With the arrival of Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4, we're starting to see gameplay recording and even live game streaming baked right into these next-generation consoles, but that doesn't mean they offer the best possible way for you to record that epic headshot or that crazy comeback win. Having an external game capture device still holds a lot of value, because you can far more easily access those video files for later viewing, editing and sharing.
AVerMedia is easily one of the most respected names in this segment and one of their latest offerings is the AVerMedia Game Capture HD II. It's a stylish box that will work with just about any console (or A/V source) you have, recording it all at the simple push of a button. And they've thrown in some new bells and whistles to amp up the functionality too.
Continuing the Game Capture Tradition
Let's start with the basics. You might remember when we reviewed the first Game Capture HD some time back. It's a product that's very easy to use, both for capturing video and screenshots, saving your footage to your choice of an internal hard drive or an external USB storage device. The Game Capture HD II C285, which launched a couple months ago, follows in this same tradition, but it improves on the overall experience and introduces some new features.
For starters, the design has been dramatically changed. The box itself sits a little wider, but it's also a lot shorter in height. They've put a textured surface on the top, along with a stylized AVerMedia logo. You'll also notice that in addition to the power button and USB port on the front of the device, there are new jacks for a microphone and a set of headphones. I'll get to that in just a moment. The box is still made of plastic, so it doesn't give the greatest level of confidence for durability, but the rest of the layout should feel familiar. You can dock a bare drive by taking off the cover on the bottom and the included remote control remains largely unchanged from the original.
Connectivity Introduces HDMI
While they still offer the appropriate ports for component video and RCA audio input, you'll notice that there are now two HDMI ports next to them. There is an HDMI-in and an HDMI-out. The component video output has been removed completely, so HDMI is your only output option now. This helps to reduce the overall height of the unit, but you may still run into copyright protection issues when inputting HDMI from a PS3, so you'll still need to use component input. For an Xbox 360, HDMI input is not a problem at all.
Next to the HDMI ports, you'll find a LAN port and the DC-input for the wall adapter. While the AVerMedia Game Capture HD II is not designed for live streaming, it can connect to the Internet directly (wired, not wireless) for straight uploads to YouTube. That appears to be the only network functionality at the moment, though it's possible that we could see some more features added in a future firmware update.
Now with Live Commentary
Remember how I said there were microphone and headphone jacks on the front? That's because you can now record live commentary to go along with your recorded game footage. You simply plug in whatever microphone you want (3.5mm) and optionally plug in a set of headphones (also 3.5mm) to monitor your audio. You can go through the settings menu on the unit to activate and deactivate this feature, which is also where you'll find the ability to remove the AVerMedia watermark, adjust quality settings, define the destination folder, and so forth.
Test Footage with and without Commentary
All of the screenshots used in my Girl Fight review were recorded with the Game Capture HD II, as well as the gameplay video that I've embedded above. This should give you a sense of the kind of audio and video quality you should expect from the recordings.
In this second video, I played a little Street Fighter while using the "live commentary" feature via a wired array microphone. It works perfectly fine and the uploaded footage is completely unedited on my part. I simply took the file that the C285 provided and uploaded it directly to YouTube. Be sure to click the little "gear" button to increase the quality to HD.
On-Board Editing and Direct YouTube Uploads
For the two above videos, I took the file saved onto a USB flash drive and uploaded them to YouTube via my computer, but I could have uploaded them directly from the Game Capture HD II. That's the idea, anyway. There is a built-in video editor where you can crop out the portion you wish to upload, but I found the interface to be too clunky to be really effective for much of anything. Part of this has to be blamed on the nature of using a standard remote, rather than a mouse and a keyboard with some real editing software.
And, as you can imagine, using the on-screen keyboard to enter your YouTube credentials and the rest of it can be a bit of a pain. Yes, this functionality is baked into the C285, but I can't imagine it being a feature that I use all that often. You may feel differently. Another point worth mentioning is that whether you choose to use a hard drive or a USB drive, it will need to be properly formatted (NTFS) to work here and it needs to meet minimum speed requirements. I found that formatting a fresh drive worked best, as any drive I had that still had content on it would not be accepted.
MEGATechie Success Captured or MEGATechie You've Been Played?
If you're expecting a revolutionary new product that totally breaks new ground, the AVerMedia Game Capture HD II C285 is not it. Instead, what you get here is an evolutionary improvement over its predecessor, adding in live commentary, basic video editing and direct uploads to YouTube. The inclusion of HDMI input and output is much appreciated too.
For my part, though, if I were to invest in a product like this, I'd be much more inclined to get Live Gamer Portable C875, also from AVerMedia, for about the same amount of money. Both of them can be had for as low as $150 online (if not even less), but the LGP is smaller, also works PC-fee, and supports live streaming with a PC. There are some tradeoffs, like the lack of component video, but I feel these are worth the addition of streaming support.