reviews\ Jul 8, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Hauppauge HD PVR


Imagine that you’ve devoted the past week to perfecting the final stage of Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, found the funniest glitch yet in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, or single-handedly brought your posse to victory in Red Dead Redemption. It’s too bad no one was around to bear witness. As the saying goes, without video, it didn’t happen.

From bragging rights to speed-runs, and machinima to guides, there are plenty of reasons to record your gameplay. Until this past year, console gamers had limited and less than desirable options for recording though. There’s the old-school method of pointing a camcorder at the screen, but we all know how hideous that looks. DVRs can work, but you better have a massive stockpile of DVD-Rs. Slingbox is a popular choice, but most models only offer high-definition pass-through, so the image going in and out is HD, but the recording is standard-definition.

I have tried them all, including broadcast-quality recording decks, but Hauppauge’s HD PVR (model 1212), which retails for $199.99, has become standard-issue equipment in GameZone’s video department. Your console feeds the signal to the innocuous grey device (slightly smaller than a lunch box), which splits the signal to your TV while simultaneously sending the signal to your PC or Mac for recording via USB.

The HD PVR accepts composite, S-video, and component signals, and comes packaged with all the extra cables you’ll need. The exclusion of HDMI is unfortunate, but if your intention is to share videos online, HDMI is merely a luxury for times when you are not recording. When compressed for the web, the difference between component and HDMI is negligible. Even so, the HD PVR can record in definitions up to 1080i, which also makes it a great tool for backing up (not pirating!) your DVD/Blu-ray collection.

Make sure to update your drivers for the HD PVR immediately. The process is not automatic, and is necessary to unlock the full capabilities of the unit. At the moment, the HD PVR will only record in MP4, TS, and M2TS, making its origins as a DVD/Blu-ray back-up device all the more apparent. Windows Vista 32-bit struggles with TS and M2TS, and Sony Vegas 9 refuses to accept MP4. This means that all of my videos must be transcoded for editing. WMV and AVI are two of the most commonly accepted formats, making their absences all the more confusing.

Even though transcoding costs me valuable time, the HD PVR’s other recording options offset the negatives. The bit-rate is fully adjustable so that you can save storage space while recording a low-impact game, or capture every pixel of intensity in a game such as Bayonetta. If you really want to get technical, you can also set the bit-rate to constant or variable with peaks and averages, and make slight adjustments to chroma and luminosity.

For PC users, a common concern is whether or not Hauppauge’s HD PVR stacks up to Blackmagic’s Intensity Pro, also priced at $199.99. As an internal card, the Intensity Pro’s direct connection allows everything from S-video to HDMI (strangely, no composite). but again, HDMI’s quality is moot after compression. Intensity lacks options for limiting bit-rates, so even minimal recording will eat through gigabytes of hard drive space. I am a multitasker, which Intensity does not allow. If the recording program is not your active window, the feed is canceled. Did I mention that setup can be an absolute nightmare? The one plus is that it records in AVI.

Although more recording formats would be very welcome on Hauppauge’s HD PVR, I can’t argue with its ease of use. It’s as close to plug-and-play as you can get. The various options can be confusing if this is your first outing with such a device, but you will learn to love the flexibility and control over your videos. Most importantly, Hauppauge’s HD PVR delivers professional-quality video at an enthusiast-level price.


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