Review: Monsoon Multimedia Vulkano – Part 2

Back in August, we took our first look at the Monsoon Multimedia Vulkano. In that review, we promised to take a closer look at some of its other features in a later reivew. As it turned out, the Vulkano got off to a bit of a false start, because some of its more advanced features did not work as advertised.

Now, several months later, the Vulkano has received a variety of firmware and software updates, so read on to see whether it can live up to its high expectations.

But first a recap of what Vulkano does. The compact box sits at home, connected to your video source. This can be a cable box, satellite box, DVR, or anything else that delivers a component or composite video signal.

Once connected to a video source, the box is hooked up to the Internet using Wi-Fi (built in) or wired to Ethernet. The basic principle behind the box is that it can stream video anywhere in the world, to a computer or mobile device.

As we showed in our original review, this part of the Vulkano works perfectly – and the streaming video quality is outstanding.

The advanced features of the Vulkano are what set it apart. In addition to streaming video, the unit can also function as a digital video recorder and program guide. The guide can be accessed in three different ways – on your TV using the included remote, on your PC using the desktop software and on your mobile device.

The program guide, or EPG, works just like you may already be used to from your TiVo or other DVR. You can browse all your channels, pick programs you’d like to record, and schedule them. Once scheduled, the Vulkano will take care of recording from that channel – and uses its IR blaster to control your video source.

Once a program has been recorded, you can watch the recording on your TV. So far – this is all still the same as most DVR’s. Where the Vulkano gets really interesting is that you can also transfer this recording to any other Vulkano player – mobile or desktop.

In real life, this means you can be in your hotel room, tell Vulkano to record your favorite show, then in the morning, you can transfer it to your mobile device, ready to watch on your flight back home.

In reality, this is works relaitively well – albeit with a few caveats. For starters, you can not watch streaming video when the Vulkano is recording a program. You also need to be sure the unit will correctly talk to your cable box or DVR to tell it what to record. In my case, my TiVo refused to change channel (for whatever reason) and I ended up with two hours of the wrong recording. Though to be fair, this is hardly the fault of the Vulkano.

Recordings are made to an SD memory card or eSATA hard drive. The basic Vulkano version ($149.99) comes without storage, the Deluxe version comes with a 16GB memory card ($279.99) and the Deluxe Pro version is delivered with a 1TB drive, enough for 900 90 minute shows ($379.99).

On your home TV, the Vulkano also lets you watch live TV or Youtube clips, and other content sources will be added in the future.

So – does the box deliver on its promise? Absolutely. There are still minor unpolished issues, but over the past month with this current box, I have not seen any reboots or other serious issues. The lack of being able to watch streaming video while a recording is in progress is annoying, but not really a dealbreaker.

Remote video streaming quality is still excellent, and the mobile players are all free – a big difference from its main competitor where mobile players retail for $30.

I won’t pretend that the product is 100% complete – many Monsoon Multimedia products usually remain a work in progress, but the basics are all there, and they all work as they should. In other words, the product can only get better over time.

With Black Friday coming up, Monsoon is offering a $50 discount on any Vulkano product – just enter coupon code 112510 during checkout. Expires on 11/28/10.