Video games mean big business in this day and age. Whether it’s on PC, console, or handheld, there’s a lot of money and effort being invested in the gaming industry. What’s even better is that people aren’t just playing games on their own – they’re sharing their gaming tips and experience with the world, thanks in part to social media and avenues such as YouTube and Twitch.tv. While before you’d have to ask for help from friends to try and figure out how to finish a particular game level, it’s now as simple as jumping onto the Internet to look for a tutorial walkthrough in a matter of minutes. Likewise, there are professional gamers out there who are recording their playthroughs and uploading them for the world to study and critique. But recording these videos isn’t as easy as it sounds – you can’t just get away with pointing a camcorder at your screen and hitting record – gamers require HD videos to critique every single move you make. So if you’re looking for a device that records all of your gameplay footage with crystal-clear quality, I’ve got just the thing for you in the form of the Hauppauge HD PVR2 Gaming Edition Plus.
I personally have been using Hauppauge products for the better part of a year (mainly their HD PVR2 model) to record video game footage. The HD PVR2 Gaming Edition Plus may seem like a minor upgrade, but it brings to it some updated features that I’ll touch upon a bit later. Looks-wise, the unit looks exactly the same as the previous one, featuring a matte and shiny black finish that tapers in the middle, almost as if the device was sandwiched together.
At the top of the device is a single large button, which when pressed automatically starts recording your stream – pressing it again stops the process. It’s this one-touch recording that really makes the device so easy to use, and the glowing ring around the middle easily indicates what mode the device is in. A soft blue glow indicates idle, yellow indicates a source is detected, and a bright green indicates the device is recording.
At the back you’ll find a number of ports and connectivity options – there’s an HDMI Out which lets you connect to an HDMI monitor (sound is also output), an HDMI in to connect an HDMI source such as an Xbox360 or PC, and a smaller connector for component cables. New in this version is an optical port, for those who want to record audio digitally, as well as an IR Blaster port.
The HD PVR2 Gaming Edition Plus (HD PVR2 GE+ henceforth) is very easy to get up and running. Simply connect the power adapter and USB cable, and then connect your preferred console via HDMI or component. Once that’s done, you run the supplied CD to install the capture software, or download it directly from the website. After physically connecting everything correctly, you then just fire up your console and check that you the HD PVR2 GE+ can detect the input signal. The entire process from start to finish should take you no more than 10 minutes, and Hauppauge were kind enough to include all the necessary cables (including HDMI) in the box.
The installation software will install two pieces of software on your system – the Hauppauge Capture software for capturing video streams, and ArcSoft ShowBiz for editing your videos. On Windows both softwares are bundled for free and are relatively easy to use, however on the Mac you only get a limited amount of functionality, unless you purchase the full version of the capture software. And while the capture software in Windows is straightforward and offers a live-preview window of your video feed, the Mac version is riddled with confusing options and doesn’t support a live-preview unless you install a third-party program, namely VLC.
But once you’ve got your software up and running, actually capturing your video is a cinch. You simply click the big red record button in the software, or press the button on the top of the HD PVR2 GE+. There’s a short delay in between when you start the recording and when the clip actually starts being recorded, so bear this in mind when you’re queuing up videos to record. In addition to simply capturing what you’re playing, the capture software also allows you to stream your gameplay to services such as Twitch, or upload the video to YouTube in batches. This again is very straightforward, and there are a number of options for tweaking your video quality and settings. You can also add your own watermark to the video while it’s being captured, as well as record microphone audio directly into the video, for those gamers who like to provide commentary while they’re playing. As for the quality of the capture, check out the two videos below that were recorded from my PlayStation 3. The hour-long Rayman clip clocked in at a staggering 6.2GB in file size at 11Mbps, so keep this in mind when you do your recordings.
The bundled ArcSoft ShowBiz software is fairly good for beginners, offering a simple drag and drop interface to edit clips. You can add effects and transitions very easily, and then finally render your clip or even burn it to CD, or upload it. Personally I prefer to use Adobe Premier Pro for editing my gameplay videos, just because it offers greater flexibility when editing.
One of the significant downsides of the HD PVR2 GE+ is that it can record video at a maximum bitrate of 14Mbps. While this is perfectly acceptable for the likes of YouTube or for streaming, other capture devices are able to work at 30 and even 60Mbps. Another nagging point is that the HD PVR2 GE+ requires an external power adapter – surely there must be a way to power the device through USB alone? Perhaps a future iteration that utilizes USB 3.0 might provide faster bitrates.
In a nutshell however, the Hauppauge HD PVR2 Gaming Edition Plus is an excellent device for anyone who is new to world of gameplay streaming. It’s got a laundry-list of features that can be tweaked, which can be a bit overwhelming at first but is worth spending time on. If you’re worried about the low bitrate, then you’ll have to look at other capture devices, but apart from that the HD PVR2 GE+ is a great capture device that will certainly win over many enthusiastic users.