February 5th, 2013

Hauppage HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition

Testing

 
So in order to test the Hauppage, we’ll be going through a fairly typical usage scenario – setting up the Hauppage, recording some footage, and then uploading that footage to YouTube. We’ll break up the testing section accordingly. Right, let’s get started!

Testing Part 1: Setting Up
 
So as a rule, when I try to set up a review unit it tends to fall in one of two extremes – either it works out of the box the first time, or it’s a screaming agony that takes many days of tweaking and cursing the review gods. Sadly, the Hauppage fell into the latter camp.

I ran into my first problem when I tried to connect the Hauppage to my Xbox 360. The instructions ask that you to connect an HDMI cable to your Xbox, then to the Hauppage. Unfortunately, my particular Xbox 360 is a first-gen model… which has no HDMI. I tried connecting it via Component, but this didn’t work either. Then I tried the PS3 via Component – still no dice. As it seemed unlikely that all connections had been made improperly, the most obvious culprit was the drivers.

The drivers on the disk were version 1.3, but I found that there had been an update since then – version 1.4. While none of the patch notes were “actually made things work properly”, I installed them anyway and found that my connection problem was solved! The passthrough was working properly, allowing me to see the PS3 on the HDTV that I had plugged into the ‘HDMI Out’ port.

However, there was still a problem getting that footage to show up on the PC. No matter what program I tried, whenever I tried to access the feed from the Hauppage I just got an error message stating that the device was busy and unable to service my request. After struggling with this problem for some time, I went back into the PS3 settings and changed the output from 1080i to 720p. This change finally allowed me to view the streaming footage on my PC, and also meant that I was now able to start recording! I’m still not sure why 1080i didn’t work, as the back of the box clearly claimed that it should be possible, but at least I found a working solution.

Intrigued, I now tried hooking up the Xbox 360 via the Component connector. This too worked – and at first, at 1080p. But I noticed that the screen would black out every few seconds for a second, and then return. I went into the Xbox 360 settings and changed the resolution to 1080i. This made the black spots less common, but they were still persistent enough to make gameplay impossible. Therefore, I went back into the settings and changed the resolution to 720p. This removed the problem entirely, allowing constant passthrough and recording.

Part 2: Recording

Once the connection problems were sorted, I began to start recording. I tried three games in total – Dead Nation on the PS3, Forza 4 on the Xbox 360, and finally Far Cry 3 on PS3. In each occasion, it all went swimmingly – I pressed the large record button on the top of the unit or the record button in the Arcsoft software and the footage was recorded with no issues. While there was a momentary bit of audio cut-out when recording started, from then onwards the passthrough worked just fine and I was able to play as normal.

In the Arcsoft software, it’s possible to change a large number of settings. While most of these looked to be at sensible defaults, increasing the bitrate can sometimes allow for better quality recordings at the expense of larger video files. I elected to give this a go with my Forza 4 and Far Cry 3 recording, changing from the default 8,000 to 13,000 – the maximum allowed in the software. However, I feel that this change made little difference to the recorded footage. It’s possible that this is due to the 720p resolution, and if I was capturing at 1080p the addition bitrate could be put to better use.

Part 3: Results

Once I had the video files on my hard drive, it was time to upload them to YouTube. I uploaded three videos in all, one each from each game I had tried, so you can get an idea of the quality of footage that it is possible to produce with the Hauppage HD PVR 2. These are embedded below. In each instance, make sure you’re watching at 720p quality to see the footage at its best possible quality.

1. Dead Nation – a 22 minute run of one of the later levels by my brother Sam.

2. Forza 4 – a 6 minute race at Sedona Raceway in Arizona in an R2 class car.

3. Far Cry 3 – a 4 minute section near the beginning of the game, including a relaxing drive through the countryside.

I’m pretty happy with the footage that is recorded. Despite being on most default settings, the quality is pretty close to the best footage I see captured from the Xbox 360 and PS3. While there is some compression evident, this is more than enough for streaming or recording gameplay videos for YouTube.

Conclusion

My satisfaction with the Hauppage HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition has been something of a rollercoaster – I was initially really happy with it out-of-the-box with all the cables provided, I was despondent when I couldn’t get things set up properly, and then quite satisfied once these kinks had been sorted out.

While I feel that the initial setup is necessarily complex, I feel that the documentation and the software provided could still be much easier to use. I’m still also a bit confused why I faced issues recording on resolutions higher than 720p, although ultimately I’m happy with the quality of these 720p recordings.

Once you do have the system set up however, there’s not much I can fault the system on – it’s certainly not Hauppage’s fault that the PS3 has an HDCP encrypted HDMI output or that my Xbox 360 didn’t include an HDMI port. As stated above, the recordings I’ve made seem of high enough quality to me, and the actual process of recording a new clip or streaming online is very simple.

All in all, the Hauppage HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition does seem to be a strong contender in the console recorder space. I feel that for late-model Xbox 360 models with HDMI, both the initial setup and eventual results would be much easier than they would be for me – and for that reason, I recommend the Hauppage in that instance. If you’re meaning to record on PS3 or an older Xbox 360, I’d still recommend the Hauppage although I caution that you may have to spend a few nights getting it working properly!

Pros

  • Excellent quality recording even over Component
  • Once set up, easy to begin recording or streaming
  • All necessary cables are included in the box
  • Sleek design that fits easily into HDTV stack

Cons

  • Initial setup can be complicated, both in software and hardware
  • PS3 and old Xbox 360 units don’t allow for 1080p capture
  • Didn’t work on higher resolutions than 720p

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