Well after a summer-of-fun-hiatus I’m hopping back on the reviewing scene to get ready for what’s sure to be another outstanding fall gaming lineup. But before I get to any new games, I wanted to take the time to show you a product I’ve been using for the past few months primarily on my other YouTube channel, http://www.youtube.com/ZGRWhyUDead. This is the AVerMedia Live Gamer HD, which is a hardware compressing capture card and live streaming device in a single piece of hardware.
The Live Gamer HD is a PCIe H.264 Hardware Compression Capture and Streaming Card that is currently running for about $220. In my past, I’ve only captured footage with the resource intensive FRAPS software and streamed using Xsplit. Installing this card immediately eliminated the massive resource requirements for performing these two tasks, especially video capture, which allowed me to keep my frame rate high for maximum gaming enjoyment.
The device itself supports zero-delay pass-thru functionality via HDMI and DVI connections. The back of the card contains 2 HDMI ports and 2 3.5mm Audio Ports. This type of setup allows you to record footage from your local PC, from a secondary PC or from a gaming device such as an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. Included in the box with the capture card is a 3.5mm Male to Male Audio Cable, a Female DVI to Male HDMI Conversion Cable, a Male DVI to Female HDMI Converter, and a standard 6 foot HDMI cable. Finally, an external red led USB button is provided to allow for easy capture and streaming, where the device lights up and flashes to indicate when streaming and capture is occurring.
For the purpose of this review, I tested the local PC recording and streaming because that’s what was beneficial for me. In my setup, I ran an HDMI cable from the output of my Graphics Card to the input of the Capture Card, and then a second HDMI Cable from the Capture Card to my Monitor. I also ran a 3.5mm Audio Cable from my Sound Card to the Capture Card, and from the Capture Card to my Gaming Headset. This setup allowed me to capture and stream real-time gaming with zero loss of frames as well as capture my voice from my microphone on my gaming headset.
The Live Gamer HD comes with a proprietary software program called RECentral, which allows you to customize how you want to capture footage and stream. A variety of resolutions are supported from 640p at 60fps all the way up to 1080p at 30fps at up to 20,000 kilobits per second. On the capture settings screen, you can also specify from which device you want to capture your audio and whether or not you want to capture an external audio device such as a microphone. During video capture, external audio is actually saved to a secondary mp3 file, which is great if you do a lot of editing, however this means you HAVE to do editing if you want to have your voice included on the same file as the recorded video. I tested the recording and streaming both with a 3.5mm headset as well as a USB headset. I need to point out that if you have a USB headset, you’ll need to do to do some crazy tinkering with Windows audio settings to get the audio and microphone to work properly with this device.
As far as the captured footage goes, the quality is actually pretty great when you max it at 20,000kbps at 1080p and being that it is hardware compressed, the files are not too massive and are output in an mp4 file format.
The streaming functionality allows you to stream whatever is passed into the card’s input device straight to Twitch, uStream and Own3D through RECentral. A 3-month subscription to Xsplit is also included, though I don’t quite understand why. The purpose of the card is so that you DON’T have to use a software-based streaming package, but the option is there for you if that’s the route you want to take. RECentral allows you to set up a series of profiles for different stream settings and allows you to change the resolution and bitrate at which you stream.
You can find streaming samples on my Twitch.Tv account located at http://www.twitch.tv/ZGRWhyUDead. I also stream Monday through Thursday evenings from 7pm CST to 10pm CST at that same location if you want to see the streaming quality directly from the Live Gamer HD.
Now in theory, this capture and streaming card is a really great product. It captures footage at great resolutions and bitrates and doesn’t use any hardware resources so that you can keep up those high frame rates. Unfortunately the device is pretty buggy at the moment. The USB button that comes with the device often fails to start up, requiring a complete system reboot, then unplugging the device and plugging it back in. Now, I can record by simply hitting a button on my keyboard, but if I’ve got a cool flashy LED button on my desktop, I want to use that.
At one point, the capture card itself stopped working entirely. It would pass video through to my monitor, but it would not and could not capture anything. I was able to resolve this issue by completely removing the card from the PC and uninstalling all of the drivers and software that came with the device, then rebooting and reinstalling everything. This hasn’t happened for the last 2 months, but I need to point out that at one time, it did.
If you don’t shut down the RECentral software after a few hours of inactivity, the program will crash and will not reload until a system reboot. The device will also completely cut out any audio you are streaming after 3 or so hours of continuous use. Over the course of the past few months a series of new drivers and software versions were released and continue to be released that are addressing these issues though.
Overall, this is a neat product. It was pretty buggy when I first received it, but each new iteration of drivers and software provides a more reliable user experience. The Live Gamer HD isn’t flawless yet, and at $220, the price is pretty steep for something that doesn’t work 100% of the time, but if the developers can get their drivers in check, this is going to be one hell of a device. Even though the device is a bit buggy yet, I still actually recommend the product to those that are looking to capture gaming footage or live stream without taxing their system resources. I can, and still currently do get over the small bugs here and there.
Product: Live Gamer HD
Product URL: http://www.avermedia-usa.com/AVertv/Product/ProductDetail.aspx?Id=513
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**This product was provided to me free of charge from the manufacturer to review for you.