Hauppauge! HD PVR: Gaming Edition Review
Do you wish to dabble in making game videos, or already do and want to upgrade your capture device? Well, look no further, as I have a PVR you may want to check out. Coming straight out of Hauppauge! is the HD Personal Video Recorder: Gaming Edition. This shiny recording box with help you capture all the wonders of your HD gaming experiences so you can share them anywhere you want! But is it worth the $200 price tag?
Included in the package is every single thing you’ll need to get started and making videos the same day you open the box. You have the device itself (which is about the size of a Wii console), two sets of component cables, a power supply, a couple of quick installation guides, a CD containing the drivers needed for the PVR to work on your PC, and the included program for editing.
Setting up the device is a simple process, and you should have few problems with the provided instructions. First, plug the console end of one set of cables into the system of your choice, and the other end into the inputs on the PVR. Next, run the double-sided composite cables from the PVR’s output into your TV. All you need to do now is install the software and drivers on your PC, plug in the USB cord and power supply, then bam! You’ve completed the physical setup. If that sounds confusing, simply refer to the provided diagrams. The pictures piece it together in a very effortless manner.
Unfortunately, my package contained faulty console cables, which, when plugged in, produced weird diagonal lines across my TV. Not all was lost however, as your own system console cables can be substituted in place of the provided ones. They must be component or composite cables though, as HDMI is not supported on this recorder.
There is one last thing you need to do before you can get to capturing all your game-time fun, and that is to change some settings on your console, as the recorder will only capture video in 720p or 1080i. 1080p is unfortunately not supported, which may turn some consumers off the product. However, I found the video captured in both 720p and 1080i settings to be stellar and crystal-clear, even on the default settings. If you’re just looking to make videos for internet use (say, on YouTube), then these settings are exactly what you need. You’ll only grieve over lack of 1080p if you’re looking to produce BluRays or other media designed to be played back on a TV and absolutely must have the highest quality.
Thankfully, the PVR has exactly zero delay. You’ll be able to play your games just as you normally would, without experiencing any picture lag. In fact, the lag is on the PC end; your actions in-game will happen on your monitor about a second after you make them. This allows users to play their game naturally while the device sends the video to the computer, which many people will be very thankful for.
The included program, ArcSoft ShowBiz, is simple and user-friendly. Users new to video editing will have no problem navigating the basic interface, and may be able to figure everything out via trial and error. If one truly gets lost, a user manual is available under the Options menu.
Let’s be honest for a minute, though: anyone willing to drop the dollars to pick this device up probably knows what they’re doing, and will have editing experience under their belt. These users may find the program too basic, with a lack of expansion. The same simplicity that makes it accessible to everyone also limits its effectiveness.
This is due to how it handles things like audio or transitions. In other high-end applications, an audio track can be enlarged to show waveforms, to help place an effect or start a video segment at a musical or sound cue – a feature lacking in ShowBiz. Transitions in the program are also under-attended, with only length being editable. This means that if you wish for one video to continue playing while the next fades or checkerboard-wipes in, you’re out of luck. Instead, the first segment will stop completely before the crossover effect changes to the start of the next section, at which point that piece will start to play.
Audio is also affected by this. Underneath the transition slot, the audio mix shows a crossfade, which can never occur due to the video stopping before the shift. What ends up happening is an audio occurrence similar to a CD skipping, with one chunk of audio quickly repeating in an obnoxious way. While a user can mute this, it’s a big hassle that shouldn’t have to be mixed in every project.
To make matters worse, the program tends to lock up and lag frequently. During capture, everything runs smoothly with no hiccups or bumps, just beautifully recorded picture. Get to the edit stage however, and it’s like a storm hitting a ship on the high seas. The preview panel that allows the user to see what their potential masterpiece looks like often slows down and become choppy, while the audio continues to play at speed. This makes syncing up visuals and sounds nearly impossible. If that wasn’t bad enough, I had the program crash on me several times, causing me to lose the last hour I spent trying to sync a biotic blast to a Dubstep drop.
Thinking perhaps it was my desktop’s fault, I tried again on my laptop… with zero success. After quickly consulting the program’s minimum requirements, comparing them with my hardware specs, and even updating video card drivers (just to be safe), I determined that it had to be the program, as both of my computers were either at or above recommended settings.
Should you either figure out the magic setting to make the program work, or have a powerhouse PC able to get past this roadblock, then there is one last issue to deal with. Upon closing your production and mixing everything into a single video file, you have to make quality choices: things like which format the video should be in, final resolution, the video’s bitrate, what audio codec to use, etc. Anything under the pre-made high quality setting is going to look very poor, and shouldn’t even be humored, but even with all of the settings turned up to the max, the final product still seems to lose a little bit of quality. For me, this is the final nail in the coffin, and I recommend researching a better program to use in its place.
This program does have a bit of a saving grace in the fact that it can both make DVDs and post directly to YouTube. The software contains a DVD-making feature, which allows users to create various menus and section off chapters. For the YouTube stars, the option to post directly to your channel can save both time and energy. However, using both of these requires you to actually develop your full project – something that seems impossible given the program’s weaknesses.
So, all in all, is this piece of hardware worth your money? Well, the program provided may be too simple for a PVR of this stature (and in some cases: broken), and the quality of video captured by the device greatly overshadows its shortcomings. My recommendation is this: if you’re an aspiring video editor looking to take your gaming videos to the next level, then the Hauppauge! HD Personal Video Recorder: Gaming Edition is definitely the way to go – just use your favorite editing program instead. If you’re just looking to get into video making, perhaps go with a cheaper item to cut your teeth on, but come back to this if you start to get serious.
Don’t let the lower score fool you, this PVR is a great buy as you will definitely not be disappointed with the quality of video you will be capturing!
Final score: 3.5 / 5.0 and a Jekyll and Hyde potion
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