Review: Game Capture HD

Review: Game Capture HD

Plenty of people have asked me what the best way to record gameplay is and that question has always stumped me. I found it hard to recommend a particular HD PVR over another simply because none were without some mild to severe bugs and each certainly had a healthy supply of idiosyncrasies. So in the end I usually ended up shrugging my shoulders and saying “Your guess is as good as mine.” That is, until now.

Meet the Game Capture HD.

We last met with AVerMedia at Devastation in Phoenix and got a bit of hands on time with this device, but that was nothing compared to the paces I’ve put this thing through since getting it earlier this week. I was beyond skeptical when first introduced to the Game Capture HD as I had recently entered into a somewhat abusive relationship with a Hauppauge HD PVR and felt that opening myself up to yet another promise of ease and simplicity would be asking for nothing but more disappointment. However, I can confidently say that this may be the final stop for anyone looking to capture HD video content without the hassle of dealing with computer specs and finicky programs. This box has you covered.

AVerMedia: Game Capture HD

Getting Started

The first question anyone looking to capture video content asks is bound to be ‘Will it work with my computer?’ Well, simply put… yes. The Game Capture HD is entirely self-sufficient; capturing content without the use of a processor-heavy computer rig and, in a world dominated by convenience, that is more than enough to draw a solid amount of attention. Rather than stringing massive amounts of cables to and fro across the office or living room floor, the Game Capture HD features an internal 2.5” SATA HDD port (HDD not included with purchase). If you are more the external type, you can connect any NTSF or FAT32 formatted USB storage device and capture to that instead.

I tested both methods of capturing video and found capturing to an external device to be much quicker and far more convenient than mucking about with the internal HDD option. If you opt for internal capturing know that you must either remove the HDD every time or transfer your clips to an external device and then to the PC, adding multiple extra steps to the whole process. Simply put, just go with the external HDD option as you can be capturing one minute and literally editing that clip seconds later. Just make sure you have an absolutely massive HDD as these file sizes can become quite large depending on the video quality you choose and the length of time you spend recording.

The device features three settings for capturing video: Optimal (15 Mbps), Good (12 Mbps), and Maximum Recording length (10 Mbps). With a 1TB HDD, Optimal will give you roughly 200 hours of recording time and Good will provide roughly 250 hours while Maximum Recording length clocks in at an astonishing 400 hours, assuming you are capturing in HD. SD capture times are a bit longer depending on settings.

AVerMedia Game Capture HD

Upon receiving my first HD PVR I was a bit intimidated at the set up process, but the Game Capture HD features perhaps the simplest set up process imaginable. Back before TVs came with more than one input many gamers had something long banished to the collective dustbin of forgotten video game peripherals called a system selector. The Game Capture HD acts as a New Age system selector and requires little to no effort to set up. From the time I took it out of the box to the time I was up and running was no more than 3 minutes.

Thanks to the lovely HDCP (High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection) employed to prevent copying video passed through an HDMI cable the device only features a component pass-through (audio/video) capable of capturing gameplay in full 1080i. Advanced HD H.264 hardware compression technology prevents any loss in image quality while capturing HD content.

People generally equate a higher price with higher quality, but to give you an idea of just how impressive the capturing technology is on this little gem, take a peek at the video below. I split the capturing between my current HD PVR and the Game Capture HD, but I’d be willing to bet you can’t spot which ones are which.

The lack of a composite input is a bit of a letdown as many gamers still enjoy playing retro titles and capturing those games with an emulator can be a tricky process. However, included with the package is a universal component cord that connects to the PS3/PS2, Wii, and Xbox360.

If you are hell-bent of capturing some old Super Mario Bros. or Mega Man you can always pick yourself up a composite to component cable and be on your merry way.

On that same note, the only option for recording audio is through the basic composite cables whereas a PC based HD PVR can handle others such as optical. It’s nothing really to get all up in arms about, but there exist some people who will be able to tell you exactly which input and with what settings a clip of audio was recorded.

Filling Out Its Britches

My biggest concern testing this device was whether or not it would be able to live up to its claim of capturing HD content without any on-screen delay. Anyone who has used an HD PVR with their computer will know that the preview on the computer screen is massively behind the image being displayed on the attached TV, therefore making it impossible to play effectively from the preview window.

