Manhattan Video Grabber is a VHS converter that transfers videotapes to digital formats. The hardware portion of the converter works with any software capable of capturing video from an analog device like a VCR. However, the software that comes with it is a third-rate program that performed terribly in our tests.
Like every product in our review of the best VHS to DVD converters, Manhattan Video Grabber has a hardware and a software component. The hardware connects your VCR to your computer so that the software can capture your tapes' contents as you play them. Once you install the drivers, it’s a plug-and-play operation and works with any capturing software.
However, ArcSoft ShowBiz, the software this device comes bundled with, is unacceptable on several levels. The interface is counterintuitive, has frequent problems recognizing connected hardware, and monopolizes your processing power for hours at a time. It also cannot capture from copy-protected commercial tapes, which means that it can’t convert movies from companies such as Disney.
ArcSoft ShowBiz does have most of the editing and enhancement tools we look for in the best VHS converters. You can use it to trim away unwanted footage and to add transitions between different recordings, basic effects, titles and credits. It also allows you to set chapter breaks in your video and construct a DVD menu before you burn it to a disc.
One of the things that kept this product out of the top tier of our side-by-side comparison chart is the fact that it produced one of the lowest-quality conversions in our review. Our video experts noted distortion around the edge of the frame, digital blocking problems that caused pixelation, and major sound issues. If you choose this software, be prepared to convert your tape several times before you get the results you want.
The chief failing of ArcSoft ShowBiz is how long it takes to create a disc of your converted videotapes. In our tests, we transferred a 40-minute tape to a DVD. It took this software nearly 15 hours to complete this task. This is far too long for any burning software to take. In contrast, it took the best VHS converters less than 10 minutes to make a disc. To convert your tapes in a timely fashion, you should buy a full-fledged video-editing program. You’ll be much happier with the workflow and the results.
Manhattan Video Grabber is a good product if you only consider the hardware. You can use it easily with any software that captures analog video. The program that comes with it has a lot of tools, but it failed nearly every test we put to it. If you’re going to buy this program, you should buy separate capturing software to get acceptable results.