Hauppauge’s HD PVR 2 is a video capture device. The idea is that you connect it between a video source, such as an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, and the TV or home theatre system you normally use. Instant pass-through means you can continue to play games as normal, provided that the HD PVR 2 is powered up.
At the same time, the HD PVR 2 outputs the sound and video to a PC or Mac via USB. Capture software running on the computer lets you save your gaming session to disk, or broadcast it to a live streaming service like twitch.tv so that your followers can watch you gaming triumphs and tragedies in real time, complete with voiceover commentary if you feel inclined to provide it.
I reviewed the original HD PVR 2 here. The Gaming Edition Plus has several new features:
- Mac software is provided in the box, whereas before it was extra cost
- An optical audio input is provided, so you can get surround-sound from a PS3
- Updated software now includes StreamEez for live streaming of the captured video
In addition, whether because of firmware or driver updates, I found the HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition Plus generally less troublesome than the earlier model.
In the box
Kudos to Hauppauge for supplying a generous collection of cables.
Along with the software CD and a getting started leaflet, you get a USB cable, two HDMI cables, a 5-way special cable for connecting component video and stereo audio to the A/V input on the unit, and an adapter cable in case you prefer to use standard RCA cables for component video and audio.
The reason for both HDMI and component support is that the HD PVR 2 only works with unencrypted HDMI signals. This means it works with HDMI from the Xbox 360 but not from the PS3. In cases where unencrypted HDMI is not available, you will use the component option.
In order to get 5.1 surround sound without HDMI, you will need the optical in for audio.
The HD PVR2 itself is relatively compact. The snap below shows it with a CD so you can get a sense of the size.
Setup and usage
Setup is a matter of first making all the connections, including the USB connection to your computer, and then installing the software and drivers from the supplied CD.
There are two primary applications. One is Hauppauge Capture. You can use this to capture video in .TS (H.264) format, do basic editing, export videos to MP4, upload videos to YouTube, and stream to twitch.tv or Ustream. You can add a personal logo to your videos via Settings.
Capture is at a maximum of 1080p at 30fps, or you can downscale as needed.
The other supplied application is ArcsSoft TotalMedia ShowBiz 3.5. This can also also capture directly from the HD PVR 2, and in fact the documentation seems to steer you towards using ShowBiz rather than Hauppauge Capture. The ShowBiz editor has more features, including basic transition effects, storyboard and timeline, lettering, and upload to YouTube or export to file.
Setup was straightforward, though note that passthrough does not work until you have selected the video and audio input in settings on the PC. Once set, you can turn off or disconnect the computer and it continues to work.
Both applications worked well in my tests. While passthrough seems instant, there is a significant delay before video is captured, which is disorientating at first. I did experience occasional glitches. On one occasion the capture failed several minutes into a longer recording for no reason that I can see, but it seemed to be a one-off.
What about streaming to twitch.tv? I was excited to try this, and impressed by the ease of setup. Login is built into the capture application.
However I discovered that my ADSL broadband connection was too slow for live streaming and although I could see that the connection was working, the image simply stuttered and broke up.
Live streaming is also demanding on your hardware. See this thread for a discussion of the requirements.
In other words, for successful video capture any modern PC or Mac should work fine, but do not assume live streaming will work unless you have the right hardware and broadband connection.
I was impressed by how reliable the HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition Plus compared to the earlier version. If you want to get creative with video sourced from a gaming console, or any video source, you need a capture device, and this Hauppauge is an affordable and reliable choice. The supplied software is basic, but of course you can use other video editors like Sony Vegas or Adobe Premiere Pro with the files that you capture.
The HD PVR 2 costs around £130 – £150 in the UK. More details from the manufacturer’s website here.