I have a strong opinion as to how media transcoders such as ArcSoft MediaConverter 7 ($40, 15-day free trial) should operate. The perfect transcoder is media agnostic, handling any type of file you throw at it, and will choose the output format on its own when the user supplies the destination device. It should also allow people who know their formats to choose freely and upscale or downscale resolution seamlessly. MediaConverter 7 comes darn close to my ideal.
ArcSoft has been hard at work since I last reviewed MediaConverter (at the previous version--4), adding new codecs to the mix and even adding the ability to convert standard video and images to 3D video and jpeg. It supports both anaglyph (for those cheesy red and blue goggles) and dual-stream for the shuttered glasses used by PC 3D systems.
I tried converting a number of videos WMV, HD WMV, DivX, Xvid, Quicktime (must be installed separately), DVD video, AVCHD, FLV, and raw video. MediaConverter 7 handled them all flawlessly. MC7 even offered an output template for my Palm Pre amongst those for the iPod, iPhone, iPad, various Android devices and others. Actually, it was a template for the Pre Plus, but it worked fine. If you like 3D, you'll like the output--which was nice, if not quite on a par with the pro content I've viewed. The only significant (to me) codec omission was support for Ogg Theora, a free video format I'm using more and more these days.
On the other hand, MediaConverter 7 did import Ogg Vorbis audio, so perhaps Theora support is in the works. The program also imports MP3, WMA (compressed and lossless), AAC, and M4A audio but wouldn't load FLAC or APE files. Image file support is also good and includes PNG, TIFF, compressed TIFF, Photoshop PSD, JPG, GIF, bitmaps, and PCX. The program would not load Photoshop EPS.
MediaConverter 7 is easy to use, though it has some quirks. First you click one of the import categories on the left: Video, DVD (unprotected content only), AVCHD (raw HD video from digital recorders), Rip Audio (from files, not from CD), Audio, and Photo and load files. Then you select the output format from a list on the left, which can be any number of formats or devices and click Start. Voila. If the MediaConverter supports the format, the program converts the file; if it doesn't support it, the program tells you so. It even has its own media player that will handle all the supported formats.
One nice interface touch I have to praise the company for: ArcSoft MediaConverter 7 remembers the last used directories for each type of media from, e.g., My Photos for images, My Music for audio instead of just the single last-used directory as most programs do. On the other hand, I have no idea why you should have to use Rip Audio to convert video to audio instead of simply selecting MP3 or WMA for the output format. If you don't, you get an error message about invalid output format.
Despite missing support for a few relatively rare file types and the Rip Audio interface oddity, ArcSoft MediaConverter 7 is a very competent program that's maturing rapidly. How many other programs do you know that have skipped from version 4 to 7 in the course of a few months? It gives Xilisoft's $56 Video Converter Ultimate a run for its money. That is, your money.