this option in the preferences, so that you can queue up a number of video files before going to bed, for example. When the conversion is done, VisualHub launches iTunes and adds the converted files to the library, unless you turn off that option. All of the converted files played flawlessly from within iTunes and Front Row.

Lots of Options

The Advanced Settings are quite thorough. They allow you to deinterlace, set the bitrate and Hertz, and even crop video. You can also define, save, and reload settings. VisualHub's friendly nature is exemplified with the Go Nuts video quality option and a "Don't! You'll screw it all up!" warning in the advanced options. This is a humorous, but an accurate deterrent for less knowledgeable users. Sprinkled throughout the program is the company's great sense of humor.

Cancel Conversion screen


Cancel Conversion Dialog


VisualHub can also use an Xgrid-enabled network to process any queued files with stitching available to refine a user's workflow. There are a number of cautionary notes in the manual though, not the least of which is the potential to wear down your DVD drive if you convert directly from a disc. Before you enable Xgrid, you should peruse the manual. TechSpansion recommends you stick with Mac OS X 10.4.x, Tiger for Xgrid Encoding until the release of a later version.

Beware of the Heat

While VisualHub works great on the Intel Macs, Ilene cautions its use on older PowerBooks. She found that converting a 700+ MB file on her PowerBook G4 raised the temperature close to dangerous levels in under 10 minutes and the conversion was not even a quarter finished. Conversion of that same file on the Intel iMac took less than 10 minutes and the machine barely noticed. iSquint never pushed the heat up like that, so she's decided to continue using iSquint on her older Mac and keep VisualHub on the iMac. If you own a newer Mac, VisualHub is seems to be the best option around.

by Galen Wood and Ilene Hoffman


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