In recent years, becoming a YouTube ‘Director’ has been an aim of many gamers. The internet is littered with success stories of men and women who have been able to turn their daily gaming sessions into entertainment for the masses, and in the process turning their hobby into a viable career.
Posting gaming footage to the internet is certainly not a new phenomenon, but has normally been centred around PC footage mainly due to ease of access. Purchase and download FRAPS, press record, and away you go. Now, however, various companies have started to release simple, easy to use capture devices which console users can employ. One of the most recognised names – Hauppauge – decided to send us across one of their new HD PVR2 boxes for us to have a look at, promising us that it was a massive improvement over the original. But is it? Lets take a look.
Compared to the legacy version of the PVR box, it has to be said that the Hauppauge HD PVR 2 is a lot prettier. Angled sides and fancy green LED’s means it no longer looks out of place like an ugly plastic brick on your desk. However, we were disappointed to see that it’s still a pretty big beast. 6” by 6” might not sound very big, but in today’s modern gaming den that’s still valuable real-estate that’s going to be taken up.
Also disappointing was the fact that it – once again – requires its own 6v power supply. Having to make sure you have space for another plug amongst a forest of cables is an annoyance. Considering there are other capture boxes out there that are both smaller and only require a USB power supply – I’m looking at you, Roxio HD Pro – these two issues are something to take into account.
There is, however, an advantage to the external power supply that Hauppauge employs and that’s the ability to use the pass-through function to carry on playing your console even if your PC is not switched on. This may only be an advantage to a few people though, as in practice most people – including us – will want to be recording footage in the background just in case something YouTube worthy happens.
A great improvement though is the connectivity. The original unit suffered by relying on component cables which resulted in a spider’s nest of wires and caused many people to shy away from leaving it set up. The Hauppauge HD PVR 2 tackles that issue by switching to HDMI. A notable inclusion is a bespoke adapter which allows you to connect any component cable to the box, which is ideal if you want to capture footage from a Wii or the original Xbox for example.
A new button has also decided to set up home on the box itself. Press this button and the HD PVR 2 will start to record, meaning you don’t have to actually be sat at your PC. However, regardless of how snazzy and useful the new improvements to the hardware are, as with most capture devices the software and capture process is much more important to the budding YouTuber.
Included with the bundle is a copy of ArcSoft ShowBiz. It’s a competent editing system and if you are just interested in capturing some footage, adding some commentary and uploading to YouTube, it does the job just fine. If you want to do anything more flashy though, you’re probably going to want to use a third party editor such as Sony Vegas or Final Cut for Mac users (ShowBiz is Windows only). While there are third party clients for Mac available online, it seems a rather large oversight on the part of Hauppauge. Also included is StreamEez which does a fine job of synching with your Twitch or Ustream accounts and allowing you to stream your footage live.
In terms of capture quality, the HD PVR2 improves over the original by allowing 1080p footage to be captured, up from 720p. We had no issues capturing footage from the Xbox, and everything looked smooth and crisp. There were a few interlacing issues with PS3 footage, but this is down the fact that – due to HDCP encoding – you are forced to use the included adapter rather than capturing straight from a HDMI cable.
File sizes are pleasingly small. A 20 minute 720p recording in MP4 format came in at around 1 Gigabyte, which should make file storage easy for most people. Also, for those who prefer to work in different formats, the Hauppauge HD PVR 2 will also capture footage in H.264.
Overall, we have to say that the HD PVR 2 is a massive improvement over the legacy version. A nice design, better compatibility and an improvement in quality is something which was sorely needed. The Pass-through system is the best we have seen from products on the market, with next to zero delay, and the bundled software is more than adequate for most users. There are still a few niggles, such as its footprint and the additional power supply which is required, but overall the HD PVR 2 is a great capture device and is ideal for anyone wanting to stream or capture footage from their consoles.