Review Price £151.74
Hauppauge HD PVR
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.