Elgato Game Recorder HD full review

Elgato Game Recorder HD

For years, PC gamers have enjoyed the ability to easily record footage of their efforts, thanks to a nifty application called Fraps. But capturing a stream from a console is much more difficult.??We suspect that’s why Elgato’s external video-capture device has been called the Game Recorder HD, as it provides console gamers with a straightforward way to record videos of their performances. See all DVR reviews.

It can rip a stream from pretty much any unencrypted device – which includes most consoles, and also computers, Apple iOS and Android devices – into a video that can be shared on YouTube, or streamed live to sites such as Twitch. See all digital home reviews.

Although sharing, watching and commenting on video game sequences is a pastime that may not appeal to everyone, it’s become hugely popular around the world, especially with younger gamers who have grown up in an era dominated by social media.??It’s particularly helpful for anyone who frequents gaming forums, runs a blog, or takes part in tournaments. Notably, both Sony and Microsoft agree the concept has appeal, as it appears both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will have a similar feature built in.

Elgato Game Recorder HD: how it works

The Game Recorder HD connects to your TV via HDMI, and can accept either a digital or analogue video input. The feed is passed to your TV without lag, so you can continue playing the game while footage is captured via a USB connection to a Windows PC or Mac, which also powers the device.

To our eyes, the video quality was as almost good as direct recordings of PC games made using Fraps. We noticed the colour was slightly less vibrant than that of rival product, Hauppague’s HD PVR 2. As long as the host computer’s CPU isn’t burdened by other tasks, the audio remained synchronised. The Game Capture HD supports either 720p or 1080p video recording at 30 frames-per-second (fps) while the feed is passed to the TV at 60 fps.

The image on the computer’s screen is slightly delayed, so disappointingly you can’t use the Game Recorder HD to play consoles using a laptop or computer as the main display. But it’s not limited to modern consoles with HDMI output. Even relatively ancient systems are listed as compatible, with an appropriate adaptor, such as the Sega Megadrive, or Nintendo SNES. Elgato makes no promises that every older console will work, and we weren’t able to verify whether or not they do.

Encrypted video signals, such as you’d find from a Blu-ray Disc player, result in a blank image, so the Game Recorder HD can’t be used to pirate Blu-ray films or record Premier League matches from Sky Sports.

This creates an issue for PlayStation 3 gamers though, since the HDMI output is fully encrypted, and you’ll need to rely on the Game Recorder HD’s PS3-specific component cables. By taking the analogue video output you can bypass the digital DRM, although quality will be reduced as the video must undergo several stages of needless conversion and resampling. Such a route will also be unavailable for both next-generation consoles, which appear to be ditching analogue video connectors altogether.??The bundled software is our favourite aspect of the Game Recorder HD, as it has a simple layout but offers many advanced features.

Depending on whether you have Capture or Edit mode selected, the left-hand side of the screen either views the feed from your source, or is used to navigate through recorded video. On the right are various controls: a big record button, game volume, audio commentary and a section for the capture quality settings, with a selection of presets, depending on the device you’re using.??The picture’s contrast, brightness, hue and saturation can be adjusted, with a selection of presets for the device you’re using. There’s a live-recording mode, where the Game Recorder HD offers a rewind function up to one hour, capturing video even if you forget to press the record button, similar to how Sky+ lets you pause live TV.

The edit controls are relatively simple, with a timeline that previews the recorded video and an option to upload your content to a social-networking site.??Be careful with the settings you choose. Depending on the settings and the video you create, the host computer can become bogged down compressing the video into the correct format, or your internet connection might be saturated if you attempt to upload large videos. The default 1080p settings can result in massive file sizes, so we recommend a few test runs and adjustments before you upload anything.

A seven-minute 1080p recording at the best possible quality and a bitrate of 28 Mbit/sec came out at 1.8 GB.

Elgato vs Hauppauge

It’s inevitable to compare the Game Capture HD with its new rival, Hauppague’s HD PVR 2, as both are designed for the same task and cost almost the same.

In Elgato’s favour are undoubtedly the straightforward software interface and the lack of an external power brick. The device is no bigger than the average smartphone, so if you want to carry it to elsewhere, you only need to pack a few extra cables.

Its lack of support for HDCP-encrypted content is its only real weakness, as it restricts the number of devices that can be used with it. Don’t blame Elgato – recording the films or games you bought is exactly what the film and game industries are trying to stop you from doing.??


Elgato Game Recorder HD: Specs

  • Powered by USB 2 interface
  • 420p, 576p, 720p and 1080p recording resolutions, HDMI passthrough
  • HDMI input, analogue component (‘PS3’) input
  • Mac and Windows compatible
  • 73 x 109 x 24 mm