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Hauppauge HD PVR review

Andy Vandervell

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Hauppauge HD PVR
  • Hauppauge HD PVR
  • Hauppauge HD PVR
  • Hauppauge HD PVR
  • Hauppauge HD PVR
  • Hauppauge HD PVR
  • Hauppauge HD PVR
  • HD PVR Video Recorder (USB - PAL, NTSC, SECAM)

Summary

Our Score:

7

Schedules? Who needs them? What with Sky+, Freeview PVRs, Freesat PVRs, BT Vision and the multitude of online services, such as the BBC's iPlayer, long gone are the days when we were slaves to the TV schedule. Going by the name alone one would assume that the Hauppauge HD PVR is just another entrant into this crowded space, but it's not a personal video recorder in the traditional sense. In fact, you could go so far as to say it isn't a PVR at all, though it could be used as one. Confused?

Let us clarify matters. Unlike a typical PVR the Hauppauge doesn't have a TV Tuner, a hard disk or an optical drive. It is just a conduit - a middleman if you will. On the one side you have the source device, which can be plugged into the HD PVR via component, composite or S-Video, while on the other you have a PC connected via USB. Video and audio is then captured at up to 1080i resolutions in H.264 AVCHD and Dolby Digital, with 5.1 channel audio support added by the included optical audio input.

In all honesty it's a convoluted system for a PVR given the Hauppauge does with three devices (a set-top box, the HD PVR itself and a PC) what can be done with just one, but this ignores the fact that the HD PVR has a far more useful and poorly advertised use as a video capture device. This makes it an ideal device for anyone who wants to archive recordings from a PVR, make digital copies of VHS cassettes or even make high-definition recordings of their gaming sessions. These may be niche uses, but if you're in need of any of these functions the HD PVR could be a godsend.

Though the £170 or so asking price is clearly no small matter, Hauppauge bundles a fair amount of valuable items into package. This includes an impressive set of component cables. These are bonded, keeping cable mess down to acceptable minimum, while the cable sleeves are pleasingly thick, providing decent insulation. Connections are also well labelled, so you won't confuse an audio connection to a video one or vice-versa.

Also included in the box is a remote and IR extender cable, though there is an infrared receiver on the front of the unit should it be sitting in plain sight. This provided remote is a pretty decent effort, but it's not used to control the HD PVR's functions but rather those of your set-top box. It's a neat addition if you plan to use the HD PVR as its name suggests, as a PVR, but given the scheduling system is pretty rudimentary and the needless complexity of setting all this up, it's only really useful in the unlikely event that the set-top box or source device is a long away from the HD PVR. Ultimately, were the IR extender not in the box you probably wouldn't miss it.

On a brighter note, however, the inclusion of Arcsoft's TotalMediaExtreme software suite, which comprises video capture, playback and disc authoring and burning, is far more useful. Also included in this software collection is a media converter, allowing you to convert your recordings to commonly used formats for games consoles and MP3 players, as well as a tool for converting the transport stream files output by the HD PVR into MP4. It's a comprehensive collection of tools that should help you get what you want from your recordings.

Hamish Campbell

April 15, 2009, 3:34 pm

Man, Hauppauge really needs to spruce up its signature, that pixelly swoosh looks dated.

Coffee_With_Bailey's

April 15, 2009, 3:48 pm

Thanks for a good write-up. I can see some applications, but do wonder about a couple of points...





i) Is the frame-rate smooth & stable on 768p / 1080i recordings? It looked pretty smooth on YouTube, but conscious of the heavily lossy nature of YouTube vidz - in terms of frame-rate and detail!





ii) Do you know if Hauppauge have any plans to launch a similar box with a better selection of HD-capable inputs, e.g. HDMI / VGA / DVI ? Or maybe even an internal HDD of it's own to remove the need to tether this thing to a PC to capture footage?





iii) When recording Forza, did the unit introduce any noticable display lag?





iv) The raw footage that it captures, can presuably be taken into something like Premiere Elements without first having to go through painful transcoding operations?





Thanks again for an informative read.

Davidx360

April 15, 2009, 7:00 pm

Hi,





I hope this may be useful.





I have had one of these for a couple of months. I use it archive HD with 5.1 audio (and some SD) TV programmes from my original Thompson (with component HD output) Sky HD+ box.





The box itself is nothing flash it is a rather dissappointing grey plastic box. Its not a quality enclosure but it does the job.





The software does crash repeatedly under specific circumstances and it did frustrate me greatly until I understood what was causing it. Now I get truely superb HD recordings with 5.1 sound (using optical cable for audio) every time. The software appears to have an issue when the audio stream changes from stereo to 5.1 audio.





When you launch the application it automatically detects video resolution and audio format. If the audio then changes it crashes. In order to avoid this you need to ensure the audio that it initially detects is the type that you will be recording in. There is no point in starting in the Sky EPG (stereo audio), launching the application software then starting the tv show or recording in the planner that you want to archive because this will result in a change of audio stream - and the software will crash.





Instead you must ensure that the tv show or planner recording is already playing (the 3 minute automatic time added to the start of recordings allows you to do this)before you launch the application. The device automatically detects the right video resolution and audio format and you can thern hit the capture button at the start of the show.





Yes this is a bit of a PITA but once mastered you can generate superb archives of all those HD programmes. These can then be streamed to a PS3 by simply changing the file extension to mpg!





Hope this helps





David

PS3½

April 15, 2009, 8:41 pm

I've also had a HD PVR since last autumn and agree with David that its a very useful device for archiving HD films etc. from SkyHD. I record them at the device's highest bit rate, edit them (if needed) on the Mac, and then compress them using Handrake. The supplied software is slightly sluggish, but you quickly get used to it and the quality of the recordings is very good indeed.

econjp

July 14, 2009, 10:25 pm

It is all very interesting, but I would like to take it all a step further... Namely, once I have recorded stuff from Sky+HD onto my computer hard drive, how does one proceed to produce Blue-ray DVDs? In particular, how can this be done using the new Panasonic recorder DMR-BS850? Should be most grateful...


Econjp

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