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AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable Review November 5, 2013

Posted by Maniac in Reviews.
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I’ll be the first person to admit it took this site far too long to obtain our own video game capture device.  There were a myriad of excuses I could give you as to why we waited two years, with cost and technical limitations being the biggest factors.  The truth is I was just simply unimpressed by most of the game capture devices that were available at market.  I’ve been able to shoot video in 1080p for well over three years, I’ve owned several different HDTVs for the past seven years, and yet when this site started out in the year 2010, most of the game capture devices I saw on the market couldn’t even capture in HD!  I knew that a capture device was a big investment and if I was going to get one to use for this site, it had to meet all the requirements I had for it, high as they may be.

I wanted a capture device that could capture in HD (720p and 1080p), be able to function independently of a PC either through the use of a Hard Drive or Memory Card for storage, and be able to capture game footage using either component video or HDMI.  Sadly, no device on the market at the time could meet those standards, so instead of buying something in the interim I decided to wait.

Earlier this year, I heard about the AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable.  It had EVERYTHING I wanted in a capture device.  It was small, it could independently capture video without the need of a PC, but could still capture with a PC if I wanted it to, and it could capture footage in HD through HDMI.  It fit all of the requirements I had for a site capture device.  For a price of less than $200 US, it looked like this would be the best purchase I could do for the site in quite a while, and I immediately put one on order.  I’ve had the capture device for six months, and I believe I have truly used that time to use the device to its fullest potential.  I’ve recorded many hours of content on a wide variety of different platforms, using different resolutions, bitrates and file formats.

So how does the AVermedia Live Gamer Portable hold up?  Lets start from scratch and look at how it’s packaged, shall we?

First off, the first thing you’re going to notice is the device is small.  REALLY small.  Heck, I would love to be able to take this to the next E3 and plug this into a development kit before playing the latest early game demos.  In fact it comes with a travel case in the package so you can bring the LGP anywhere you want.  I’m sure I wouldn’t be allowed to rig it up on any demo units, but I would certainly ask if I could.  Anyone able to use something like this at E3 would get a lot better video quality than if they had recorded a video of the demo offscreen using a 1080p video camera.

The LGP is so simple to use.  You do need to have a Class 10 or faster SDHC card formatted to FAT32 in order to make use of the PC-free capabilities of the device, but cards that fit those specifications are so unbearably cheap right now it isn’t an issue.  I was able to get my hands on a 32GB SanDisk SDHC card which could capture at 45 Mb/s for under $30 US on Amazon.  All I had to do was insert it into the LGP’s card slot and flick a switch in the front of the device.  The LGP has clear visual cues to let the user know which mode it is in.  If it’s in PC-mode, the lights will be a solid blue.  PC-free mode lights are solid red.  If you want to start recording, just push the single button on top of the device, and tap it again when you want the recording to stop.  When recording, the device pulses red, and if there’s an issue with the device, like it can’t record due to HDCP encryption, it has a very distinctive red and blue light flash to warn you something is wrong.  Otherwise it will pulse and record your video content quietly in the background while you play your games.  If a video it is capturing happens to hit the FAT32 file size limit, it will automatically create a new video file and continue recording on its own.

Without using a computer, on the default firmware, the LGP will capture video in 720p at 60 frames.  If you are able to upgrade your device’s firmware to the most recent version, you can enable 1080p recording at several different bitrates.  Take a look at the video below to see the picture quality.

You’ve probably noticed that digitally captured HD content looks near perfect, but there’s a minor bit of noise on any analog captured footage.  Fortunately this is only an issue on the PS3 or any other component connected device.

The LGP outputs PC-free videos in a .ts file format, which is pretty similar to an MPEG compression.  This file format can be read by a pretty wide array of devices, including Sony Blu-Ray Players, although I couldn’t get it to work on my Playstation 3.  I have noticed that Mac editing software has a bit of a problem working with .ts video files, but I’ve had no problems at all being able to view or edit .ts files on my Windows 7 PC.  All I need to do is drop them in my editor and manipulate them as I see fit.  If you prefer using an MP4 format, AVerMedia’s PC tools do provide alternate compression options, and even streaming capabilities, if you prefer to have your game footage streamed live on the web.  I really like all the different options that the AVerMedia RECentral software offer.

