Published on August 22nd, 2012 | by Snow1
AVerMedia Game Capture HD C281 Review (AVerMedia MTVGCAPHD)
The gaming world is full of different types of gamers. Some are casual, some are hardcore and some are occasional in the form of pastime. At one point or another, everyone wanted to record their gameplay and in today’s world, it is getting easier and easier.
Today, I will review one that can fit the needs of the three types of gamers mentioned above. This is my “AVerMedia Game Capture HD C281 Review,” and it is loaded with information. Feel free to watch the video below for a quick review and all the text after the video for a deeper review.
AVerMedia Game Capture HD C281 Review
Now that you’ve seen the video review, here is a deeper look. Skim mode activated!
What is this?
AVerMedia Game Capture HD C281 is an HD PVR for recording your video games like PS3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii. With this device, you DO NOT NEED a PC. Please note, this product DOES NOT COME with any storage devic. To record with product, you need an external hard drive, USB hard drive or an internal hard drive (2.5 Sata Laptop HDD). Yes, it records up to 1080i (no P).
Retail? $149.99. I caught it on sale via Amazon. Check Amazon.com for the latest listed sale price!
Was it Easy to Set up & Get Started?
Set up was a breeze. Quick start guide makes it quicker. Getting started can take a while if you have to format the storage device to “NTFS.” Scale of 1 to 5, I’d rate it a 4 because of the storage device formatting, which can take up to an hour if you do a full format versus a quick format.
Note: I did not try quick format because AVerMedia never mentioned it. Didn’t want to take any chances with my USB Thumb drive.
What did I do before I started actually recording?
- *** Downloaded & Installed to my computer(s) the Avermedia “Game Capture HD MP4 Builder”
- *** Downloaded the latest Firmware Update & extracted the “.bin” files.
- *** Formatted my 16GB USB Drive to NTFS (almost an hour on my netbook)
- *** Dropped & Dragged the “.bin” files to the 16GB USB Drive (after formatting the storage device)
- Plug the USB drive into the device & powered in sequence of the set up guide provided.
- Recorded my first file under the OUT-OF-BOX settings/firmware (12 min footage to see the file size & audio sync)
- Went into settings to update the firmware
- Tried recording 2 different games on the Standard Mode and Real-time Mode
- Then went to town recording & playing with the screenshot/snapshot function & the three levels of recording. (From Best to Least: Optimal > Good > Maximum Recording = 12.0 MBPS > 10.0 MBPS > 8.0 MBPS based on 720p scale)
*** Denotes all the steps before receiving, opening & setting up my Game Capture HD C281 device. It saves time if you are ordering this product or know you are going to get it.
Note: I recorded one time, as-is, out the box. I heard of things going wrong with recording long games. It can happen, but the file was actually ok. It was during the playback, showed up fine on YouTube. Example: http://youtu.be/cBXdKfe4hLc
When I updated to the Firmware ver 1.7.6 created on 2012/07/19 (this review was written on 2012/08/12) I was confused because there were 2 things on the page. There is an AP and Driver section. The AP is the file converter and the Driver section is where the firmware resides. In the driver section you can see the history of fixes and they have the latest version at the top.
Direct Download link: http://www.avermedia.com/avertv/Product/ProductDetail.aspx?Id=556&tab=APDriver (Under DRIVER section)
Standard Mode and Real-time Mode is all about functions being available while recording and the amount of delay time (passthrough / lag on the tv). Standard Mode (slight delay) is the GREEN light. Real-Time Mode (no delay) is the BLUE light.
On Standard Mode, I must report that I did NOT notice or experience any delay/lag while recording offline or online at first, but it is VERY un-noticeable depending on what you are playing. In fact, the online lag that I did experience, might have actually been that specific game ONLINE LAG.
Real-time mode was… Real-Time 100%. You can screenshot, record and playback the last file recorded on this mode and that is about it. You lose all the other features.
Which Storage Device Did I Use and What are the Recording Stats?
I bought a “Kingston DataTraveler 100 Generation 2 (G2) USB Flash Drive (DT100G2/16GBZ)” 16GB FAT32 native and formatted to NTFS.
- Actual Capacity: 14.5GB
- Free Space: 14.4 GB (15,513,096,192 bytes)
- Used: 88.9mb (Win XP) | 92.8mb (Win 7)
Non Gameplay Recording stats (Based on 720p resolution)
- Optimal: 15mbps / 133 mins = 2h 13m
- Good: 12mbps / 166 mins = 2h 46m
- Maximum Recording: 10mbps / 199 mins = 3h 19m
NOTE: I discovered this while playing with device settings while my PS3 was at the XMB screen. Previously I only knew of the “Actual Gameplay Recording Stats.”
