Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket Review
Being able to capture and review your finest moments in gaming can be highly rewarding, especially if that moment is such a rare event that you would be hard-pressed to repeat it again. Luckily, with the introduction of capturing facilities on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, capturing those priceless gaming glitches and performances has never been easier.
With a press of the Share button on PlayStation 4 and the mutterings of “Xbox. Record that” on the Xbox One, your last few minutes of gaming is stored directly onto your hard drive (if there is space left that is!). But what if you want to capture a whole entire level, a round full of the highest body-counts, or a complete game walkthrough or FAQ? Up to thirty minutes of recording may just not be enough for some budding film makers.
There aren’t too many affordable, dedicated capture boxes for the latest video game consoles. The most recent that stands out for me is the Game Capture HD from Elgato, which has been one of my ‘go to’ PVR devices for capturing gameplay on a number of devices. Choice is a lovely thing however, and the HD PVR Rocket from Hauppauge has arrived with their stamp on the portable game recorder market for Xbox and PlayStation consoles and PC desktops too.
The front of the unit houses a Mic input and USB thumb drive port for direct capture
This pint-sized PVR weights in at a feather-light 4.6oz (130g) and stands 4.75in (12cm) wide, 3.5in (8.9cm) deep and 1.5in (3.8cm) high – which is slightly chunkier than Elgato’s offering. Like its competition, the unit is self powered through its bundled USB cable, which can be plugged into a spare USB port on your Xbox, PlayStation or PC/Mac.
Located on the back of the unit you’ll find the USB power socket, AV in (for PlayStation 3), an HDMI input socket and a passthrough HDMI out socket. Over on the other side: the front contains a USB flash drive port to directly record video on to; and there is a 3.5mm microphone connector to capture in-game audio commentary alongside your gameplay.
To keep costs low the HD PVR Rocket doesn’t come with a USB flash drive or microphone so you have to supply your own. Not all microphones are supported however. I tried the official Sony PlayStation 4 earbud and also a pair of official Apple iPhone earbuds, yet neither microphone worked in my tests. I was third time lucky when I dug out an old KONIG clip microphone (from the old Counter-Strike days), which worked flawlessly.
Located on the top of the Rocket you’ll find the built-in audio mixer controls, consisting of an audio gain boost, mute and volume buttons as well as a lock button to prevent you, or any drifting fingers, from accidentally changing the unit’s own touch-sensitive buttons. Dominating the rest of the unit is a big, round red start/stop recording button, and there’s a light around the whole waistline of the unit that flashes and glows to alert you to the various recording and media states that the device maybe in.
Over on the ‘business’ side: USB power input, AV in for PS3 capture and HDMI IN/OUT sockets
Setting the HD PVR Rocket up is a very simple process – at least on the Xbox 360, Xbox One or PC anyway: Connect the HDMI from the Xbox 360/Xbox One into the HDMI input socket of the Rocket, and using the supplied 2 metre HDMI cable, connect the HDMI out of the Rocket to your TV or display. As I mentioned earlier, to power the Rocket you’ll need a spare (powered) USB 2.0 or 3.0 port, if this isn’t possible you can plug the Rocket into a wall outlet via a USB mains adapter that comes with most smartphones or tablets these days.
With all three cables connected the Rocket will come alive, and after a few seconds it will either flash red (meaning it needs a PC formatted USB flash drive) or green (meaning you are ready to capture whatever is displaying onscreen by pressing the big red button). The Rocket will capture up to 1080p at 30fps using the widely addopted H.264 video compression format. This is ideal for recording to a flash drive as the compression will help keep file sizes low whilst maintaing a high level of visual quality. Around six to eight minutes of 1080p capture will fill up a 1GB thumb drive, so if you plan on recording longer than this make sure you use a USB flash drive that has enough storage space.
Capturing to a desktop PC is also supported by the Rocket by simply connecting the USB cable to a PC or Mac, however support for the Mac requires a little bit of your own guesswork. The downloadable Hauppauge Capture application software is for Windows PCs only, so being a Mac user I had to search around for some compatible software, myself. For a fairly new device, finding Mac software to support the Rocket took some searching, however I did find that the latest Mac version of HDPVRCapture v3.4.0 software (http://www.hdpvrcapture.com – trial available) works very well. The HDPVRCapture software also allows you to capture your voice as a separate audio file to the game’s own video file, which is great feature that recording directly to the USB on the Rocket will not offer.
The HD PVR Rocket features in-game commentary via the front 3.5mm headphone jack socket
Setting the Rocket up to capture from a PlayStation brings a few annoyances to the surface. Thanks to Sony’s HDCP (High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection), capture via the digital HDMI connection is not possible. Hauppauge are aware of this and have bundled a set of AV Component cables to capture from the PlayStation 3’s AV port instead. This also means that capturing from a PlayStation 4 is nigh-on-impossible, due to it having nothing else than HDMI to display a picture, which is also riddled with Sony’s HDCP!*
*We’ve been told that PlayStation 4 capture will be supported soon. Sony aim to release a patch that will allow capture via the HD PVR Rocket. So we will update this review when this happens.
Capturing PlayStation content this way limits you in both audio and video departments too. Video is no longer digital, so there is a slight reduction on sharpness and a possibility of flicker or interference, and due to only having stereo RCA connectors you are limited to analogue stereo sound. The HDMI cable from the PlayStation will also have to be disconnected during video capture and the console’s display settings will also need to be reset every time you need to connect the Rocket back up again. So, in short, conditions whilst capturing from a PlayStation isn’t an ideal or smooth experience.
The Rocket’s audio mixer for audio commentary: Recording volume, Mute, Lock and Gain controls
Setup and connection woes aside though, capturing with the Rocket on both platforms have been a breeze. Recording directly to a USB flash drive makes for an ideal solution if a PC or Mac is out of reach, or you are around a friends. The high quality H.264 format also allows you to use a number of editing suites, such as Apple’s own iMovie or Sony Vegas, to edit your gaming antics. Capturing to a PC or Mac via the official (or unofficial) downloaded capture software adds additional options and possibilities, however the lack of support for Mac from Hauppauge left me frustrated when I had to find my own compatible software.
If capturing gameplay is your thing, or the taste of recording short clips on Xbox One or PlayStation 4 has left you wanting to capture more, and for longer, then the Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket is a complete solution that goes above and beyond its competitors. With its standalone recording to a USB flash drive and its ability to simultaneously record in-game audio commentary, these two key features make this pocket-sized game recorder and ideal tool for budding YouTube gamers.
Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket – £129.99 RRP