Hauppauge HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition Plus Review
Hauppauge's best efforts come up short in the HD PVR 2, held back by poor software and lackluster hardware.
The latest video capture device from Hauppauge introduces a handful of new functionality to its HD PVR line: HDMI, optical audio, bundled video production software, and built-in video streaming. Unfortunately, the HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition Plus is nowhere near as good as the $179.99 price tag suggests. Outside of optical audio support, there's nothing the latest box from Hauppauge offers in terms of features or user experience that can't be found in competing devices at the same price or less. The core functionality is there, but it's underwhelming overall, and when the device is held to the same standard as the competition, the HD PVR 2 comes in dead last.
There are two major disadvantages to the HD PVR 2 right out of the box: it requires an AC adapter, and the video bit rate tops out at 14Mbps. Hauppauge is the only leading manufacturer of game capture devices left to require an AC adapter for its flagship device; Elgato, Roxio, AverMedia, and BlackMagic have managed to simplify power and data down to a single USB connection. On top of that, with a maximum video bit rate of 14Mbps, it's handily outclassed by its contemporaries.
As you'd expect, the HD PVR 2 supports HDMI (up to and including 1080p signals) and component video feeds. It also has the uncommon ability to utilize S-Video and composite cables through an optional $12 accessory. Analog video support has faded into the background for some manufacturers who have made HDMI a priority, but it's an invaluable resource for people who still enjoy pre-HD-era consoles.
There's software support for Windows and OS X, but the latter is only available out of the box with the Gaming Edition Plus model; otherwise, it costs $30. However, even with OS X support, Mac users get but a fragment of the functionality provided to the Windows crowd. Where Hauppauge is happy to provide Windows software to capture, stream, edit, and publish videos, OS X users receive only the capture portion of the equation. So, not only are they penalized and forced to pay a $10 premium to get the HD PVR 2 model that's bundled with the otherwise $30 software, but they're ultimately shorted on functionality.
Then again, it's not like the Windows software is a paragon of user-friendliness or functionality. The ArcSoft ShowBiz suite is used to capture, edit, and publish video. Unfortunately, the capturing portion is incredibly slow. With a 5- to 10-second delay between clicking the capture button and the beginning of the actual recording process, don't expect to be able to capture anything with a sense of urgency. Similarly, there's even a 30- to 50-second delay between ending one recording and being able to start another. Plus, if you've ever wanted to feel confused about settings, take one look at the two settings tabs detailed below. With more options related to encoding in the Video Properties window compared to the Video Encoder window, it's not surprising that the rest of ArcSoft's suite is so slow and disorganized.
Beyond ArcSoft's contribution, Hauppauge has included software of its own. Its StreamEez app makes streaming to TwitchTV and Ustream as simple as entering your account information and clicking a little red button. There are default profiles for high, medium, and low Internet bandwidth, which should suffice for most users. Should you wish to fine-tune settings such as bit rate and frame rate, or even downsample the broadcast resolution, the Advanced Configuration tab will allow you to adjust your broadcast to your liking.
Hauppauge has also bundled its Personal Logo Inserter software. It allows you to grab a JPG, PNG, BMP, or GIF image and overlay it onto your video feed. The software itself is simple, but a bit lacking. After importing an image, you can adjust its location by clicking and dragging within the preview window, but resizing images requires manual adjustments to the image dimensions. Rather than invest the time to program streamlined resizing into its software, Hauppauge passed the burden on to the consumer. It's a tiny omission, but one that speaks volumes.
If one word could summarize the HD PVR 2, it would be "disappointment." When a product is technically inferior, fragmented, and riddled with sloppiness, it should be reflected in the price. For $180, you could buy any of the competing devices and end up with a better product, such as Elgato's sleek and versatile Game Capture HD. In short, you're better off ignoring the Hauppauge HD PVR 2, Gaming Edition Plus or otherwise, when shopping for a device to capture and stream gameplay.'