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REVIEW: HAUPPAUGE HD PVR 2 – GAMING EDITION PLUS

Dude, I totally P0wned this n00b last night…

Most have my gaming friends have approached me at some point and started a conversation with the above (we’re gamers, there’s no time for pleasantries like “how are you?”).  Strangely the description of events never seems to warrant the enthusiasm with which it’s delivered, it seems that in this case a picture really would be worth a thousand words.  If that’s the case, Hauppauge are helping gamers deliver billions of words at a time by facilitating full HD movies of your gaming conquests.

The HD PVR range is designed to capture content from HDMI sources and record them on a PC or Mac, and from there you can edit and share to your hearts content.  The idea is that you feed your video output from your games console into the Hauppauge box, then connect the box itself up to your TV via HDMI, and to your PC or Mac via USB.  That way you can continue to play games in real time, while recording the output from the console onto your computer.

Aesthetics

The “HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition Plus”, to give it it’s full title, is designed to sit in amongst your existing consoles without looking too out of place.  If I had to guess, I’d say that Hauppauge took the design of the later Xbox360 models and borrowed some design cues in order to arrive at this.

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The box itself isn’t much bigger than a DVD case, which makes it quite easy to position amongst your other gadgets.  It’s pretty light as well, which does lead me to believe that Hauppauge could have made it a bit smaller, if they’d really wanted to.  The LED band around the device changes colour to indicate connectivity and whether or not your recording, but it’s not so bright that it detracts from your gameplay.

Connectivity

The HD PVR2 GEP sits between your HD source and your TV, so it’s no surprise to see dual HDMI connectors on the back.  For XBox 360 and PC’s this makes connectivity pretty simple, but PS3 and Wii owners are still able to connect using the component video input and the provided leads.

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Unfortunately, PS3 owners aren’t able to make use of the HDMI connections, as the PS3 uses HDCP to prevent connectivity to non-approved devices.  However, Hauppauge provide you with all of the cables that you need to receive full HD content via component leads, which is awesome.

All of the leads you’ll need are included in the box, but unless you have your PC sat right next to your HDTV then you’re going to need to invest in a 5m USB lead.

Using it

The PVR2 GEP makes use of free software from Hauppauge which allows you to monitor and record the output of your consoles in real time, you can even add a voiceover track from a microphone attached to your computer.

I found the user interface to be pretty easy to use, and was up and running within a few minutes recording my own videos.

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The ability to edit the volumes of the HDMI source and the mic independently was a great help for me in producing sample videos, and would be really useful for anyone making a tutorial or looking to report a bug.  Of course, if you’re using your Xbox headset during a game then the sound will be piped via the HDMI connection so you’d need to sort out your audio levels on the console and not on the PC.

Hauppauge are quick to point out that the hardware in the PVR2 downscales the video stream in order to reduce the workload of the PC, but I still found that my main gaming rigs fan kicked in at full speed while streaming in full HD.  If you do have trouble with recordings then there are presets available to capture your video in lower resolutions.

You can also add your own branding or watermark to your videos so that they’re easily identifiable online, and once you’ve recorded you can upload to YouTube and other sources directly from within the software.  Of course, if you want to edit the videos first then you can access the MP4 file directly and manipulate it however you choose.

To give the system a fair crack, I took some sample video of Dead Rising for the Xbox360 and uploaded it direct from within the software to YouTube:

I’d recommend that you click through to YouTube and watch the video in HD in order to get the full effect.  In terms of video quality, there’s not much lost in the capture, though you might be able to pick up a few blocky areas in places, but generally performance is good.

Conclusions

If you’re looking for a way to capture gameplay from your consoles then you could do worse than this offering from Hauppauge.  Aesthetically it won’t look out of place in amongst your existing tech, and the output is perfectly viewable in full HD.  You also get enough leads to connect anything up without any hassle, although some of them could be longer to allow for better placement of devices.

If you’re a Mac user then you’ll find suitable capture software available online, and Windows users get to make use of Hauppauges official package.

While creating my own videos in full HD, I found that there was sometimes a second or so delay between the live feed on the TV and the image shown on my PC screen.  This led to a couple of issues with voiceovers as the audio was a second or so ahead of the video.  This was fixed by downscaling to 720p, though, so it looks like a more powerful PC would be needed to minimise the problem at higher resolutions.

The only downside to this product is the high price that Hauppauge are asking for.  At £140 it’s too rich for me, and I’m someone who’s business could benefit from owning the product.  At that price, only the most extreme gamers will be tempted, which is a shame as in all other respects it’s a good product.

PVR2 Review

Author

Matt

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