Actual Gameplay Recording Stats (Based on 720p resolution)
- Optimal: 12mbps / 166 mins = 2h 46m
- Good: 10mbps / 199 mins = 3h 19m
- Maximum Recording: 8mbps / 248 mins = 4h 08m
How was the Playback on the Device and Computer? (the raw .avi file)
Playback on the device was great. Felt like I was watching an actual replay of a REPLAY stored file by the game. Playback on my XP computer was a struggle as I saw some issues with my favorite VLC player (stutter, stop-and-go). Since I refuse to update it, I open my secret weapon, “DivX Player Plus.” With the DivX player it was fine, no lag. Windows Media & Real Player both ran the file with a 2-second delay in video because the audio ran first. Funny, because WM/RP both run DivX codec, lol. My Windows 7 Toshiba NB255 netbook, forget about it. My “standard issue” Windows 7 Pro, Money.
How was the IMAGE, VIDEO & AUDIO Quality?
The out-of-the-box setting is the BEST setting called “Optimal.” Based on the 720p settings that I recommend across any HD PVR device, this setting is great. The 1st test subject was almost a 12-minute BATTLEFIELD 3 file, recorded at 12.0 Mbps which equaled to 1.0gb in file size. I did it on Caspian Borders because of the tree’s, fire and I could use the jet and helicopter to see the scenery & speed. I even did a shot test toward the end of the video. All tested extremely well.
The other recording modes/file sizes based on Battlefield 3 also tested well. The “Good” at 10.0 Mbps is the BEST NEUTRAL recording option because you can save on file size without losing noticeable quality and record more gameplay over time to save/conserve Hard Drive space.
The third & final recording setting titled “Maximum Recording,” was my personal favorite. From the “Optimal” and the “GOOD” setting, you really cannot tell the difference. The same could be said about the “Good” versus “Maximum Recording” setting. Why is it my favorite? Depending on the game, you won’t notice much difference. When you upload directly to YouTube, the 720p option is there instantly and shows very smooth… and you can record so much more in file time. If you are using a 16GB or lower USB Thumb Drive, you will want this option. However, some games, you will need a higher setting for standard YouTube 360p & 480p uploads.
Videos & Pictures (screenshots) were great. For the screenshots, they are very fine and light on file size in the JPEG format. The text shows very well and can be read easily at any size/font displayed by the game. Though the footage could be dark at times, it is nice to point out that the quality of the video recorded is on par with a lot of the devices already in the market. Keep in mind, a lot of the RECORD WITH PC products (USB Enabled) have options to set the color, contrast, brightness and sharpness as you record the video. This product does not allow that. Not a deal breaker in my book. End of the day, if you are trying to be a commentator/editor, you should learn how to color correct your footage anyway.
Sound quality was very good on the games that I tested. The quality after converting the files were still good, not as great as the original file, but no one can tell the difference unless they are audiophiles. If you are going to be using an editing program, then use the program to EDIT & ENHANCE the sound anyway. If you are commentating, then this NOT AN ISSUE as you should be used to ENHANCING audio anyway. If not, step your game up.
SIDE NOTE: If you want to work around that issue, get a converter program and just EXTRACT the MP3’s with the same exact file name. Sure it could mean a lot of files, but you gain flexibility with the mp3 files for editing in other software programs to enhance the audio. Think “Audacity.”
TABLE CHART based on 16GB USB Thumb Drive (Based on 720p Recording).
Battlefield 3 on Optimal setting: 1,051,193kb = 1.0gb file / 11-mins & 39-secs
Battlefield 3 on Good setting: 826,910 kb = 807mb file / 11-mins & 08-secs
Battlefield 3 on Maximum Recording setting: 716,822 kb = 700mb file / 12-mins & 00-secs
Battlefield 3 on Optimal @ 12 mbps / 720p: http://youtu.be/cBXdKfe4hLc | Optimal (Best)
Battlefield 3 on Good @ 10 mbps / 720p: http://youtu.be/cjUIsDce8is | Good (2nd Best)
Battlefield 3 on Max Rec @ 8 mbps / 720p: http://youtu.be/0STRMkfUDek | Max. Rec. Time (3rd Best)
What I Didn’t Like?
