Setting up any HD capture device can be a daunting task, as evidenced by many trial and error sessions with many different units. Fortunately, the HD PVR 2 GE Plus device shined here the most. The HD PVR 2 GE Plus is extremely easy to set up. Hauppauge smartly includes all necessary cables for set up packaging with the unit: a 2.0 USB cable, 2 HDMI cables, a component cable and a component hook-up for pass through (of course, it also includes an AC cord). Thanks to the necessary cords, intuitive software and solid instructions setting up the HD PVR 2 GE Plus is a breeze (regardless of what console the user is trying to hook-up). Additionally, the device comes with CD software to set up the HD PVR 2 GE Plus’ drivers and programs.
Aesthetically, the HD PVR 2 GE Plus has a great sleek look with a curved design. On the packaging box for the device, Hauppauge features a gun totting robot with a chrome body. This seems a bit odd (outside of robots and gaming having some correlation), but looking at the device, that robot makes more sense because the unit is meant to have a futuristic look. The top features a glossy plastive finish around the device’s capture button (the HD PVR 2 GE Plus has a button built-in to the device that gives the user an option of pressing it to start game capture directly from the device), while the body of the device has a solid plastic finish sandwiching the device’s LED light that indicates recording status. On the back of the device, the HD PVR 2 GE Plus has an HDMI input, component dongle input, an HDMI output, an optical input, IR input and an AC/USB input. What Hauppauge has done in designing the device is ensuring it looks pretty and captures the eye. While slightly larger than other capture devices, the unit is very light, but has substance to it at the same time.
While the unit is extremely easy to set up, the issues begin when actually capturing footage. The HD PVR 2 GE Plus comes with two main programs to capture/stream footage: ArcSoft ShowBiz (to capture) and StreamEez (to stream). What these two programs have going for them is that they are easy to use in the general sense when capture/streaming. Unfortunately, when capturing footage using ShowBiz, the video quality is extremely compressed regardless of console/cables/bitrate. Using the HD PVR 2 GE Plus to capture from a PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U, the quality is the same, which is decent enough for uploading YouTube, DailyMotion or Vimeo, but rules out higher grade production. One of the issues is that fussing with the settings for capturing is difficult to navigate and non-intuitive, which is a shame since everything else about the device is extremely user friendly. While it seemed to be an issue with ShowBiz, to find a way around the quality issue, we checked out the support page for the device. Hauppauge offers its own proprietary capture software compatible with all of its devices from its website, however, installing that software did not make a difference and the video quality still had the same compressed quality. Although, the Hauppauge Capture software is easier to use, a bit cleaner and has Streaming integration, which makes it weird that it is not the standard for the device’s software.
The biggest advantage of the unit is the ability to stream directly from the device using StreamEez. Setting up a link between StreamEez, the HD PVR 2 GE plus and a Twitch/UStream account is extremely simple. Even programming the settings is easy, however, much like capturing footage using ShowBiz, the issue comes with the video quality, which is hugely compressed affecting the overall quality. When streaming, this is not a huge issue because it makes sense to use lower bandwidth to stream footage, but in capturing footage that lack of quality prevents the device from being used in higher quality/professional video production.
At $179 through Hauppauge site directly, the HD PVR 2 GE Plus is comparable to other devices on the market. As with all of these devices, savvy shoppers can find the HD PVR 2 GE Plus for a little bit cheaper through other sites. It is about $30 dollars more expensive than the basic GE model from Hauppauge, but the difference is because the GE Plus features optical and IR inputs on the device and comes with an extra HDMI cable. While the device is competitively priced with other mid-priced capture devices, the video quality is a bit rough due to high compression and other devices offer better video quality. However, as a direct streaming device and basic consumer grade video capture needs, the HD PVR 2 GE Plus seems to be a good choice. While the video compression hurts the device for higher grade production, the device has a plenty of bright spots with its easy installation, useful streaming software and a solid design. Hopefully, in future video game capture units, Hauppauge can fix the compression issues because everything else about the unit is solid.