What do fishermen and video gamers have in common? They both lack the proof when they talk about the “big one” that got away — although for gamers it’s more about how great a game-play they just had, if you could have only seen it.
But now you can, because of Game Capture HD. The concept is simple: a digital video recorder (DVR) that makes a digital copy of the game play as it happens. But for this to work, the DVR needs to do a few things: 1)it has to work all by itself because not everyone has their vid console on top of their PC; 2)it has to work without getting in the way of the gamer as he plays; 3)it dang well better not introduce any latency problems into what the gamer is seeing on the screen as he plays.
Now Game Capture HD does all of the above in the right way. But since it’s easier to demonstrate how this up to 1080i resolution capturing device works than talk about it, lets focus on that.
The Game Capture HD is about the size of the first Xbox, providing you shrink it down 80%. The first thing is to determine how you’re going to be saving the digital file — you can pop a thumb drive or USB external drive in the USB socket and work with that — or you can install your own hard drive inside. To do that you flip the Game Capture HD over, pop off the bottom and remove the included measuring card. This lets you examine the thickness of the SATA-type hard drive to make sure it’ll fit — either 9.5mm or 12.5mm works, once you adjust a cam on the inside of the compartment to hold it correctly. With the drive inserted, it’ll get its power as well as data from the Game Capture HD.
Now I suggest you get a drive if you’re serious about using this DVR. For one thing, you’ll have a lot more storage space than with an external USB drive. Plus I firmly believe that the data transfers at a smoother and more efficient rate than having to go through the USB architecture. It’s your call though. I do know that a 1 gigabyte flash drive doesn’t work, it needs to be 2GB+ to function correctly. Try to get a 10+ external working if you don’t go with the internal drive.
Either way, once you have storage capability, connecting to the video game console comes next. HDMI is out because of copyright jazz so you’ll use Component cables (they’re included). Connect one cable between the video game console’s outputs and the Game Capture HD’s inputs. Connect the other Component cable between the Game Capture HD’s outputs and the HDTV’s inputs. That takes care of the video. And yes you can do a Wii too — the “optional” universal video game output cable can handle it as well as the other two consoles. For some reason it’s listed as “optional” in the manual, but since it’s there in the box you don’t have to believe that.
For audio, you’re going with analog stereo. Which means connecting a pair of RCA plugs (provided) between the video game console and the Game Capture HD. You have an audio analog output to use on the Game Capture HD if you want, but it’s better to use the optical output on the video game console and have it going to your speaker system or the HDTV directly for better listening.
With all this done, you turn everything on — the Game Capture HD has a touch front power button — and then use the Game Capture HD’s remote to do a setup to meet your needs: this is where you decide on the resolution that will be saved (up to 1080i) and other general settings as well as format the internal hard drive, if you are using one. You can also move files around and transfer them from an internal drive to an external for use on a computer. Of course if the power plug doesn’t work, nothing good happens and this is what I encountered — the plug attachment to the power plug for US use (a sliding plate) wouldn’t make a good connection. And yeah I really tried. So I ended up going with the power plug from my cordless phone which fit perfectly. I get the idea of providing alternate power for different places (I wish I was in France right now), but problems with the AC should be avoided at all costs. As should people playing around with a power plug that isn’t working correctly. As a caution, be extremely careful when setting up the power plug — safety first when it comes to electricity, right?
Okay, back to the DVR. Now when you go to the “real-time” mode, pretty much all you can do is record, which is okay. There’s a button for this on the Game Capture HD, but it’s a lot easier using the remote’s video “on” button or camera “on” button (hold camera down to take multiple snaps), which brings up a brief icon that doesn’t get recorded. The remote is also how you manage most of the functions found in the menu, such as formatting a drive or playing back video.
Using the Game Capture HD on my PS3 should be unobtrusive and frankly it performs as it states (remember to adjust the settings for an Xbox 360 or PS3 to use Component outputs first — see the manual). I didn’t see any frame slowdowns or latency issues while tooling through some games, including those that required an online connection. I like the fact that you can do hirez stills (screen captures) too.
Bottom line: You’ll be using the Game Capture HD, not talking about it, because it does its job in a boring fashion. But that’s good — you want to be talking about the video or pics you can now share, not AverMedia’s DVR box. A $149 retail isn’t onerous for what it does — besides, who can put a price on how cool a gamer you are?
- Quick control access via front panel or remote
- Firmware updates via external USB socket
- Internal hard drive adds cost to the unit
- Stereo audio only
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.