Software Analysis

As mentioned earlier, an OEM version of Arcsoft’s ShowBiz comes with the Colossus, providing a good way for capturing non-TV based content. Features such as automated Electronic Program Guide (EPG) based recording, conflict resolution, and tuner selection found on modern DVRs are not included in the product. It can capture in a variety of different formats depending on need including TS, M2TS and MP4. The device’s HDMI and component + TOSLINK inputs are the most compelling, since they provide the most capability. Should other inputs be required, the table below summarizes the supported audio/video input mappings. There’s not much to say, but more flexibility when matching the optical input to analog inputs would be ideal. UPDATE: Hauppauge heard our feedback and updated the device to allow for much greater flexibility in an updated driver (29111).  With the updated driver, any audio/video input (with the exception of HDMI audio) can be mapped with any other input.

Input Matrix
  HDMI TOSLINK (S/PDIF) Analog Line In Auxiliary Line In
HDMI X X** X** X**
Component (YPbPr)   X X X**
Composite (blue input)   X** X X**
Auxiliary Composite*   X** X** X
Auxiliary S-Video*   X** X** X

* - Requires additional daughter card (not included)
** -
29111+

For those planning to use the Colossus on Windows XP or Vista outside of ShowBiz, it is important to note that globally registered DirectShow filters are not provided. This is a change for the version of Total Media Theatre bundled with the original HD PVR. Windows 7 includes support for H.264/AVC (and AAC, if encoding PCM audio with the device), so this is not an issue on that platform. It might be possible to use the “checkactivate hack” to work around this issue and provide support in third-party applications, but I did not test it.

For what it does, ShowBiz provides a good solution for encoding audio and video with the Colossus. Unfortunately, it does not enable the more interesting use case (i.e. recording HD cable/satellite content at native resolution) with a reasonable degree of usability, nor does it provide the codecs necessary to consume the content produced by the device in a friendlier environment. As such, I question the value of the software for those who will use the Colossus with other software, and again would like to see Hauppauge offer a barebones version of the card without ShowBiz.

Currently, SageTV (shown above with Sage Diamond Theme) is the only HTPC DVR product with native Colossus support. It is possible to use the device in Windows Media Center via a third party product, and native driver support is supposed to be coming soon. Since neither is official yet, and they should be functionally equivalent (more on this later) to the capture capability provided, we will use SageTV as a proxy for the “recording TV” scenario.

The input matrix is a limitation of the device, so it is consistent across capture applications with a simplified set of the same options observed in ShowBiz also presented by SageTV. Like the original HD PVR, the Colossus preserves the native format of encoded audio (i.e. Dolby Digital is stored as Dolby Digital), but currently encodes uncompressed audio (PCM) as AAC with video content encoded to AVC (H.264) in the native resolution and frame rate. We tested both HDMI and Component + SPDIF as they provide the most flexibility for capturing 480i (720x480@29.97 FPS), 720p (1280x720@59.94 FPS), and 1080i (1920x1080@29.97 FPS) video with analog, Dolby Pro Logic (two channels), or Dolby Digital (5.1 channels) audio.

Getting to Know the Colossus Testing and Evaluation
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  • babgvant - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    The initial firmware revs did not enable tuner sharing, but the current revs do. DCT are UPnP + RTP devices so network based streaming is how they work; just need to bridge the card with the PC's NIC and it should be discoverable to any machine on the same subnet. Reply
  • dagamer34 - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    They've only recently been available with decent stock, in fact Amazon just put a page up for them today. Reply
  • Anthony Toste - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    Frist your cable need be copy-freely flags good luck that not going to last long and MCE is use less any way with all DRM junk it has.
    "extender functionality, you're willing to use an Xbox 360"
    Don't you still have buy the Membership for that work beside there no PC MCE Client that why SageTV Rule's and SageTV Extender Rules for NoN Console user.
    Reply
  • babgvant - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    I don't agree with that. Ceton got Cable Labs to clarify/change the rules on Copy Freely content specifically to enable that scenario. Obviously they know about the use case, and opted to do the right thing for end users (I know it's strange :)). Reply
  • Anthony Toste - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    Your forget that it not up to Cable Labs it the Studio and some of the Distributed that got the rigths to shows or moive that have the final say so. Reply
  • babgvant - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    Cable Labs owns the DRI specification; content producers have a say, but only cursorily - currently it is up to the Cable company to mark/not mark content.

    It would be one thing to exploit a loop hole but the use case is known, and has an explicit OK from Cable Labs. I don't see how you (or anyone) can make statements like "good luck that not going to last long".
    Reply
  • glugglug - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    There's no membership needed for using an XBOX as an extender. And the DRM won't limit your extender use. The Ceton with MCE really is by far the best option out there. Reply
  • babgvant - Wednesday, April 20, 2011 - link

    The 360 is a good extender device for TV based content, but once you move beyond that its support for other formats (DVD, BD, MKV, etc.) is very limited. Reply
  • glugglug - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    Actually, FIOS is even better for it than cable for most CableCARDS. Unlike TWC, they don't require a truck roll to deliver the cablecard (you can pick it up at a payment center), nothing but premium channels ends up with DRM in the recordings, and in most areas the CableCARD from FIOS doesn't even need to be paired, so you can move it between devices without a phone call. Reply
  • jonp - Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - link

    I think your point on cablecard is well taken. Since all HD content on cable requires a cablecard (I think--yes?), what good is a tuner without cablecard capability for the 60% or so of TVs connected to cable? Reply

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