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Hauppauge HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition

October 31st, 2012
Hauppauge HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition video recorder

The market for video game recording is somewhat limited, and demanding at the same time. Machinima directors and actors could use a recording tool, as well as professional gamers, or even just a journeyman gamer wanting to display his against-the-odds victory against the Xbox Live hordes. Not all games feature a clip-recording feature like more recent games in the Halo does, making delay-free video capture and display virtually a necessity for products such as these. A recent release by computer video specialists Hauppauge updates a previously-released (and slightly flawed) product with enhanced recording resolution, as well as a no-delay passthrough feature. Does the HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition keep all its promises?

The previous version of the capture device, the HD PVR Gaming Edition was a solidly-constructed product, that suffered from a pass through no-delay feature that wasn\'t quite no-delay, as well as periodic dropped frames. The new edition, which we received for review was the late-2012 revision of the product. The relatively monolithic black plastic box has been replaced by a svelte casing, with simple ports -- the back of the device boasts a pair of HDMI for input and output, a component breakout port, and USB-out to the capturing computer. Every cable conceivably related to the installation is included with the device, including a pair of HDMI cables, a USB 2.0 cable, the DC adapter required for the device, and the aforementioned component input pigtail.

The HDMI-in allows non-HDCP protected content to be recorded at up to 1080p30 resolution from the Microsoft Xbox 360 only -- the PlayStation 3 hardware won\'t allow video to be captured from the HDMI port at any resolution. PlayStation 3 users (and any other console or video source) must take advantage of the \"analog hole\" and record through component inputs at a maximum of 1080i only and deal with the corresponding and slight loss in quality.

The Windows-specific video capture and basic editing software included, ArcSoft Showbiz, is serviceable. It does as intended -- it captures the video, allows the user to perform basic edits, and facilitates uploading to YouTube. It boasts a shallow learning curve, and is very easy to use, but the flexibility of the software suffers somewhat from nods to the basic user. The package is functional and will service quite well for the introduction to the hardware, but will be rapidly replaced if any kind of serious post-production work on recorded clips is required.

There is a third-party Macintosh capture software suite that functions with the device. Steven Toth\'s HDPVRCapture version 3 is currently in beta release and functions very well with the device to capture video prior to import into iMovie, Final Cut, or a user-selected video editing package. The software apparently relies on Core Video or some other newer API, as it only functions under OS X 10.7 Lion or greater. All too often Macintosh versions of capture software are hastily assembled or function poorly -- we are pleased to report that this isn\'t the case with HDPVRCapture. The software does have some features for transcoding and file management that the PC-only Arcsoft package lacks, as well as excellent adherence to standard Macintosh user interface conventions.

We did some unconventional tests on the HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition hardware. Hauppauge recommends using only the cables included with the device for capture -- we replaced the 3- and 6-foot HDMI cables with a pair of 12-foot cables and found no visible artifacts at 720p, but experienced some sparkling at 1080p resolution. Replacing one 12-foot cable with the included 6-foot cable eliminated this problem. We tested a 15-foot USB 2.0 cable from the capture box connected to a MacBook Pro running Windows 7 and OS X 10.7 Lion with both versions of the recording software, and experienced no artifacts or unusual behaviors.

Other tests were performed, including HDMI to component convertors injected into the mix, as well as component to HDMI with no issues other than the converter inserting a delay into the gameplay. Close proximity of the HD PVR 2 capture box to strong magnetic fields had no effect on the recording either. As expected, a HDMI powered splitter made no difference to either the video signal to the television, nor the recording box. This all said, we don\'t recommend any of these environments for reliable capture, and neither does Hauppauge.

We had a few minor quibbles with the capture box. The green light on the \"waist\" of the device is enormously bright, and given our normal gaming test environment of a dim but not dark room, we chose to obscure the distractingly bright light with electrical tape. Even if recording isn\'t being done and the capture box is in-line with the console and television, the recording box must be powered and on for video to pass through. It would be best if this wasn\'t the case, but engineering concerns of some sort may dictate this. By default the recorded video arrives in M2TS format, which isn\'t impossible to transcode or use, but in many cases the very latest in editing suites must be used if the basic ArcSoft package isn\'t desired.

Hauppauge has a long and storied history developing video capture tools for both the consumer and professional markets. the HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition is aimed squarely at a specific market, and it hits it head-on. The promised delay-free pass through actually works exactly as it should, unlike its predecessor which missed the target by just a little. The unit allows even a novice user to get up and running quickly, with an end result of high-quality video. As with most devices in this class, the price is a barrier to entry, albeit a small one, but if you are in the market for a rudimentary capture tool, there are few choices that will give the performance for the dollar that the HD PVR 2 does.
- Smaller than predecessor

- HDMI and component input

- Lag free HDMI pass-through

- Clean, bright video capture Cons
- Bundled PC software only serviceable

- Macintosh software available, but at additional charge

- The device's green light is very distracting in dark environments