User Review( votes)
Hauppauge is known for making the HD PVR Gaming Edition and the HD PVR 2, but they both need computers to work. What if you want to capture video WITHOUT a computer? Well that is where the Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket comes in. I already made an article on the best gaming recorders you can buy and at the end I mentioned I ended up picking the Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket. I have been using it for about 6 months now and have used it to record many videos that can be seen on the Team Shmo Youtube channel. This review will go over it’s pros, cons, features, and my personal experiences with it. Also why I purchased it over all the others out there. All pictures are taken direct from Hauppauge website.
The most important thing is will it record the device you plan on recording from? It can record from a very wide range of products such as from a PC game system, Sony PlayStation 3 or 4, Wii U, Microsoft Xbox One or 360, and even some retro game consoles such as the Nintendo 64. Almost anything with a HDMI can be recorded as well.
It also takes a USB thumb drive to record to and can be USB 2.0 or 3.0 from 1GB up to 64GB. If you need larger than that you can also record to an external hard drive up to 2TB with at least 2.5Mbytes/sec transfer rate. Everyone has a USB thumb drive already and if you don’t they are inexpensive to pick up. That was one of the main selling points for me. I much prefer using a USB to record to then say an SD card.
A note about recording gaming systems is each system may record in a different way. For example the PS3 does NOT let you record from HDMI. If you try to record using an HDMI cable to the Rocket it will not work. It is not the Rocket’s fault as any recording device will have the same problem. Hauppauge includes all the necessary cables to allow the PS3 to record through other methods however. If you just must record through HDMI with a PS3 please refer to my Top 8 gaming recorders article as near the end I explain what to buy to bypass the HDMI block Sony has installed.
How it works/Setup
The best part about the HD PVR Rocket is it doesn’t need a PC to record! It only needs a USB stick plugged into he front. This makes it great for personal use or to take to a friend’s house and record with them. It’s also very small (4.75 inches x 3.5 inches x 1.5 inches) and light (4.6 oz) which again makes it a easy to bring places. It will literally fit in the palm of your hand. The setup is also quite easy. Simply plug a HDMI cable from your gaming system into the back of the Rocket and another HDMI cable from the output to the TV. That is basically it. It uses USB be to powered and doesn’t need to be plugged into the wall either. You can just plug the USB right into your system to get power. This makes life much easier as you don’t need to run a million wires everywhere and a lot easier to unplug to pack up later.
Once it’s all hooked up you take any USB 2.0 or 3.0 thumb drive and plug it into the front. From there just press the giant red button on the top to start recording and press it again to stop recording. It’s impossible to get simpler than this. Another cool thing is you can use a USB stick or external hard drive (up to 2TB!) to store files. I have no idea why you would ever record a video that large, but it is awesome if you wanted to record a ton of footage over a month etc and keep it all in one place without worrying about running out of space. So far every recent video I have made on my YouTube channel has been recorded this way. It takes honestly about two seconds to press the button to start and again later to stop it and you have your video. It records onto the USB stick which you can then easily plug into your computer to edit or just directly upload to YouTube.
If you do have a computer close by to your gaming system you can use it to record directly to your computer or live stream to Twitch. That is probably my favorite part about this device that it is just so versatile. Whatever you plan on doing with it, it can do. One con is when recording to a PC that means Windows only. If you have a mac you will not be able to record hooked up to it and must use the USB only. That also means you can not easily live stream with it if you have a mac. I have heard people use other software other than Hauppauge’s to do this, but for this article I am talking about strickely stock out of the box setup.
I personally do not have a computer anywhere near my gaming system (PS3 currently) so the lack of mac support doesn’t bother me. The main reason I bought the Rocket is because I didn’t need to have a computer right there to use it. However if you own a mac I’m sure you are already used to many things not being compatible anyways. One problem with this is you can’t do updates if you have a mac. Normally you plug the device into your PC and check for updates, but since the lack of mac support this isn’t possible. Luckily and very ingeniously Hauppauge has an alternative method to do updates that works on mac or PC. You just download the update to your computer, plug a USB stick into it and transfer the update onto it, then plug the USB into the Rocket. With a series of button presses it knows to do the update from the USB stick. I did this the first day I got it and was quite impressed at how easy it was.
If you do record to USB using the Rocket the file sizes are pretty small and compressed already (H.264 format) even though the recording is full HD. A 16GB USB will give you approximately 4hrs of recording time. Great for days that you want to make an interesting movie and need a bunch of stock footage to edit later. If you record for more than 30min straight it does split the recording into multiple parts. For example if you record for 30min it will be two separate files as opposed to one large file. About 4GB intervals. In newer software however they have addressed this problem. If your USB drive is formatted in FAT32 it will still make 4GB segments, but if your USB is NTFS formatted the recording will be one large file. My USB is FAT32, but to me this isn’t a problem as I will just drop both clips into video editing software before I do my edits, but it is something to note if you plan on going direct to YouTube after. You will have to keep track of the time to make sure you are under the limit. Or of course just format your USB drive to NTFS.
