In the year and a half that we have been capturing video game footage, we have had experience primarily with two HD capture devices, the first device being the Hauppauge 1212 HD-PVR and the second being the Blackmagic Design Intensity Extreme. The key differences between the two devices are the ports, the capture resolutions, the lag, the pricing, and added necessities. When examining the two side-by-side, each has it’s pro’s and con’s.
USB 2.0 Vs. Thunderbolt
Firstly we can examine both devices and notice one key feature that the Blackmagic Design Intensity Extreme has over the Hauppauge 1212 HD-PVR, and that is the Thunderbolt port. While the Hauppauge 1212 uses a USB 2.0 connection, the Intensity Extreme utilizes the new Thunderbolt technology, allowing the device to transfer at incredible speeds. Not only does the transfer speed increase with this connection, but also the lag drops significantly. In our testing we have seen about a five second lag from the capture source to the computer screen with the Hauppauge 1212, while the Intensity Extreme seems to have little to no lag at all. This may not be a deal breaker to many, but the added ability to play straight from the computer screen may be enticing to some.
The use of Thunderbolt gives the Intensity Extreme a leg up over the Hauppauge 1212’s USB 2.0 port when streaming gameplay footage to popular websites such as Justin.TV as well. While it is possible for both capture devices to stream gameplay footage, the Intensity Extreme is more seamless in its delivery as the computer recognizes it as a video input device. This feature allows the user to simply select the Intensity Extreme from Justin.TV’s drop down menu. The dropped lag also seems to aid in syncing audio. Where it may be difficult for some to live stream using the Hauppauge 1212 due to it’s five-second capture delay, syncing audio with the Intensity Extreme proved to be much easier in our experiences.
The Intensity Extreme’s Thunderbolt port also features the ability to power the unit and daisy chain to multiple Thunderbolt devices. In our experiences we’ve used the Intensity Extreme with an external Thunderbolt hard drive using the same Thunderbolt port on a Macbook Pro with seamless operation. The two downsides to the Intensity Extreme’s Thunderbolt is the lack of a second Thunderbolt port on the unit as well as the lack of an included Thunderbolt cable. Using the Intensity Extreme will force the user to keep the device at the end of the Thunderbolt chain, limiting the ability to use Thunderbolt monitors that have only on input. The lack of a Thunderbolt cable also sets the user back $50 on top of the Intensity Extreme’s $284 price tag.
In’s and Out’s
Examining both the Hauppauge 1212 and the Intensity Extreme’s in’s and out’s you will notice that both devices are capable of capturing devices using composite and component cables. The key difference between these devices is the Intensity Extreme’s inclusion of both an HDMI in and out. Using HDMI the capture resolution is bumped up from 720p to 1080p. While the Hauppauge 1212 can capture in 720p and 1080i, it lacks the ability to capture in 1080p. Though the Intensity Extreme does capture 1080p, we were disappointed to see that the fps was capped out at 30. The inability to capture 1080p at 60fps leaves the user unable to capture gameplay footage from the Xbox 360 as the console is unable to drop its fps.
Though the Intensity Extreme may seem quite easy to use for many users, the device demands great speeds from the target hard drive. In our experiences, capturing footage using an internal hard drive was very difficult using the Intensity Extreme forcing the purchase of a Thunderbolt external hard drive. The Hauppauge on the other hand, records to an internal hard drive easily. Though both devices benefit from external hard drives, the Hauppauge proved to be more consumer friendly as it’s required transfer speeds were much less strenuous on the target hard drives. As mentioned previously, the Intensity Extreme does not come with a Thunderbolt cable or HDMI cables. The Hauppauge 1212 includes the necessary USB 2.0 cable as well as a component cable, allowing the user to begin using the device right out of the box.
Users of OS X will find using Blackmagic Designs included software to be easy and effective, while Windows users may be turned off by the Intensity Extreme for it’s current lack of support. We see this situation changing as soon as Thunderbolt ports become more prominent on Windows based computers. The Hauppauge 1212 is opposite to the Intensity Extreme in this respect as it only provides first part support for Windows computers. Mac users will be forced to purchase a program, be it EyeTV or HDPVR Capture, to allow the device to work on the platform. One major difference between these devices is the ability to use the device as a pass-through. While the user is able to have the Hauppauge 1212 continually connected without the use of software, the Intensity Extreme requires an application to access the video output. If an application is not currently using the Intensity Extreme, the output channel to the external monitor or television shows a blank screen.
Pros and Cons
HDMI in’s and out’s as well as a breakout cable for component and composite inputs
Included program that works well with OS X
Ability to capture up to 1080p
Realtime Capture – Lag free.
Computers recognize the device as a video input
A wide variety of resolution, aspect ratios, and compression settings.
No external power supply
Lack of support for 1080p at 60fps
No support for Windows
Inability to use the device without an open application or computer (Output Pass-through)
No second Thunderbolt port. Device must be at the end of the chain.
Does not include Thunderbolt or HDMI cables
Support for Windows
Audio/Video pass-though without an open application or computer
Includes necessary cables
About a five second lag to the computer
Cannot capture in 1080p
Cannot be recognized as a video input
No first party support for Mac OS X
While both devices are capable of many of the same features, the Intensity Extremes Thunderbolt port, HDMI in and out, and the ability to set it as a video input device makes it a bit easier to use than the Hauppauge 1212. While the Hauppauge 1212 is priced at $180 and includes all necessary cables, the lack of first party support for Mac users may be a turn off, as well as the need for work arounds to access the ability to live stream and the significant lag. The Insanity Extreme’s price point of $284 seems reasonable enough, but still may be disappointing when realizing the required $50 Thunderbolt cable is not included. The lack of support for Windows may also turn off many potential buyers, but as Thunderbolt becomes more readily available on PC’s, we can assume support for Windows will eventually be added.
by: David Tadros
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