This generation of game systems seems to be all about sharing gameplay footage. Two of the three new consoles, the Sony PlayStation 4 and the Microsoft Xbox One, have built-in recording features. But the PlayStation 4 currently has no way of transferring recorded clips to your computer for editing, and the Xbox One can only record video at 720p for a maximum of five minutes.
If you’re serious about recording your gaming, you still need a dedicated capture device, and even then you can’t use it with a PlayStation 4 until it gets patched. Fortunately, if you have any other game system from the last three generations, you can use the AVerMedia Game Capture HD II, a stand-alone capture device that’s effectively a scaled-up version of the excellent Live Gamer Portable. This $169.99 (list) device uses an internal hard drive that you install yourself to record video for far longer than any SD card, but it has a frustrating number of quirks that hold it back despite its useful design.
The Game Capture HD II measures 1.4 by 7.5 by 6 inches (HWD), about the size of two Blu-ray boxes stacked on top of each other. Most of that space is for a 2.5-inch hard drive you must install into a slot on the bottom, behind a large plastic door. A rubber switch in the slot accommodates both 7mm and 9.5mm hard drives, but either way you’ll need to stick to a laptop-sized drive; less expensive 3.5-inch desktop hard drives won’t fit. You can also plug a USB hard drive into the front USB port (AVerMedia recommends hard drives over flash drives), which sits to the left of 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks. The front also holds HDMI, Composite, Recording, and Power indicator lights, the latter two of which double as Record and Power buttons. The back of the box holds an HDMI input and output, a component video input, an Ethernet port, and the power port.
A small remote lets you control the Game Capture HD II through its on-screen menu system. The remote feels like it should go with an inexpensive Blu-ray player, with soft rubber buttons and no backlighting. The Power, Source, Record, and Screenshot buttons are large and prominent, offering basic controls under the thumb. A direction pad flanked by menu buttons navigates the menu system, and playback, Quality, Disk Info, Delete, and three Function keys round out the remote’s controls.
Unlike other capture devices, the Game Capture HD II is purely a stand-alone video recorder. All recording is performed on either internal or external storage, and any access has to be through a USB drive, a smartphone or tablet running the GameMate app, or through YouTube. The device lacks Wi-Fi, so you’ll need to plug it directly into your router to upload to YouTube or control it through the iOS or Android apps. The lack of a computer connection precludes the DVR from live streaming to a service like Twitch.tv. You can copy video from the device’s hard drive to any storage device connected to the USB port, and this is the easiest way to get recordings on your computer.
Like all capture devices, it can’t capture video over HDMI if it’s protected with HDCP encryption. That means if you want to record from your PlayStation 3, you need to use the component video output. This isn’t a problem with the Xbox One, Xbox 360, or Nintendo Wii U, which output an HDMI signal that can be captured (for games only in the Xbox One; Blu-ray playback is still protected). It’s a big problem for the PlayStation 4, which only outputs through HDMI and are HDCP encrypted. A patch is planned for the PlayStation 4 that will let it work with HDMI capture devices, but there has been no word on a release date.
Besides the HDMI issues, the Game Capture HD II is finicky. It can accept a video input at up to 1080p60, can pass through video at up to 1080p60, and can capture video at up to 1080p30, but it can only display video while recording at 1080i. The on-screen display has similar resolution issues, so any time you want to navigate the device’s menus or start or stop recording, expect your screen to go black for a few seconds as it adjusts to a different input resolution. You can set a custom watermark with your name to display on a corner of the screen when recording, which is a nice touch but doesn’t support a logo or other graphical flairs.
Video footage recorded looks excellent. While we had to play Killer Instinct and Super Mario 3D World at 1080i while the Game Capture HD II recorded the gameplay, the resulting video was a smooth 1080p at 30 frames per second. Screen captures look crisp as well, recorded at native resolution into JPG format so you can turn anything you see into wallpaper. If you want to capture fighting game footage to count frames, you’ll have to either turn the game system’s output down to 720p60 so the device can record the video at 60 frames per second, or look into a more expensive, computer-tethered device that can record 1080p60 like the AVerMedia ExtremeCap U3.
The Game Capture HD II has an on-board media editor, but it’s so rudimentary as to be completely useless. You can scan and trim clips, but that’s about it. The editor feels very sluggish when navigating clips, and the remote doesn’t make editing any smoother. You’re better off copying the files to your computer and editing with your software of choice outside of the device.
The AVerMedia Game Capture HD II is a very useful stand-alone video capture device that has enough quirks to hold it back from being a must-purchase. Its $170 price tag is steep, especially when you need to install a notebook hard drive or connect a USB hard drive to record anything at all. It can’t stream any video, it doesn’t have Wi-Fi, and its display output is annoyingly finicky. If you don’t mind spending at least $250 total, dealing with video hiccups on your HDTV (though, thankfully, not the recorded video), and not having any live streaming capability, it’s a handy, functional way to capture and commentate gameplay footage. Be prepared to deal with its flaws, though.
|Internal Storage||N/A GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc