It's not enough simply to play your games anymore. It's not even enough to play your games online. People want to see those replays on YouTube and they want to see your gaming sessions streamed live on Twitch. This isn't really a brand new phenomenon, but it has really exploded in popularity in the last couple of years. Gaming can very much be a spectator sport.
And that's where there are an increasing variety of game capture devices on the market today. For people who don't want to deal with an internal capture card on their desktop PCs, there are options like the Diamond Multimedia GC1000. It's an external capture device that connects to your desktop or notebook PC with a simple USB 2.0 connection.
All-In-One Game Capture Solution
The GC1000 is quite compact, having roughly the same kind of dimensions that you'd find on a 2.5-inch external hard drive enclosure. And just like those 2.5" drives, the Diamond GC1000 does not require an external power source; it'll take all the juice it needs through that USB cable That certainly clears up some unnecessary clutter.
Running through the spec sheet, you'll find that that this is a high definition video capture box that can record at resolutions of up to 1920x1080. To bear in mind that it maxes out at 1080i and not 1080p, but it'll have no problem recording at 720p if that's what you would rather do. It supports H.264 software compression and has a zero-delay pass-through to your television. The box is compatible with Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. Following the installation wizard, either via the CD or downloaded from the Diamond website, is a simple and straightforward affair.
Inputs and Outputs
Diamond has worked hard to make the GC1000 as versatile as they can. As such, you'll find quite the assortment of input and output options. The one that you're most likely to use is the component video (YPbPr) with RCA audio (red/white). That's the connection scheme I used when testing on my Xbox 360. There are also S-Video and HDMI ports on there and you can do composite video (yellow) via the green port in component video.
There are a few caveats that you will want to keep in mind here, though. First, the input you use must match the output. If you are using component as your input, you can't output to an HDMI monitor. Second, there are going to be some HDMI restrictions, as is the case with a lot of HDMI protected content. What this mean is that, officially, you can't use HDMI to record from your PS3. There are workarounds to strip the DRM, but I won't get into that. The testing did work fine when I recorded via an HDMI connection from my Android smartphone though.
Recording Directly to the Computer
After installing the drivers and the software, I was ready to get into my gaming sessions and record what I was doing. The software is reasonably easy to follow, as you can have the transparent controls pop up along the lower edge of the window. This allows for one-click access to snapshots (stills) or videos. It is also through here that you can choose your input source, schedule recordings, adjust the aspect ratio and so forth.
This kind of interface is inherently more robust than what you'd get through more of a standalone product like the Avermedia Game Capture HD, but it does mean that you do need to use a computer to use the Diamond GC1000.
In terms of quality, all of the screenshots that I used in my review of The Walking Dead: 400 Days were taken with the GC1000. As far as video goes, you can dive into the settings and adjust the capture bitrate anywhere from 3000kbps to 18000kbps. To test the difference, I recorded two Street Fighter IV matches from Xbox Live. The first is at the lower (default) setting and the second is at the highest (18Mbps) setting.
Both videos are roughly the same length (three minutes), but the file sizes naturally varied considerably. The lower quality video was about 70MB and the higher quality video was 440MB, both recorded at 720p. We should also note that YouTube does compress and process the videos, so the quality can differ from the original files.
But Can I Stream on Twitch?
Technically speaking, the answer is no. The Diamond GC1000 is designed to be a game capture device and not a game streaming device. I encountered two major hiccups in my attempt to stream my gaming sessions.
First, the streaming software that I use (Open Broadcast Software) did not recognize the GC1000 as a valid input source. This should also be true if you're using something like XSplit. Second, as the GC1000 uses a USB 2.0 connection, there is about a two-second delay on the video feed coming into the computer. This is mostly because the encoding is happening on the GC1000 and not on your computer.
The workaround that I did, which isn't a pretty one, is that I screen-captured the GC1000 preview window on my laptop and used that as the video feed in OBS. For audio, I had to use a separate audio input (I took the audio-out from my TV for this) and then I had to use some trial-and-error to adjust for the delay; it came out to about 1700ms. The end result is that it worked, but the video quality left a lot to be desired.
The Problem with Inconsistency
So, you can but probably should stream using this. At least it works well as a game capture box, right? Well, there were problems there too. Your individual experience will certainly vary, but while everything worked fine for the first few days, I started to encounter problems later on.
The video preview window would fail to see the incoming video. I know that the signal was fine, as the pass-through to my TV had no problem. What's strange is that I could still hear the audio being fed through. This issue could be corrected by restarting my computer or restarting the Diamond Video Capture software sometimes, but it didn't fix the problem every time. My guess is that this could be fixed with a firmware update.
MEGATechie Elevate Your Game or MEGATechie Game Over?
With an MSRP of $139.99, a very straightforward design, a simple USB interface, and a wide range of input/output options, the Diamond Multimedia GC1000 looked like it had a lot of promise. Unfortunately, its faults ultimately outweigh its strengths.
The two second delay can get annoying and the incompatibility with standard streaming software is a shame, but the real deal breaker was the problem that I experienced with the inconsistent video signal. I'd get broken images or a black screen and there was nothing that seemed to fix it consistently. I can forgive the delay if these other two issues are suitably addressed, but as it stands, I cannot recommend the GC1000.