It was CES 2008 where I had a meeting with Hauppauge. I've been using their products in all my HTPCs for the past five years and they have been solid as a rock in every single case. When I heard that Hauppauge was coming out with a product to record high definition video through a component source, I was pretty excited. Fast forwarded a year and change later and the HD PVR is finally in for testing. The product has been available for a little while now but today we're going to take a look at how well the HD PVR does at recording HD video.
The HD PVR is an external box but made for HD recording. It supports video up to 1080i which is a little bit disappointing as I would like to have seen 1080p support here. Since it is the first generation HD recording product for Hauppauge and it was released a year ago, I can understand the 1080i limit. In any case, the rear of the HD PVR features one set of component in connections and one set of component out connections. Now the component out doesn't mean you can output video from your computer to the screen but it just serves as a pass through for video coming in from the component in connections. Say you want to record a console video. You'd connect the components to both the TV and the console so that you won't get any video lag from the HD PVR doing recording on the computer and you can play on the TV without any issues. On the front are S-Video and composite connections so if you want to record from devices that use older connections or don't need the HD resolutions you can connect it to this through there as well.
Audio can be recorded from either the S/PDIF or RCA in on the back. With SPDIF, you'll be able to record 5.1 sound with the latest drivers from Hauppauge. If you don't get 5.1 sound, that would be the first thing to check out. Like the component pass throughs, there's also an S/PDIF pass through as well for outputting sound. The two connectors have spring loaded covers to help keep the connections clean.
Physically the box is pretty light and the size isn't all too bad. Considering how many connections are needed for components, there's only about so much you do with the width of the device. The length does seem a little long though but overall I think it's OK for the size. I definitely would want a smaller box in terms of length in the future though.
Included with the package are the necessary software, a remote, component cable set, IR blaster, and audio cable set. One of the nice things about the setup is that you can use the IR blaster to control say a set top cable box to change channels with. Since it is IR, you can program a learning remote and control the channel change via the HD PVR which routes the signal to the set top box. I'm more interested in the unit as a whole working with Windows Media Center and as a standalone recorder for game consoles but it's a great option to have if you do want to record say off of a satellite or cable box. I'm also happy to see the inclusion of the necessary cables as well.
Installation of the HD PVR was pretty simple. Put the CD in, install the software, and plug the HD PVR into your computer via the included USB cable. For testing, I have the HD PVR plugged into a Dell Inspiron E1505 laptop installed with Windows 7 Release Candidate. The laptop is equipped with a 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo with 2GB of ram and an ATI X1400 video card. Mind you this isn't what I would be using if I was going for a nice HTPC setup but I wanted to see how well the unit worked with a below average computer. My ideal setup would be a full desktop computer equipped with a version of Windows Media Center in either Vista of Windows 7 so that it would have the speed needed to record and display the video at the same time. Hauppauge does recommend that you have a 256MB video card but testing with my laptop showed that it is possible to use it without one. The dual core though is probably an important aspect to help with some of the processing needed.
Using the included software from Arcsoft, you'll see the preview of the video on the computer. From the left side you can select the video and audio source depending on how you have the product connected. I didn't have any problems with the Arcsoft software installed on my Windows 7 laptop as I was able to record and view recordings fine. It's not the most elegant piece of software but for an included item, it gets the job done. If you have a Blu-ray burner, you can even burn your recordings with the software onto a Blu-ray disc and enjoy HD content on your player such as a PlayStation 3.
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