Hauppauge! HD PVR Rocket – Review

Pocket-sized HD recording becomes a reality.

The Youtubes (or so we hear) are quite popular nowadays, with video games taking primary spot as their most-trafficked genre. Capturing moments of madness or brilliance has become second nature to an entire generation, and whether you’re playing on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, 360 or PS3, you’ll likely have turned your thoughts to publishing your hobby as either a selection of short clips or a full-on Let’s Play.

The market for capture cards is booming. Hooking up a small device to your games console and piping the output into a PC or an external hard drive has been a simple enough solution thus far to capture gameplay footage, but Hauppauge! are taking things one step further with diminutive HD PVR Rocket.

Their solution is a lightweight, portable device only a little smaller than the palm of your hand. It only requires power from a USB lead attached to whatever device you’re capturing from (or something nearby), and it’ll happily take a USB memory for storage and a standard 3.5mm microphone to mix in a commentary on the fly.

It’s tiny, discreet, easy to use; and above all else produces quality footage of whatever you decide to hook up.

81Olsj5WkoL._SL1500_

Specifications:

Hardware encoder: H.264 AVCHD high definition video encoder, video encode up to 1080p30 from HDMI or component video.

No delay HDMI pass through: HDMI or component in to HDMI out.

Recording data rate: 1 to 18 Mbits/sec.

Recording formats:MP4 in standalone mode, TS in PC connected mode.

USB thumb drive compatibility:USB 2.0 or USB 3.0

Size: from 1GB to 32GB

Minimum transfer rate: 2.5 Mbytes/sec

External hard disc compatibility: any self powered external storage drive with at least 2.5Mbytes/sec transfer rate

Audio mixer:

  • Mixes game audio with microphone audio
  • Supports both powered and unpowered microphones.
  • Microphone volume adjust, +20db boost and mute.

Input/output connections:

  • HDMI from Xbox, PC game systems or other HDMI sources without HDCP.
  • Component video in from a PS3 with stereo audio.
  • 3.5mm microphone jack.
  • USB thumb drive connector.
  • HDMI output.

Size: 4.75 inches x 3.5 inches x 1.5 inches.

Power: 5v @ 0.9 amps

Weight: 4.6 oz

In practice

Hooking up the HD PVR Rocket couldn’t be simpler. You attach the USB power cable to your console and feed it back into the printer-style socket on the PVR, run your HDMI lead out of the console and into the HDMI-in, then run another HDMI cable out of the PVR HDMI-out into whatever television or monitor you normally play on. An adaptor is included in the box for those of you that still run on old-school component inputs, and that does the job just fine if you insist on living in 2004.

Once you’ve hooked up your video inputs it’s time to plug in a USB stick for storage. The indicator LED flashes a few times whilst it reads the stick or formats it if necessary, and then when the light turns green you’re ready to roll. Hit the big red button to start the recording, hit it again to finish. Simple. To add a microphone you just plug it in and begin talking, and if you’re worried you’ll be coming out too low in the audio mix, there’s a handy sliding meter on the front of the HD PVR Rocket that can boost your mic input up to a steady +20 decibels.

As always with that sort of thing however, it’s best to do a practice file before you begin the real recording.

images

If you want to bypass the USB storage entirely and go for something with a little higher capacity, Hauppauge also caters for PC users with a suite of software tools that allows the HD PVR Rocket to be utilised in much the same fashion as its existing competitors.

Hooking the device up to a PC and capturing footage from any device is as simple as choosing your video and audio inputs in the software, selecting a filename, video bitrate and save directory, then hooking up your mic (if you indent on commentating), and hitting the button. The Hauppauge capture software is no-frills and lacks a few of the streaming options made standard elsewhere, but honestly such a setup was never going to be the intention for a tiny portable device like this.

No matter whether you’re capturing to a PC or a memory stick however, video quality – perhaps the most important aspect to get right – is happily fit for almost any regular end-user purpose.

The 1080p MP4 files the HD PVR captures are crisp and clean for the most part, with only a few compression anomalies cropping up sporadically when capturing footage of games with large blocks of colour (such as FIFA 14 on the PS4). Audio is also clean and faithful too, although it can sound a little too compressed with specific games and sources (check the Dark Souls 2 footage below for an example).

99% of the time the Hauppauge captured without any problems however, and the results were pleasantly free of artifacting and compression problems. As such there’s little to report that isn’t positive here. File sizes are large, but then that’s what you’d expect when capturing footage at bitrates good enough to preserve the detail so many other solutions lose.

 

Conclusion

The Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket is a brilliant solution for those of us that wanted a capture device that was easily portable between different devices, and it’s a solution that doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of negatives to talk about. The USB-only power is a godsend for anybody that wants to travel with the device, the microphone input is a welcome addition that allows for a single solution for mixing audio over the top of your gameplay, and the simple setup is easy enough for practically anybody to get to grips with.

The video files the Hauppauge produces are of a good standard with a bitrate that can keep up with most visually demanding games of the moment, with only a few audio anomalies spoiling the party on extremely rare occasions.

If you’re in the market for a capture card and don’t want to find an extra power socket or switch on your PC every time you need to capture something, there’s really little else on the market like this. Hauppauge have found themselves a niche alright, and it’s an excellent one to fill.

9...out of 10

About Emmanuel Brown

Professional enthusiast, videogame "journalist" and all-round spectacular sofa dweller.