At first go I was convinced I was experiencing a microsecond of delay and began to fret about it, trying to find ways to prove myself right. I focused on the length of time between pressing a button and when I actually saw movement on the screen and swore up and down that there was a delay. However, before writing the device off as unable to substantiate its claim, I removed it from the equation and tested the game alone. Sure enough, the game inherently had a delay with the controls and thus I cussed out the developers instead. I went through roughly 15 different games testing this thing and can truthfully say with 100% honesty that there is absolutely zero delay while playing. Games like Call of Duty and Battlefield 3, which require pinpoint precision and timing, were none the worse for the wear while capturing proving that even the most labor intensive games can still be played while capturing.

 A Welcome Vacation

I have to say, the time I’ve spent with the Game Capture HD has been nothing short of pleasurable. I’ve always been bound to my computer desk amidst a slew of cables and screens. Now, I have the device nicely tucked in with the rest of my consoles happily on the other side of the living room as I finally get a chance to enjoy playing games from my couch. What’s more, I don’t even have to get up off my duff to start the thing as a handy little remote is included.

I can’t even begin to convey the satisfaction I feel knowing that my system is constantly ready to capture. Before, I would have to plan out my capturing sessions and simply hope for something cool to happen. Not anymore. Despite revamping my connections and home audio setup a bit, the Game Capture HD is constantly ready to capture at a moment’s notice and the device’s controller has almost become an extension of my console controllers; just waiting for the right moment to press record.

Everything you need to do can be done with the remote from adjusting settings and pressing record to viewing your files and taking screenshots. You can finally do something productive and be lazy at the same time. I haven’t really messed about much without the remote, but I can imagine that about the only thing you would be able to do is press the giant record button on the front. So, don’t lose it.

AVerMedia Game Capture HD

The device features a simple on-screen guide where you can manage files, adjust settings, and view snapshots/video clips previously recorded on the device. Perhaps my favorite feature of the device is the ability to instantly playback any of your video clips the second you are done recording. Using the onscreen file management, I’ve weeded out a bunch of junk without having to move much more than my thumb.

AVerMedia Game Capture HD

My only real gripe with this device is the fact that it only offers the ability to record in .AVI. That isn’t necessarily the end of the world, but if you are looking to record videos and edit them together into a montage of your favorite headshots of all time using some sort of professional video editing program, you are going to be stuck converting every file to something a bit more manageable. Plenty of programs out there have codec updates and plug-ins for .AVI, but my Vegas Pro never once accepted a single video clip without me converting it first. There are plenty of free conversion programs out there and the whole process takes but a minute. It would just be nice to choose from a few other file formats.

Finally, in an effort to provide continued support users, AVerMedia will be regularly releasing firmware upgrades for the device, improving the overall functionality. Firmware updates are done via an internet download and require a freshly formatted USB device in order to install. One such update recently released has increased the bit rate to 15Mbps when recording in 1080i and 12Mbps when recording in 720p. The different was noticeable to say the least and was a very welcome addition to the list of features.

 The Verdict?

Now that the gauntlet is over and the dust has settled, the Game Capture HD has managed to worm its way into my heart. My HD PVR has since been relegated to the depths of my closet in favor of a simpler, sleeker, more manageable device that promises to take care of my every capturing need. Aside from a missing composite input and the lackluster choice of file formats, this device may just be what we’ve all been waiting for; amateur and professional alike.

The Game Capture HD retails at $149.99, which is significantly lower than many of the comparable External HD PVR devices available for PC. So, whether you are looking to make full length feature fan flicks or capture that NPC’s head glitching spastically through the door, the Game Capture HD is more than deserving of your hard earned cash.

You can pick one up at GamingGenerations.com (available now) or check out other retailers such as Fry’s Electronics, TigerDirect.com, Newegg.com, and Amazon.com .

PROS:

  • Simple to set up
  • Easy to use
  • PC-Free recording!
  • Remote control.
  • Instant playback.
  • Internal/External HDD support

CONS:

  • No composite input
  • No optical input
  • Only supports .AVI recording

Score: 9.5/10

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