[Hardware Review] HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition Plus

Itís your time to become a star!
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: May 21, 2013
I donít know if youíve been looking around out there, but there is a whole new way to watch TV. No, Iím not talking about Netflix, Iím not talking about streaming video service like HuluÖ Iím not even talking about things like Slingbox. Iím talking about watching other people play video games, often with some hilarious(ly bad) commentary. Outlets like twitch.tv and Ustream have exploded in popularity and at any given moment you can watch someone somewhere playing just about anything.

Sure, that sounds a little dull, but watching someone run through a difficult game and doing it very well can actually be entertaining. Even more entertaining is watching someone do it poorly. Watching a couple drunk guys pound on each other in Tekken while they scream obscenities at each other is endless fun.

Maybe youíve already seen this revolution and now you want to be a part of it. Well, FANTASTIC news. PVR industry leaders Hauppauge have released a brand new version of their seminal streaming/recording device, the HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition Plus. Itís an impressive piece of kit that pulls double duty allowing you to either record or stream your gameplay. In glorious 1080p. Itís easy to set up and it comes with an impressive suite of software to maximize the potential.

First letís talk about the hardware. Itís a sleek little unit that weíll forgive for looking a bit like an Xbox. Not much larger than your average desktop hard drive and weighing a scant couple pounds it might not look like a huge powerhouse, but looks can be deceiving. The clean interface on the back has a power connector, a USB port, 2 HDMI ports (in and out) as well as a ubiquitous sounding A/V port and the brand new optical SPDIF in for full surround sound. Due to HDCP protections on the PS3, you sadly canít connect through HDMI, but the supplied PS3 Component cable lets you at least get into the unit like that and then hook it to the TV through HDMI.

One of the nicer features is the ability to record/stream while simultaneously playing on your TV, activated merely by pressing a large button on the top of the unit. Some of the cheaper options out there donít have that pass-through ability and thus severely limit their usefulness. Youíll still need a PC to do the recording and streaming of course, as the HD PVR 2 doesnít have any sort of storage or network connections, but I found that may run-of-the-mill laptop was more than up to the task. Youíll get full resolution on both your TV and your PC with no delay whatsoever. The only issue we ran into was a small decrease in visual quality on the TV when running through the Hauppauge. It was certainly something I could live with and was really only apparent when looking at small text (it was noticeably blurry).

Of course it should be pointed out that this unit also works amazingly well for recording and streaming Xbox and PC games as well, and the new software is compatible with Macs so there is no reasons everyone canít get in on the fun.

The software included with this package is equally impressive. The heart of it is Hauppaugeís own StreamEez program that seamlessly connects to your twitch or Ustream channel to bring your live actions to the unwashed masses of the internet. Once you set it up with your account info it is as easy as pressing the record button on the unit (or in the software if that computer is even closer) and watching it go. With their included Personal Logo Inserter you can easily overlay your name or website or favorite saying over the video as it streams. The preview window shows you just what your viewers are seeing so you can make sure you look good. Or at least your avatar does.

If you donít want to put your life up live to the world, you can also use the included ArcSoft ShowBiz capture and editing suite to grab all your video, edit it with a decent set of editing tools (itís not Final Cut Pro, but it is better than Windows Movie Maker) and then with a click of a button upload those videos right to your YouTube channel. Everything in this whole package is designed around ease of use and letting you focus on your game rather than fiddling with settings and micromanaging streams.

As if that wasnít enough, Hauppauge is working on yet another application that you can grab the Beta of. Hauppauge Capture will let you combine all the functions of their other software allowing you to record, stream, add logos and add in live commentary from a microphone all in one place. I was consistently amazed at how much I could do with what amounts to a free piece of software. To be frank, I had never really considered streaming my gaming, but this made it such a snap that I now stream almost everything!

While the PS4 promises to have a number of these features built into the system, the sheer versatility of this unit makes it a valuable investment for the rest of this generation and one can imagine it will still have some use when the PS4 comes around. Thrown in the ability to be used with a wide range of other hardware and if you are even considering starting a streaming career or looking to make your current endeavors easier, this is the way to go.

To see more of the unit in action, check out our Ustream channel when it is up and running (you just never know when!) or take a look at our upcoming video review of Deadly Premonition all of which was done with the HD PVR 2.