Would you like to record video from HDTV without having any DRM(Digital Rights Management)? If so, the Hauppauge HD PVR may be for you.
Similar in size to the Mac Mini, the HD PVR is a small and light box. In the front, you have a SVideo, Composite Video, Left and Right Audio for connectors.
The Power Button is also on the front as is a IR window. The HDPVR does come with a remote, but it will not control any of the software that comes with the PVR. It’s mainly for use with other programs like Sage TV or GB-PVR that are not included in the box.
The rest of the connectors along the back are in and out ports for Left/Right Audio, Y, Pb and Pr Component video, Optical audio out and in (not tested), the IR blaster, USB and Power.
Important to note, the outs are just there to pass through between your Cable or Satellite receiver and the TV. The HDPVR isn’t capable of playing video on the TV itself. It’s strictly for recording on your PC.
Minimum requirements for this device as stated by Hauppauge are a dual core CPU, Graphics with 256MB memory (or greater, Sound card. These are most definitely a MINIMUM setup. I recorded with my Lenovo T60 and while it worked, viewing the video in vlc or anything other then the TotalMedia Theater resulted in a little herky jerky video. You probably want a LARGE and fast hard disk and at least 2 GB of ram to help with this.
The included software is Arcsoft Total Media Extreme, Arcsoft TotalMedia Theater and Arcsoft Media Converter. As for operating system requirements, this will work with Windows XP SP2 and Windows Vista 32 bit. No 64 bit drivers are available. This software was a exercise in frustration to me. First, the capture program would lock up every other recording. Then when I told it to record for 5 minutes, it blanked out the video on the computer when recording it and then went past the 5 min mark and also became unresponsive so I had to kill it. The Arcsoft software is pretty terrible with the exception of the Theater player. That worked really well and played these videos the best of anything I tried. Linux played these vids in vlc and it was a little jerky at both 720p and 1080i.
Arcsoft Total Media Extreme
The Capture Program
The video recorded by the HDPVR is AVCHD or h.264 and the audio uses AAC I believe. This video is compatible with the Blu-Ray spec. In fact, you can burn the video to a DVD with the included software and put it in your Blu-Ray player and the recording will work and be HD. There is a converter included in this package as well to convert the video for other devices like your Xbox 360 or PS3.
The HDPVR will automatically switch from one resolution to the next when your source video changes, but you can also control this in the software if you don’t want to change the output resolution
Hauppauge also included scheduling software. Using the IR blaster, when the schedule time happens, it triggers the capture program turns on and starts recording. However, due to oddities in remote control schemes, a dedicated Tivo or PVR will provide a better experience. I recommend using a DVR and then hooking this HDPVR to it to off load some of the stuff you have been saving on your DVR. When used this way, you can get more space on the DVR. The reason I say it’s better to use a stand alone DVR than this PVR is your computer MUST be on to record. That means leaving it on all day and you may or may not want to do this if the machine isn’t dedicated to recording video.
As far as Linux support goes, it’s still early, but the HDPVR won’t work on Myth TV currently. From what I understand, a driver is in development and is of alpha quality. Once Myth TV works with this box, it would be a perfect DVR solution with the caveat of the IR blaster.
As far as storage goes, you need to get some extra external add on drives that so you can switch the drive between your computers. A 5 min 1080i recording took 400 MB for 5 minutes. That means each 30 minute show is 2 GB of storage. An hour would be 4 GB. I very easily can see someone maxing out a 1 TB drive recording their favorite show. So if your planning on picking this up, pick up a 1 TB drive too!
Here are a couple of screenshots I took of the video. Note: It’s not HD due to space constraints. Also, I can’t show what the video is like due to space concerns and possible copyright issues. Take it from me, the quality is great!
What I liked: DRM free recording off of your HDTV or Satellite provider in any supported resolution up to 1080i. Exquisite video quality. You can’t go wrong for a HD capable recorder.
What needs improvement: Standard definition recording is fuzzy. It looks like it’s out of focus. Also the Arcsoft software is terrible. It needs an update to fix some of the issues I experienced. Also it needs a hefty machine and truely shines when running on a standalone machine all of the time.