(Pocket-lint) - If you are over 30 you may remember audio cassette tapes, if you are over 40 you may still own some.

Not that you’ll be able to play them of course because just as computers increasingly don’t come with floppy drives any more so Hi-Fi is usually sans tape deck.

If you’re quick and get there before Dixons becomes an online only store, go see how many VHS players they sell.

The point being that before long the VHS tape will become as good as extinct purely because the technology upon which to play it will be phased out. Which leaves the millions of us who have invested our time, money and memories in the format in the proverbial canoe without a paddle.

Which is where the Grabster comes in, promising to deliver a cheap, compact and drop dead easy method to shift your movies from VHS to your PC and from there to DVD (or CD if space permits and you’re not too worried about image quality).

But does it deliver on those promises?

At under £40 it’s certainly much cheaper than using one of the numerous VHS to DVD transfer services who will happily charge you upwards of £20 per tape. And at just 95 x 65 x 25mm it’s as small as a pack of playing cards, even allowing space to stow the included AV and USB cables it’s hardly going to consume much drawer space.

This is largely thanks to it being a USB2.0 device which doesn’t require a separate power supply, drawing voltage from the host PC instead.

Ease of use doesn’t disappoint either, as it really is just a matter of plugging one end into your VHS video recorder, the other into your PC USB port and letting the software get on with it.

Thankfully, the software in question is an albeit couple of years old version of Ulead VideoStudio 7. This is both powerful and easy to use, and a step-by-step user guide is included on the CD, as is Ulead MovieFactory 3 which comes into its own for editing your video before completing the transfer from PC to DVD.

Providing you only want to do fairly basic video transfer and fairly basic video editing, and the Grabster is marketed as a fairly basic tool after all, you should be fairly happy, basically. Ok, purists might barf at the lack of audio support within the device itself, VideoStudio handles the syncing of audio and video during the encoding process, but it’s your PC audio card that is relied upon to actually capture the audio track. But it works, and it keeps the price down, so doesn’t worry us a jot.

And basic doesn’t mean badly specced, audio capture apart, as the Grabster can digitise your video in either MPEG1 or MPEG2 format and produce high quality DVDs up to a PAL resolution of 720 x 576 (720 x 480 for NTSC users) at 25 frames per second (29.9 NTSC).

If that weren’t flexible enough, it can also be hooked up to grab from a camcorder or satellite receiver, and a composite video-through connector so you can hook it up to your TV to act as a monitor during the transfer process.

What you don’t get is a fast transfer process, the use of software encoding sees to that, but if you have a need for speed then a hardware encoding device will set you back twice as much - your choice.

Assuming that you’re not using this for large volumes of video transfer, we’d go for the Grabster every time and spend the money we’ve saved on buying the best quality blank DVDs we can afford.


A basic device backed up by basic but powerful enough software that makes light, if slow, work of transferring VHS movie into the digital age.

Writing by Davey Winder.