- No way to do color & contrast settings like USB enabled PVR Devices (not a big deal).
- Games with high black levels will come out a little darker than I’d like. (not a big deal especially if editing later).
- That I couldn’t append a PREFIX to the filenames if I am doing gaming session blocks. An example would be to add “BF3-” before a series of videos so a file name could look like BF3-120811-2031.avi – vs – 120811-2031.avi, all in all, still not a big deal.
- Can’t see the time as it records while recording on either mode
- Can’t take a screenshot/snapshot while recording
- Snapshots/Screenshots taken during “playback mode” are of lesser quality than recorded video.
- Page button (aka Skip button if watching footage) reacts slower than direction buttons if looking at overview of footage, however. If the device polls all the footage, it works much faster.
- That it didn’t have a VIEW ONLY option for screenshots or video files
- Little hiccups when switching between modes and/or sometimes when you hit record or stop. Not a big deal.
- Random hiccups during some recordings. Potentially big deal. Hiccups usually occurred when a game starts or exits back to dashboard/xmb screen because the source video information changes. Has not effected my recordings as of yet.
Recording in AVI without the option to record as an MP4 file, because I use Sony Vegas & the files do not work 100% with it. Missing audio. Also doesn’t work for Real Producer program.(SEE “What I loved?” PATCHED via 08-21-2012)
- Video doesn’t pass through the device to the TV if the power supply is NOT plugged in. My Roxio Game Capture device can pass video through without being plugged in via USB to my computer (ditto for Dazzle too).
- Power button being RED (Not a big deal, lol. But you will find out why when you get this awesome product!)
- Remote control buttons below the REC and SNAP buttons are too close and small for me. Not a deal breaker, just slightly annoyed me during footage review.
- Component cables provided (not the universal cables, the device-to-tv cables) are not that great in video quality. I use my Roxio coords with the “gold tips.”
- No other way to check for latest firmware other than going to website. No email/sms sign-up list or internal internet feature to see. Basically, you have to remember to check the AP/Driver page on the AVerMedia website.
What I Hated?
- No extra buttons on the device, at least the directional pad with the “OK” button (in case you lose remote).
- Now, this is probably just relevant me, but because the Avermedia “Game Capture HD MP4 Builder” does not work on XP, AS STATED. I had to add it to this list. It’s just awesome of how well it works & would be great for those that still have XP desktops (ME. Don’t judge me!) or laptops. [Explained below in the WHAT I LOVED section]
- The actual PRODUCT Mini-website & lack of forums for user-to-user support and updates for discovering other types of USB Thumb/External or Internal Hard Drives people are using for both what they used that work and what did not work.
What I Like?
- Easy physical & storage device setup.
- Easy firmware update.
- Easy recording & screenshot/snapshot.
- Easy installation of internal HDD drive.
- Easy access to USB slot.
- The power adaptor if you are traveling
- Playback tells you the Recorded Quality Setting
- Playback tells you the location of file; if it is on internal or usb
- Sort by file type
- Using Military Time & date as a naming mechanism for video files & screenshots. Example: Screenshots 1 & 2 are named 120811-2027-49.jpg & 120811-2027-55.jpg (YMD-MilitaryTime-Seconds.jpg). Video time is 120811-2031.avi and will append a “seconds” if u recording short clips.
- Remote controller
- You can take Snapshots/screenshots during playback.
What I Loved?
- Fast and Easy AVI to MP4 encoder.
- ADDED on 08/21/2012 the ability to RECORD in AVI or MP4 to avoid converting files.
- Pass-through still shows YOU great quality on your TV versus my Roxio Game Capture device, which had a darker picture.
- USB slot is 3.0 compatible & the ability to use internal 2.5” SATA Laptop HDD (Hard-drive)
- Record on internal HDD & copy the files you want to a USB Thumb-drive.
- Basic menu/file management functions are simple and easy to use.
- Mass Delete or Copy.
- Customer Service Email support and website FAQ/Support section.
- Device looks good and it’s very nice as well as light in weight!
- Records in H.264/ACC.
- All three file recording qualities produce great results.
- Basic file management.
- Comes with Universal Component cables for your Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii
- The device adjusts the recording according to source game just like the TV source does… including retro systems like PS2.