So lets move on to some of the issues shall we.  Honestly, I can’t really name that many.  Although the device has given me a few headaches in the six months I’ve owned it, I have been able to fix or discover workarounds for my issues.  Much of the help I’ve gotten with the device has come from the Official AVerMedia Forum (which is currently down), but a lot of the solutions to problems I’ve had with the device were solutions I was able to figure out on my own.

So first off, if you’re having an issue doing a direct video capture for Wii U content, and your device is crashing after about eight or so seconds of video recording, you don’t have a broken device.  For some reason, Nintendo underpowered the Wii U’s USB ports.  Depending on your resolution and local power standards, the Wii U’s USB ports may not meet the minimum power requirements to operate the LGP.  If that happens, simply connect the LGP to a USB port that does, like one on your PC or Xbox 360.

The second problem I had with the device came from whenever AVerMedia updated their software.  I noticed that my PCs would have a bit of an issue loading the device driver for the LGP if I had installed a previous version of the program.  No matter how many times I wiped the old program and reinstalled it and the official driver, Windows just would not recognize the device.  If I couldn’t get Windows to recognize the device, I couldn’t capture longer files using my PC, and I couldn’t update the device’s internal firmware.  After a few months of not being able to capture content with my PC, eventually I figured out some way to force the driver to install.  It turned out I needed to have the device connected to my PC while I ran the device installer.  I don’t know if this was an issue with Windows or the AVerMedia driver, but my PC just would not recognize it until I had the device connected to my PC during the driver installation process.  When the driver installed, Windows finally recognized the device and installed its driver, allowing me to finally be able to use AVerMedia’s RECentral capture program.

Another problem is the LGP can only capture game footage at its native resolutions and is not be able to upsample its content.  So if you happen to have an original Wii and would like to record game content from it, you will notice black bars on the sides of your video.  This is because unfortunately the Nintendo Wii cannot output video content in a native widescreen aspect ratio, and is not an issue with the LGP.  If you want to record Wii game footage on this device, I recommend picking up a Wii U and playing your Wii games on it instead.  The Wii U’s backwards compatibility mode will output Wii games at the proper aspect ratio and they look a lot better in HD.

The final problem with this device lays entirely on Sony.  I’ve already done an entire rant on this issue, so I don’t feel it essential to reprint any of my grievances here, needless to say I do think Sony made a bad decision when they chose to HDCP encrypt game footage on the Playstation 3, as its made any PS3 captured content I’ve done look poorer in quality than it otherwise would had I been able to capture it using HDMI.  However, there is a sad post script to that story I learned after writing that article.  For anyone interested in picking up a Playstation 4 at launch, Sony has said that HDCP encryption will still be in place during the PS4’s launch period, and not even the Day One Firmware will remove it.  Since the PS4 lacks any analog video output capability, that means that the PS4 will not allow separate devices to capture game footage for the time being.  Sony has stated they do intend to reverse this policy, but for now, unless they’re doing a live stream, players will have to do offscreen PS4 lets plays.

So what’s my final verdict?  In short, this device has been a godsend.  It has met all the high requirements I’ve had for a capture device, and costs a hell of a lot less than its competition while offering just as good or better capabilities than everything else on the market.  The fact that it can digitally capture in 1080p through HDMI makes it essential equipment for any PS4 or Xbox One owners, as those consoles lack any analog output capabilities.  If you’re looking for an easy to use convenient device that can meet all of your HD capture requirements in the next console generation, look no further.

Dead Rising 3 Behind the Scenes November 5, 2013

Posted by Maniac in Game News.
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The guys over at GameSpot have produced a fantastic Behind the Scenes documentary for the Xbox One exclusive Dead Rising 3.  Personally, there is no game release higher on my radar than this one, and you need only listen to my podcast on the subject to know why.  Dead Rising 3 is looking to be the major Xbox One exclusive going into the Holiday season.  In it, you fight a zombie outbreak in Southern California.  Armed with only your wits, knowledge of things to build, and whatever materials you can find around you, can you survive?

The video is over 30 minutes long and answers a lot of questions that players may have.  If you’ve been wanting to know what is changing, what kind of boss fights can we expect, and are they going to do away with that crazy time limit, your questions will be answered.  Just give it a watch.

Dead Rising 3 is coming November 22nd, 2013 exclusive to the Xbox One.