Some other cool things it can do is plug a mic right into it and record your voice. This is a great feature due to the fact that most other recorders need computers to be able to do this while this one can still record without one. It features a little touch screen type display that can change how loud your voice is compared to the game footage. Each mic you hook up will record differently and having a way to adjust volume is great edition. After a few trial and error recordings to see what level your mic should be set at you can hit the lock button to save it. No need to write down the settings or play around with it, just set it once and that’s it.
The only con is it’s a 3.5mm microphone jack. I was first excited that it used such a normal input, but soon realized most modern mics use USB input and not 3.5mm. You can get older mics to work no problem or more expensive mics, but many popular mics that big YouTuber’s use all use USB and can not be used. If you are using a computer to record obviously just record your voice to it or you could also record to a seperate recorder and sync the audio later if you don’t have any 3.5mm microphones.
As far as recording goes there are some very important things you have to look out for. Due to the lack of a computer needed to record it needs a different way to tell you if everything is looking good. It does this with a system of colored lights that wrap around the device. It will flash various colors to tell you things like if a USB is plugged in or if it’s getting video input, etc. Flashing blue means no video is going to the Rocket and flashing red means no USB is plugged in. It will flash between both if both problems are happening at once. If everything is working fine there will be a solid green light meaning it’s ok to press the red button to record. When you are ready to record and press the button the green light will turn to red and go all around the device. Don’t knock it or anything when this is happening as it may disrupt the recording. When you want to stop press the red button again and wait until the red light stops flashing and goes back to solid green. That is how you know everything recorded fine and it is ready to record again. I have recorded a large amount of clips and only had one get corrupt upon inspection on my computer. That is a very good success rate and honestly it may have been my fault the one clip was corrupt as I was recording a lot of small clips really fast that day.
How good do recordings look?
Now onto probably the most important part. How well does it record? As I mentioned earlier it can record up to 1080p HD at 30fps or 1080p at 60fps if you are recording to a PC and have the latest software installed (from what I hear as I haven’t tried on PC). One question a lot of people ask is about the bitrate and if it can be changed? Bitrate is basically the quality of the recording. If you are using a PC yes, you can change the bitrate using the supplied program, but if just using the USB method you can not. I personally think the recordings look good, but not great with standard settings. To be fair I am playing the video game on a 1080 TV and then moving the footage to edit on a mac with a 4k display. Nothing looks that great on it due to the much higher resolution unless the video is in 4k. When viewed later on different displays it usually looks much better. Especially if viewed on a normal TV. Then it looks just like you were playing the game only a tiny bit choppier due to the 30fps as most games are at least 60fps.
The two games I have recorded a lot of are Grand Theft Auto 5 and Gran Turismo 6. Each game you record will have a different resolution and different fps for that game. That means the recording will be different as well since it can only record to the max output of the game. GTA 5 has a max of 720p resolution on PS3, but GT6 outputs full 1080p. What is interesting is when I record GTA 5 footage it’s the full screen with no issues, but when I record GT6 it adds a little black boarder all around the footage which needs to be cropped out later. I do not know why this is, but something worth noting. Again if you are editing the footage after who cares, just crop it, but if you aren’t your footage may have a small black box around it.
One con about the device is the way it records audio. It is always super low. So far all my recordings are clear and synced properly, but the sound is just low. I have to boost it a lot in editing software later. Not the biggest deal, but I wish it would record at much higher levels. Little things like this are the reason I suggest all of you edit your footage afterwards. It will look much better and just look more professional to all the people watching it. Also how many big YouTube stars upload raw unedited footage anyways?
This section I would talk about live streaming with it, but I have a mac and have not been able to try it out. From other reviews I have read everyone has said it works fine and is just as easy as a normal recording. It’s pretty much the same setup as with using USB only run the wires to your computer and use the supplied software. I have seen the software they give you to be able to do this and while it looks a little intimidating to start once you do a few live streams it will become second nature and be easy.
The good about live streaming or just recording to a PC is the Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket is the video encoder. That means you don’t need that great of a computer to capture video. Many other gaming PVR’s out there must use a computer and the computer specs has to be fairly good. For the Rocket to work all you need is a Laptop or desktop PC with 3.0 GHz single core or 2.0 GHz multi-core processor, 512 MB RAM, Graphics card with 256 MB memory, 220 MB free hard disk space, and can even use an old operating system like Windows XP Service Pack 3. By no means modern specs and there is a good chance the old computer in your house can handle it.
Overall I am very happy I purchased the HD PVR Rocket over the competition. It fit my needs perfectly. The other great part about the Rocket is the price. For me it was the cheapest recorder you can buy. The Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket on Amazon is it almost half the price of the main competition. All these features plus cheap is a win in my books. Of course if you have a computer next to your gaming system and never plan on moving you might want to check out one of the Top 8 video recorders too. Hopefully this article gave you some helpful information on whether or not you should purchase a HD PVR Rocket and I’ll leave you with a bigger production video I made using it.
Just one final note is please pay attention to any other reviews you may see on Amazon or anywhere else. Check the date of their post as many issues people had have been taken care of with the latest software updates. Also Amazon in particular for unknown reasons has grouped all there reviews for Hauppauge’s products together.