AVerMedia C285 Game Capture HD II
Buy it at: Amazon.com
AVerMedia designs and produces a large variety of video capture devices mostly targeted at gamers and game broadcasters. In recent times, one of their more notable pieces of hardware is the Live Gamer Portable. The LGP has been widely adopted by players in the fighting game community, because it is easy to hook up and record with on-the-go. It is also very stable and a good selection for portable stream equipment, which I noted in a review I wrote a while back as the primary reason I use it. However, the lower than average size of SD cards limits the max recording time for those that use the LGP primarily for its PC-free recording mode. In this situation, I find the Game Capture HD II (C285) to be the far better, and more effective, solution.
The Game Capture HD II is, just as it sounds, a newer version of AVerMedia’s original Game Capture HD. The functionality is mostly the same, but with some new additions and changes. I’ve done my very best to give the C285 a thorough run for its money, using it to record our local fighting game tournaments for the past two months, and wherever else I want a PC-free game capture device for archival purposes. I’ve tried to give some example footage and screenshots where applicable, but keep in mind that YouTube has a 30 fps cap on uploaded videos, so the device’s recordings cannot be fully conveyed through video samples.
As I mentioned before, I’ve been using the device to record our local game tournaments, which consists of BlazBlue, Guilty Gear, Persona 4 Arena, and a variety of other anime fighting games, and we generally run tournaments and casual matches all day. This translates into upwards of ten to eleven hours of footage in one big chunk, and while, due to file sizes, this may be difficult to achieve on a device like the Live Game Portable without sacrificing quality, the Game Capture HD II handles this like an absolute champ. There’s a door on the bottom side of the device that opens up to reveal a SATA port and bay for a 2.5″ hard drive. Curious to see if it would be enough to keep up with the data rate, I put in an old 5400 rpm, 160 Gb hard drive. Sure enough, even an old laptop hard drive like this was enough to start recording footage. Better yet, I never had a single instance of the device overheating, even after leaving it to record virtually all day.
The Game Capture HD II supports component and HDMI inputs for recording. This is a major change to the design of the original Game Capture HD, which only supported component in and out. However, one very important thing in this regard is that the Game Capture HD II has no component output. If you choose to use component inputs to record, your display will have to support HDMI, as the video and audio are converted to this format. On the bright side, using this option introduces no observable lag. This is especially important in the fighting game scene, as even a one frame delay could severely impact a player’s ability to react and play, but other gaming enthusiasts will likely appreciate it as well.
In addition to these inputs, the device also supports recording commentary and mixing it right into the footage seamlessly, but there is one big caveat to this: it appears to have been designed for your average 3V-5V microphones – the type you’d expect to plug into your PC’s 3.5mm microphone port. I utilize some expensive broadcaster headsets and a hardware mixer, which led to me discovering that the volumes need to be set very, very low to prevent the recording’s audio from clipping and sounding “blown out.” This can present problems when working the C285 into an existing broadcasting setup for archival purposes, but the functionality is still there, even if it needs some finagling to get it to work properly.
The graphical user interface, which is controlled using the included remote, is hit and miss. It’s great when changing settings, and it’s convenient to be able to preview your recorded videos without having to transfer the data to a PC. Unfortunately, using the built-in video editing function is much clunkier than editing the footage on a PC. I find it infinitely preferable to transfer my videos to my PC for further editing than to use the built-in interface and remote; however, for those lacking the needed hardware and software, having the feature there is a huge boon. You can even upload your edited videos directly to a YouTube account by connecting an ethernet cable to the Game Capture HD II – although logging in is an arduous task without a physical keyboard.
Below you can see a sample of gameplay recorded at one of our tournaments using the C285. You’ll probably notice there’s an AVerMedia watermark in the top left of the screen. This is, unfortunately, enabled by default; however, you can turn it off or even replace it with your own watermark logo – a great idea for those that are afraid of their footage being stolen. I found the quality of the recorded footage to be excellent and moderately configurable. There are three bitrate options for video: 20Mb/s, 18Mb/s, and 15Mb/s. The device defaults to 18Mb/s, and I found that to be perfectly acceptable for the purposes I was using it for. The only real downside is that you’ll most likely want to transfer your footage to a computer for editing, but the device does not allow you to access the files over a network despite the LAN connectivity. Instead, you’ll either need to use some form of HDD dock, such as the Thermaltake BlacX Duet I used, or you’ll need to hook up an external drive to the USB port on the face of the device. That being said, transferring the files using these methods was rather painless and the videos were handled smoothly by Sony Vegas.
The C285 also offers the ability to control the device via smartphone app. The GameMate app, available for Android and iOS, allows you to basically do everything you’d use the remote for, via your smartphone. However, it requires your phone and the Game Capture HD II to be in the same local network with each other for it to work. While I could see this app being a much improved means of commanding the C285 to record, capture screenshots, or upload videos, I was unable to get the app to work on my Galaxy Nexus. Upon launching, it told me I needed to upgrade the firmware for my C285. I did so, but while the app showed that 1 C285 device was indeed found on the network, it kept giving me a “No Network Connection” message. I have still yet to find a way to correct the issue, but other people have gotten it to work, so I imagine it’s just my poor luck.
Overall, the Game Capture HD II is great for specific applications, but may fall short of AVerMedia’s other devices, depending on the user’s needs. It cannot stream, so those looking to broadcast their gameplay on Twitch or a similar service are likely better served by purchasing the Live Game Portable. However, for those that make simple recordings to upload to Youtube, archive their gameplay for a variety of purposes, or need a device able to handle extended periods of recording, the Game Capture HD II is a very solid choice. For me, it handled exactly what I needed it for with ease and more. The microphone limitation is significant, but that can be solved with some simple workarounds. On the whole, I’d recommend the C285 to anyone looking to archive, record, or share gameplay footage without using a PC.