Review: Hauppauge HD PVR

Hauppauge makes a simple HD recording box (August 7th, 2010)

Hauppauge is no stranger to digital video capture; it has been around since 1992. With its HD PVR tuner, though, it's promising something special: a simple recording box that can capture HD video and transform it into H.264 video usable just about anywhere. But while it can manage quality, can it also match that in utility? Our quick review finds out.

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Product Manufacturer: Hauppauge

Price: $200

The Good

  • Good video quality.
  • Integrates with many third-party apps.
  • Capable remote.

The Bad

  • ArcSoft software okay, but unexceptional.
  • IR blaster slightly tricky to set up.

Hardware and setup

While the front of the HD PVR has a set of RCA and S-Video inputs , the real connectivity for the HD PVR is in the back. The front panel connections are intended for occasional use with video cameras or VCRs. The back side of the HD PVR has a component video, digital audio, and analog audio inputs and outputs. In addition to the audio/video connections, there's also a USB port and a connector for the IR blaster that enables a remote control. The HD PVR came with all of the appropriate cables for its use, and we found them to be quite long and high quality.

We connected the HD PVR to a digital cable set top box through the component video and analog audio cables. Once the system was plugged in, we installed the included ArcSoft software and Hauppauge hardware drivers. The software setup was simple , but took longer than we would have expected.

Software and user experience

As soon as we loaded the ArcSoft video capture software we were watching TV from our computer -- kudos to Hauppauge for that ease of use. There is a noticeable delay between the real time output from the set top box and the display of video on the computer screen. This delay is due in large part to the H.264 encoding hardware ; it's transcoding video on the spot. Video quality captured from the HD PVR is excellent. We recorded a variety of HD and non-HD digital content and were really happy with the audio and video quality, which scales up to 1080i or 720p.

Since the video is in a standard format, it should also make sharing relatively straightforward. You'll need to scale the video again, but the use of H.264 could give you the option of iPad-friendly video for a vacation of for Zune viewing on the commute into work. An app is included for the task, MediaConvert, but it's not absolutely necessary.

That said, if there's a failing, it's in certain parts of the ArcSoft capture software. It's somewhat basic, and the user experience was lackluster. Thankfully, the HD PVR is compatible with several HTPC software programs, including Microsoft's Windows Media Center. In order to truly integrate the HD PVR into one's home theater would require the use of an IR blaster for the HD PVR to control a set top box or other video source. The remote Hauppauge included worked well, and could also integrate with a variety of software packages beyond just what's inside.

Wrapping up

If you're looking for an HD video capture device , the HD PVR from Hauppauge is a good if straightforward choice. The retail price of $200 is more than fair for the video quality the device produces. Our chief complaint is simply the effort needed to make the most of it. For a truly great user experience, plan on implementing some HTPC software such as MythTV or Windows Media Center, as the included software bundle was underwhelming.

by Kelcey Lehrich


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