One of the best decisions I have ever made was the day I decided to buy an HD PVR. I love recording gameplay footage from all of my favorite games and getting it on the net and the experience I have had establishing an increasingly popular Youtube Channel. One of the biggest drawbacks to being tethered to a HD PVR is the secret enemy of the HD business: HDCP. For those unaware, HDCP stands for high-definition digital content protection, and it is an encryption that runs within HDMI cables that is meant to prevent copyrighted digital files from being copied or utilized on non-authorized devices. Considering the entire purpose of an HD PVR is to do exactly that, it goes without saying that it has been a challenge figuring out a way to create a device that allows for the use of HDMI. Welcome to the Hauppauge HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition, a device that will allow Xbox 360 owners that very opportunity.
My first HD PVR was the original Hauppauge HD PVR. It has been outstanding, and for the better part of two years, more than served its purpose. The downside is and has always been the lack of HDMI, which has had me stuck using component cables and recording at a maximum resolution of 720P. I realize that many console games are native 720p anyway, but even upscaled to 1080p they look much better. The original Hauppauge HD PVR is capable of recording at 1080i over component, but interlaced looks terrible in the recordings, so that really isn’t an option. All of that goes away with the new Hauppauge HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition.
As you can see in the image above, the Hauppauge HD PVR 2 offers the best of bother worlds: HDMI and analog inputs with an HDMI output to your TV. Even if you decide to use the A/V input, you can free up a huge string of five cables by eliminating the component output from the original Hauppauge to the TV. HDMI in from the Xbox 360 allows for 1080p recording without a hitch. The caveat to all of this is that because of the before-mentioned HDCP encryption within a Playstation 3, HDMI out and 1080p is still not an option. I haven’t been able to test with the Wii U, and since it wasn’t available at the time of release for the Hauppauge HD PVR 2, it doesn’t say whether or not it is compatible on the box. Being the intrepid reporter that I am though, I did a little research and it looks like it works just fine.
Unboxing: As unboxing videos go, this one was very awkward to do with one hand. In the video, I compare the HD PVR 1 with the HD PVR 2, show all the features of the HD PVR 2 and give a decent look at how the software looks and feels. There is a noticeable size difference between the Series 1 and Series 2, with the HD PVR 2 being anywhere from 25-35% smaller. Amazing what happens when you knock out 10 bulky component connections, right? Another thing you will notice is that there is no on/off button on the Series 2, which actually works out just fine. There is also a button on the device that allows for a single button press to start recording. I don’t really use it and I don’t foresee that I ever will, but I am sure there are some people that will enjoy the feature. Set-up is extremely easy. HDMI or AV in from your device, HDMI out to the TV, USB 2.0 from the HD PVR 2 to your PC or laptop and a power chord. That’s it. Once you run the software ArSoft ShowBiz software and drivers, you are ready to start recording.
Test Video (Select 1080p): This is the test video that I recorded initially during the setup. Here you will see the nasty side-effects of HDCP, as the my Xbox 360 does not allow me to watch an episode of Jericho because it is unable to make a handshake that it understands through the HD PVR2. I am still having trouble using Netflix on my Xbox 360, so I have been using my Playstation 3 and iPad for the time being. If you are not fortunate enough to have so many options like I do, this is something you will need to consider in purchasing the Hauppauge HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition.
The Verdict (Select 1080p): Regardless of your console of choice, I can’t recommend the Hauppauge HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition enough. At $149.99, which by the way, is $100 less than I paid for the Series 1, it is a must own if you like playing games competitively or have ever said to yourself “man, I wish I was recording that.” The price, quality and ease of use makes it so accessible, that just about anyone can turn themselves into a Youtube super star (even Keem J!). If you primarily play on the Playstation 3, stepping down to component and 720p is going to be the downside regardless of the PVR you choose. I haven’t really dug into the new ArcSoft ShowBiz software very much, but the standard recording capabilities work out just fine. I use other programs to edit, anyway, but I do think having built in editing software is a huge plus for the package. I found mine completely at random at Best Buy and I am extremely happy that I did. It certainly isn’t the first HD capture card to offer HDMI as an option, but at a buck fitty, it certainly is the most affordable.
Bonus Test Footage (Select 1080p): Due to the lack of new games, I haven’t been recording much lately. One of the few videos I have recorded, though, features the newest DLC from WWE 13. This match between Damien Sandows and Antonio Cesaro looks absolutely fantastic in 1080p. I went to high school with Damien Sandow (not his real name, obviously) and it is crazy to see him now in both the WWE and a video game.