A Toss Up
For Joe Nash, the El Gato product, unless I'm woefully mistaken, is a QuickTime encoding accelerator only. Some encoding applications use QuickTime's H.264 encoder/decoder, some use ffmpeg's (free) suite, some can use both. I suspect with Visual Hub you're using ffmpeg. It's faster. Again unless I'm crazy wrong, El Gato's product can't accelerate an ffmpeg encode. For people who are using or have to use QuickTime's H.264 encoder, it cuts the encoding time in half. For $100. Use an application that can use ffmpeg and you'll get maybe 2/3, sometimes better, the encode time over QuickTime's encoder. It's a choice for QT users: wait longer for an encode to finish while you work on other things. Or spend the $100 and wait half the time, using QuickTime encoding applications. For people who do bulk work with QT encoding, the $100 is well worth it. For most the rest of us, using an ffmpeg encoding application is quick enough, and it's free.
For Brian, 768x576 is definitely 4:3, not widescreen; what he's getting at is that his resulting files aren't limited to 480p, or standard definition. On most HDTVs, especially those with good upscaling video processors, a 768x576 resolution image will scale nicely to fill all or most of the screen, depending on how you set the TV, and look quite good, as opposed to scaling the image resolution during the encode by about 83% to get a true SD image. Essentially, he meant it's not SD, not that's widescreen.
As for the heat argument, H.264 encoding on my 2.0 GHz Intel Core Duo MacBook does get the fans going full blast, but only the top left corner of the MacBook gets even close to really hot -- the same place it gets a little warm under normal use. And you're not going to fry the SATA hard drive. Inside that sealed enclosure, with those kind of revolution speeds, that thing gets hotter on its own than you think. Tossing it into your bag every day is worse for the SATA drive than using it while the MacBook CPU is running full blast -- and it's still not likely to fail, but back-up critical files daily and everything weekly, anyway, to ward off random failures. The heat is more likely to get to the main or analog boards first, if anything, accelerating wear and perhaps reducing part life. But, if you have the extended AppleCare plan, well, that's why you have the extended AppleCare plan. If in the course of using your Mac fpr tasks within it's design specification -- and this definitely is -- it gets so hot the main board or some other part fails over time, Apple fixes it, at zero cost to you.
I still like El Gato products, and this one seems great, but for me, for the amount of encoding I do -- mostly home movies of the kids; in my opinion, it's just as easy to pop the original DVD movie into a DVD player as it is to call it up on my Apple TV, so I see no point in putting my DVDs on my Apple TV; and only rarely, like for a vacation, do I have use of putting them on my iPod or PSP -- $100 is 7 DVD or 4 Blu-ray movies, or almost 2 games, or 10 music albums, however you want to look at it.