For those not in the know, a Personal Video Recorder is a piece of technology that captures and retains footage streamed into it, while simultaneously displaying it on the screen…but that’s pretty much just fancy-talk for me saying “it’s a DVR that records directly onto your computer”. If you go onto Youtube, there are loads upon loads of people posting gameplay footage. Whether it’s a ridiculous combo in Steet Fighter IV, a flawless play-through of a song in Rock Band or a hilarious glitch, people throw it out there and it can really rack up views. So how does that footage get from a console to a PC? Well, there are plenty of ways…but the way we’re going to check out now is the Hauppauge High Definition Personal Video Recorder (HD PVR, that is).
There are loads of ways to utilize a PVR. Among the most common ways are making digital copies of VHS tapes, copying movies off a DVD or Blu-ray disk or recording footage directly from your cable box. Naturally, this is beyond useful for anybody with a box of tapes in their closet or looking to repeatedly watch a sporting event (assuming they have the express written consent of ABC and the NFL, of course). What we’re going to do, though, is take a peek at how useful it is to you as a gamer. And there are two big things this bad boy can do.
Yours truly took it upon himself to extensively test the device's video capture capabilities and had largely positive results. If you Google around for images of this particular PVR, you’ll notice that this thing has many, many jacks just waiting to get used. Up front it has jacks for the ol’ fashioned yellow, white and red composite cables, alongside an S-Video plug. In the back, it has an input and output row for the YPrPb HD component cables, as well jacks for optical.
Something that is painfully noteworthy is the lack of HDMI capabilities. I know I’m not alone when it comes to using HDMI as my primary means of connecting hardware to HDTVs, and not having HDMI compatibility is honestly somewhat perplexing. So alas, I had no way of connecting my PS3 to this PVR (save for some PS2 composite cables…yuck) and didn’t get to capture any of Uncharted 2 in full 1080p. While component cables are just fine, HDMI is so widely used that lacking that functionality is a strike against it.
The first major use, naturally, would be capturing gaming footage. Ultimately, that’s something you really need or simply do not. If you’re running a Street Fighter IV tournament and you want to capture those final rounds between your top players, or if you’re a hardcore Rock Band player looking to post up videos of yourself FCing some Judas Priest, then this is a great way to go about it. And as a huge bonus, the PVR adds almost no input delay, which is a major concern for high-level fighting gamers.
Thing is, you’re probably not running a tournament, and you’re probably not obsessed with showing the world how good you are at Rock Band. So why would you want this HD PVR? Well, the second primary way you can use this PVR is to subvert the Playstation Network (which MyGamer does not condone, endorse or approve of in any way, naturally).
Let’s say you’re going on a trip and want to watch some movies on your PSP. You own the DVD but, damn it, the DVD just won’t fit in there! With the Hauppauge PVR, you just need to hook a DVD player up, let it run, record it on your computer and convert the file into a 480×272 MP4. To make it even easier than that, the PVR comes with Arcsoft Total Media Extreme, a program specifically designed to do this (and it can also make videos compatible with iPods, Zunes, etc.). Obviously, this is beyond useful.
There are a few down-points, though. You don’t get a great deal of elbow room in terms of controlling the recording. You can control the Mbps, but you can’t easily control things like the frames per second, and it cannot automatically save as any of the commonly-used video formats like .AVIs or .MOVs. While this can be remedied by any of the many readily-available video converting programs out there, you’re going to be stuck with a 600 megabyte .M2TS file after recording a ten-minute video on default settings (though let me tell you, that is still one high-quality video, right there).
Additionally, the PVR itself lacks composite out. Because of that, unless you have an HDTV, this is entirely useless to you in terms of recording video game footage, as the PVR-Monitor connection has multi-second delay. While the PVR has composite in, it can only output to your television via component cables (or optical, technically, but you probably don’t have those). And, as mentioned, there is no HDMI. That sucks.
The quality of videos coming through the component cables is impressive, though, and there’s no arguing that. The biggest issue when it comes to the Hauppauge HD PVR is a steep, steep price tag of $199.99 USD. It has other features not touched on in this review, like a fully-functional remote and some nifty timer features, but again, I’m speaking to you directly about its capabilities for you as a gamer (though, again, you can’t discount its other capabilities). So, really, if you’re in the market for recording in HD, and if you have the money to spend, this is worth checking out.
To check out some of the footage shot with the Hauppauge HD PVR, check out the MyGamerContent channel on YouTube. We shot a variety of games with a variety of formats, so make sure to watch them at the highest quality available!