- The AverMedia “Game Capture HD MP4 Builder” is AWESOME and FAST even on a NETBOOK! (Windows 7)
- Snapshots (screenshots) look fantastic in all quality settings and record up to 1280×720. Even shots from Playstation 2 games looked great and were captured in 720×480 width/height ratio.
Special Thank You to YouTuber “PH9p9″ for the heads up on FIRMWARE update!
Firmware ver 2.0.6 | Date: 2012/08/21
1.Recording format change to : MP4
2.Improve 1080i50, 480i, 576i recording stability
Download the UPDATED DRIVERS HERE: http://www.avermedia.com/avertv/Product/ProductDetail.aspx?Id=556&tab=APDriver (Under DRIVER section)
The AVerMedia company provided a lot of recommendation for storage options, alternate encoding & formatting programs (plus media players) to help you get started.
NOTE: Earlier I mentioned that my first file was a Battlefield 3, 12 min/1GB file. After the conversion, it was still a 1GB file, in fact in terms of KB size, it shrunk the file by about 2,000kb. That is AWESOME. Same great quality and basically, file size. AND FAST like… 2 minutes fast on one file. I even put my Windows 7 2GB Ram Toshiba netbook (NB255) to the test by converting 26 randomly sized avi recorded files from the device, and it took only 45 minutes to convert. AWESOME! Yeah, good luck going 1 to 1 ratio with just ONE file with those other programs. If you have some, please share :).
- Make an Android, Windows mobile & iPhone app just in case the remote is lost or damaged.
- Push to display time recorded vs time left across any one of the modes if not both. I think it was there and was removed by firmware update. If removed, then keep it off because my device is great at the 1.7 version.
What it DOESN’T DO? (I personally don’t care that it doesn’t.)
- Can’t stream
- Can’t connect via USB to PC to capture with P.C. (you might be able to do it for HDD to HDD with a special USB cable device)
- Doesn’t record in 1080p
What I would have liked? (Features not specified at all)
- Wireless or ethernet cable feature like the ROKU players so you can update the firmware & be notified or check to see if a new version is available.
- Color, Contrast, Brightness & Sharpness recording.
Random Things That Happened to Me
Nothing to be upset about and does not reflect on my overall experience with the device. I did run into a few error messages. One was because my USB drive filled up. Another was a weird message that I only seen once after my 16 hours of recording & more in terms of “use” over three days.
Barely ran into issues mentioned in the troubleshooting/FAQ section of the AVerMedia Game Capture HD C281 FAQ section on the product page
Troubleshooting Link: http://www.avermedia.com/avertv/Product/ProductDetail.aspx?Id=556&tab=FAQ
Should I Get The AVerMedia Game Capture HD?
Short answer is YES, but it depends on some variables to see if it is worth it for you and your needs. You can make your decision to buy it based on a few scenarios;
- If you have a strong enough laptop or computer (nearby the TV you are playing on) to RECORD the gameplay correctly & flawlessly with the software/program it gives, then you can OPT-OUT of buying this, however. It’s still worth it if you don’t already have one.
- If your laptop/desktop is NOT of i3/Dual Core or better in processing power with at least 2GB of RAM, my friend, this is FOR YOU.
- If you want to stream your gameplay, NO! This is not for you.
- This device records just as great as the rest and better than A LOT of other devices including the Roxio Game Capture Device (which I love btw). Because you don’t have to worry about the SOFTWARE to record with, you DO NOT have to worry about “Is this compatible with MAC?” or “Is my PC strong enough to RUN the software to RECORD the games?”
- Don’t be upset about buying a USB storage device or Internal HDD because I purchased one of the “Recommended” USB drives by AVerMedia and it works fine, plus I only paid $10.00 for my 16GB USB Thumb drive. Also the MP4 file converter has a MAC and Windows 7 (and Vista) version. It’s fast and smooth and only necessary if you are going to be editing with Sony Vegas and/or Real Producer .
The AVerMedia Game Capture HD C281 is a STEAL if you understand that you have to buy or supply your own storage device & cannot stream games. Casual players will love this device. Those looking to be commentators can jump into this provided they cannot afford a good & powerful enough laptop/computer to do the editing/capturing with USB enabled capture cards. Even if you can, I wouldn’t look over this. Converting any thing can be a bummer, however. The MP4 converter is fast and awesome… I cannot stress that enough.
I would recommend this product to others. I have a ROXIO GAME CAPTURE device that I ONLY recommend to those that have the appropriate laptop or computer necessary to use its software. Compared to that frustration, this is a cake walk!