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Hauppauge HD PVR Review  Print E-mail
Home Theater Media Servers Satellite & Cable Receivers/PVRs/DVRs/TiVo
Written by Mike Flacy   
Friday, 17 September 2010

The way that we save, catalog and digest television, movies or other forms of media is vastly different than ten years ago, or just even five years ago.  DVR services like TiVo rose and fell in popularity over the years while the DVR technology made its way slowly into the home theater through cable boxes and satellite receivers.  Even for the more technically apt HTPC crowd, the number of DVR options in hardware and software has climbed dramatically.

Enter the Hauppauge HD PVR set-top box.  This high-definition personal recorder has a fairly versatile design, allowing the consumer the ability to connect any high-definition source via component cables into the box and output that feed simultaneously to your HDTV / Projector and your home PC.  There’s no hard drive inside the PVR, hence you have to connect it to a PC to record content.  This probably isn’t ideal for the average home theater owner when other DVR option are available, but it’s extremely attractive for consumers that want unlimited freedom on where that recorded content can be played.  If you want to record a few television shows and upload it to a central video server in the household to be played on any television in the house, you can.  If you want to burn a HD movie that you recorded to a DVD and give it to a friend to watch, you can.  The PVR provides freedom of distribution, something that many DVR services struggle with.

Hardware:

The box has a small form factor at about 3 inches thick and about 8 by 6 inches in width / length.  It’s slightly larger than the Western Digital HD media player.  The player is two shade of gray, light on the top and charcoal around the sides.   When in operation, there’s a blue glow emanating from the top of the player.  On the front of the PVR, you will see the power button, the remote control sensor and a set of inputs for S-Video or Composite video for transferring older formats like VHS to into digital copies.  On the back, there are input / output jacks for component video, left and right audio channels as well as in/out ports for a digital optical cable.  There are also ports for the IR Blaster, power connection and USB port (2.0) for your PC.  Inside the box, you will find a remote control, power cable, USB cable, IR Blaster transmitter cable as well as component / audio cables.   There’s also bundles software with the player for scheduling shows and basic editing of the video.

Front of the PVR

The PVR is capable of recording up to 1080i video with 5.1DD audio in compressed h.264 file format.  While the hardware manufacturers still don’t want you to record content via HDMI due to DRM restrictions, the PVR uses the analog connection of the component jacks to record the 1080i video.  You also have a choice of video container depending on your output source, be it DVD, Blu-ray or one of the HD gaming consoles.  Also, if you want the highest quality when recording, you need it pair the PVR with a computer using a beefy processor and loads of storage space.

Testing:

As motioned earlier, the actual hardware is small enough to fit in all home theater setups and is portable for mobile recording.  I used it in a variety of setups; in the main home theater connected to a Time Warner HD cable box or a LG Blu-ray player as well as in the living room switching between the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Time Warner SD box.  Sources included everything from recent HD broadcasts of television shows like House and Psych, DVD and Blu-ray discs of movies like Gladiator, Kick-Ass and Up as well as video game footage of navigating the 360 / PS3 dashboards as well as 720p recording of actual gameplay in games like Halo Reach, Fallout 3 and Uncharted 2.  I also tried out a couple unconventional sources like my HD mini-camera, but it’s not really necessary as that medium already allows for easy access on other players.  I paired the PVR with my quad-core processor and 500-GB hard drive in my main HTPC.

Overall, the PVR performs admirably and does what is says it can do.  The video quality is definitely on par with recordings on my other DVRs, perhaps a notch better when I up the bitrate.  I was able to take all the output files and throw them on other computers in the house or burn a copy to DVD.   I was also able to stream the recorded content to one of the newer Samsung TVs from my home server and playback was fantastic.  It also looked really excellent when uploaded to video services like Youtube and Vimeo, particularly excellent for the gaming audience.  I actually prefered using the 720p video recording quality over the 1080i, mostly because I enjoy taking my content with me on the iPad and other mobile devices. 
Rear of the PVR
However, I do recommend using an alternate video editing tool over the bundled software.  I typically alternate between iMovie and Premiere Pro depending on my needs.  The included video editor is fairly bare bones and doesn’t offer the versatility of the previous mentioned software packages.  But you do have the ability to burn Blu-ray compatible DVDs with HD video recordings in the included software.  If you are using the PVR with your HTPC, I recommending using Windows Media Center.  The PVR is compatible and handles recordings of upcoming content with ease.  One caveat to recording content: this isn’t a dual tuner device, hence you cannot change the channel while recording something.
 
Conclusion:

Overall, the PVR is a solid performer for just under $200 in price.  It’s simply a question of your needs.  If you are happy with your current DVR and don’t feel the need to watch content on other devices, you are probably fine with your existing setup.  However, if you prefer versatility where you can play purchased movies or television broadcasts, the Hauppauge PVR is one of the simplest solutions I’ve used for recording, saving and cataloging a library of high-definition content on my home PC.  You don’t have to be a technical genius to use the device and it can be integrated into a home theater setup with ease.






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