Hauppauge is back with another rendition of their popular Hauppauge HD PVR 2 gaming edition capture device. Learning from the past, the company has built upon their experience to deliver a much sleeker, faster, and easy to use product. Let’s take a look.
The first thing you will notice about the PVR2 is just how much better it looks. Compared to the old version, Hauppauge has managed to build a device that is about 30% smaller than the previous model. On top of this smaller footprint, the PVR2 has been reimagined to look a bit more modern while sitting on your desk. Cleaner lines, useful lighting, and a push button recording feature round this sexy new look.
One of the best surprises with the PVR2 is just how much this little box contains inside. In the age where the burden of buying cables is left to the consumer, Hauppauge has got your back. The devices comes standard with 2 (yes I said 2) HDMI cables, a beefy high-quality component cable (for the PlayStation 3), a standard power supply and USB cable. Sadly the component is needed since for the PS3 since Sony digitally encrypts the HDMI output of its console in order to stop pirates making digitally copies of Blu-rays. Still this fault is on the side of Sony and Hauppauge does its best to accommodate.
Because of its tangled mess of cables, the old PVR left a lot to be desired in terms of set up. Since the new PVR2 relies on HDMI the setup is not only easy, but also cleaner. Simply plug in the power supply, connect your HDMI output to TV or Monitor, and then connect the console of choice. Since the PVR2 is straight pass-through, lag is almost a non-issue. Using Halo 4 as a test, we couldn’t detect any noticeable difference in play between the PVR2 and direct connect.
While this setup-and-play does work quite well it isn’t without some issues. One problem we did notice was that the picture appeared a bit “jagged” or “blurred” when using the device. From our tests, this was a bit more noticeable on our 24inch monitor then it was on the 55inch plasma we tested on. This is most likely do to the fact that viewing distance is greater on the plasma and so less noticeable. However, this didn’t hinder gameplay and for most people will be an acceptable loss for the power that the PVR2 provides.
The final piece of installation to the PC is also fairly straightforward. Simply install the software from the website or CD, load up the drivers, and plug in the USB for instant recording action. We’ve heard cases of some users having trouble with driver issues, but everything was flawless on our Window 7 machine.
Capturing and Quality
The provided capture software is a bit sluggish for even our beast rig used in testing. This may just be a response issue, but for the most part capturing is a cinch. Once everything is loaded up, you can record from the PC or simply push the record button on the PVR2.
Streaming to Twitch proved to be a bit harder to set-up however. We had trouble getting the source to show up and when it did audio became out of sync at points and needed to be adjusted after long play time. We found that using screen region to stream actually gave us better results, but your mileage may vary.
The software itself is much improved in terms of customization from the previous incarnation. You are now able to record in several different file types such as M2TS, TS, MP4 as well as tweak settings to h.264 encoding options. Additionally, you can do real-time downscaling of the pass-through video to lower resolutions. This is useful if you’re hard up for drive space and want to bring down the size of your files, however for quality sake we recommend doing this after you capped in full resolution.
As a rule of thumb, this recommendation is universal for all capture devices. If your hard drive can handle it, using 14mbs (the max with the PVR) at 30fps will net you the best possible quality. While reducing the bandwidth to something like 4.5mbs will give you a smaller file size, the quality will be drastically reduced. We also stick with 30fps over 60 for the simple fact that most games run at 30fps on the Xbox and Youtube is capped at a similar limitation. Why make it work harder when its not needed right?
In a game of quality Vs. ease of set up, the Hauppauge HD PVR 2 still reigns supreme. Devices like the Intensity by Blackmagic could net you a better result, but for the price and set-up the Hauppauge simply makes life easier in terms of recording game play. The bottom line is going for a solution like the Blackmagic will mean your PC rig is up to the challenge. You also have to be comfortable installing a PC card, which for some of the 2o2p base may prove to be a bit much.
On its own, the Hauppauge HD PVR 2 is a great value for the cost. At around $149.00 from most online outlets, you’ll find a product that gives you good results for very little time invested in set up and recording. While it does fall short in places like streaming, PS3 compatibility (a fault of Sony), and some image quality issues it all but makes up for these short comings in ease of use. For a community like 2old2play, this type of set up can go a long way with our often limit play time.