Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Elgato: PVR Like a Ninja

I have always wanted a personal video recorder for my consoles and for a long time, the good options either wanted to hijack a PCI slot in my Personal Computer or a significant amount of space on my entertainment center. Also, most of them are restricted to component cables and to think about managing those around what is already a messy situation in my Game Room because I have so many game devices hooked up to my receiver made me extremely dizzy. Then early last year, I heard about the Elgato Game Capture HD: a surprisingly small, 2.9" x 1.0" x 4.3" oh my galaxy, USB-powered device that actually takes in an HDMI cable and I was excited. I finally have the device installed in my Game Room and it is so much fun to use.

Never judge a PVR by its size.

Basically, all you have to do is connect an HDMI cable into the device and connect another from the device into your display. You also have to connect a USB cable from the device into your PC. Though the EGCHD can only record up to 1080p 30fps capture, it will pass-through 1080p 60fps without any delay! You can record 60fps at 720p. The captured video looks great and you can mess around with the options to get to a quality compromise if hard drive space is an issue for you. Since the video feed from the PlayStation 3 is HDCP-protected, you do have to connect a special D-Terminal cable between the console and the EGCHD. Don't worry though, you will still get your 1080p pass-through though I will say that the image fidelity is somewhat affected where the video looks a little softer. Now the EGCHD will work if you have everything hooked up to the receiver, except for the PS3 video as I specified before mind you. This is definitely the best way to use the EGCHD because you will still be able to enjoy all the digital sound decoding before sending the same information to the EGCHD and having it downscale the sound to stereo for capture purposes.

Can you find the Elgato Game Capture HD?

The actual capture software must be downloaded from the official website and it is easy to use and self-explanatory. The coolest thing about the software here is that it was recently updated with twitch.tv streaming up to 720p. The software can also be used as a capture camera for XSplit and even the free streaming software that I am using now called Open Broadcaster Software. Though the stream itself looks pretty darn incredible and can be done up to 5 Mbps if you have a speedy ISP, I am not able to stream at 60 frames per second neither using its own software nor through the OBS. From what I understood however, this may be addressed in a future update and that is certainly exciting news. [Update 12/21/2013 - I am now able to stream 60fps games properly as long as I set the console output to 720p. This didn't work when I wrote the review so this may have been enabled sometime between then and now.]

Oh there you are! Out of the way from everything else!

My initial interest in recording console gameplay with this device - I use Fraps and Dxtory for my PC games in case you were wondering - was to record fun gameplay from my gaming sessions but that has turned into streaming my console games on my twitch.tv channel. My consoles are probably thanking the EGCHD because I am playing them more. I have been streaming a lot of PC games just for my personal enjoyment and now, the consoles can join in on the fun. Whether you are interested in recording console gameplay or streaming it or both, the Elgato Game Capture HD should be on the top of your list because it does not rudely intrude upon your gaming space while delivering a surprisingly remarkable PVR performance.

RATING: 4 out of 5

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