I'm assuming this is for sub-$500 consumer equipment. Maybe even sub-$200 stuff. Or less?
Also, are you wanting MPEG only? AVI only? Both?
More on company products...
Pinnacle is essentially one of the lowest quality companies these days, and has been for a while. Though you will run into some people that like the older, more high-end gear, the more modern stuff is not all that great.
The TDK IndiCapture (external, MPEG-2 hardware encoder) was something I had looked at a while back, and wante do try out. The specs of it are decent looking, but not sure how that would translate when in use.
I'm a big fan of the ATI All In Wonder (AIW) series of video cards, as they are HIGHLY customizable, in terms of what can be captured, and how detailed it can be adjusted (lots of options!). Extremely high quality card, for the sub-$500 price range (many of the older cards are even less than $100 now). Any of the RADEON class AIW cards are fine. I have yet to test there external products, but some of the newest ones may have THEATRE chips in them, which would be what you want.
Hauppauge makes some good products too, in terms of internal MPEG hardware encoders. Not sure if their external devices are based on the same chips. Something to research.
Canopus is a company that loves smokes and mirrors (and LOTS of outright bullprop), when describing their own products, features and quality. Makes car salesmen look like saints. They have some external devices, but they are super-expensive. The external MPEG card is about $500, and at least two pros have warned me to stay away from it (errors, low quality, etc). The ADVC DV converters are okay, reliable, but just DV converters, nothing more.
AVerMedia may have new external MPEG2 hardware out now too, hard to keep track of them. Those may be worth a look too.
Whatever you do, avoid COMPUSA or other places that have restocking fees on returns. You don't want to get stuck paying 15% cost for something you hate. I suggest Fry's or Best Buy or Circuit City for purchases and returns. At least for the testing phase. And never listen to salesmen, most of them are entirely clueless about video. They'll suggest they "coolest looking" device or the name brand that matches their car stereo.
Good luck. If you have more, ask, I'll see what I can do.
And remember, anytime you look at reviews online, you have to wear your "stupid goggles" to filter out the sludge and morons that infest the internet. People often rate products poorly because "the remote is too small" or "I don't like the color". Sometimes their limited knowledge is the problem, not the device. Or their lack of actually open the instruction manual and spending 2 minutes reading.
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