On PC, it’s pretty easy to record footage of your games. Whether you’re using streaming software like XSplit or recording directly to your hard drive with Fraps, getting your gameplay out there is fairly well understood.
For consoles, it’s much harder – with a locked down environment devoid of third party applications, you can’t just download a program off the ‘net and start recording. Instead, you’ll need some physical hardware to do the job.
Enter the Hauppage HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition. This small cuboid is designed to make recording and even streaming your gameplay incredibly simple – just hook up a few wires and, if the back of the box is to be believed, you’ll be away.
In this review, we’ll put that to the test as we enter the exciting world of console recording and streaming!
Record video gameplay in HD on your laptop or desktop PC
Now with HDMI and Component support
Amazing audio and video quality
Watch recordings of your best gameplay on your PC monitor or HDTV
Play while you record with our no-delay HDMI video passthrough
Upload your best games to YouTube and share with your friends
Hardware encoder: H.264 AVCHD with record resolution up to 1080p30
Recording datarate: from 1 to 13.5 Mb/s
Recording format: AVCHD (.TS and .M2TS) plus .MP4
Video down conversion: from 1080p to 720p
No delay HDMI passthrough: up to 1080p
Component video in to HDMI out: up to 1080i
I/O: HDMI in, Component video in, HDMI out
Size: 6″ x 6″ x 1.5″
Power: 6V at 1.6A
Weight: 12 oz
HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition
6V 1.6 Amp Power Supply
PS3 Component Cable
Quick Installation Guide
So let’s have a look at this box, shall we? We’ve got a nice colour scheme – blue and black with green highlights, much like the box itself. The HDMI real-time passthrough is mentioned as a new feature of the box, with the tagline being ‘record your Xbox 360 or PS3 gameplay in HD’ – fair enough.
Turning the box to the side, we’ve got a nice little connection diagram, which makes the connection process seem fairly straight-forward. There’s on port for each potential thing you’re going to connect to it – AC adapter is obvious, USB is for your PC, the weird one is for PS3, HDMI in is for Xbox 360 and HDMI out is for your TV. Okay, moving on!
Now we’ve got the back of the box. This is pretty much just the features that I wrote above, and there’s a mention of the fact that it contains all of the cables needed to actually get going – definitely a point of praise.
Our final side in a stylish green, this lists the tech specs and system requirements. Any gaming PC (and most others) will be fine, it seems.
Okay, now we’ve read each side of the box we’re allowed to open it. Inside, we find… a mess of cables, a quick start guide and the box!
Our first cable is this one, a PS3 component video cable that translates the PS3’s weird proprietary video port into another weird proprietary port on the Hauppage. The cable is nice and long, so hooking things up shouldn’t be a problem. The connector on the Hauppage end looks quite fiddly though. It’s also worth noting that this cable can be disconnected in the middle, allowing connecting up an Xbox 360’s component cable.
Next, we’ve got a pair of HDMI cables. One is a bit longer than the other – I guess that’ll be the ‘HDMI out’ cable, as you’d probably want to keep the Hauppage box near your HDTV. Nice looking cables, and properly bound with twist ties and capped.
Our USB cable. Fairly standard USB connection, like the one you’d find on printers, although the instructions warn us to only use this one, not a longer one! This’ll attach to our PC.
Here’s the power supply. Quite ordinary, and none too bulky thankfully.
And finally, the instructions. This details how to hook up your PS3 or Xbox 360 in good detail, with appropriate use of pictures where appropriate.
And now – finally! We have our first look at the device itself. The Hauppage is a thin box pushed inwards in the middle, where a ring of light-up plastic runs around the device. The black plastic finish is only broken with a Hauppage! logo and a large ‘record’ button on the top.
On the bottom, we’ve got a couple pairs of rubber feet, the necessary licensing information and quite a few ventilation holes.
And on the back, we’ve got the most important part – our cable inputs! From left to right, there is power in, USB out, A/V in, HDMI in and HDMI out.
It also bears mentioning that the Hauppage can rest on its side if that fits your operating theatre better; although it doesn’t seem quite so stable like this!
All right, let’s move onto the 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.
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!
- 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
- 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