Getting to Know the Colossus

When Hauppauge introduced the original HD PVR in 2008 its component plus TOSLINK (optical S/PDIF) capture of 5.1 Dolby Digital and up to 1080i analog video was a revolutionary, and long overdue, shift for the home theater PC (HTPC) based digital video recorder (DVR). Finally there was a viable option for recording DRM-free high definition (HD) content. The device was far from perfect however, suffering from stability (I RMA’d four personally); furthermore, as a large external USB device, it didn’t provide the most appealing form factor for many installations. Today we’re looking at Hauppauge’s second iteration of the HD PVR concept, this time as a standard height PCIe x1 device dubbed Colossus. It offers all of the previous capture options while adding HDMI input to the feature list.

Hardware

The single slot, full height PCIe x1 card has a simple layout with all of the components exposed. There is not much to point out besides the lack of any cooling on the ViXS encoding chip and the presence of Hauppauge’s standard analog connection header along the top. To utilize the auxiliary inputs a daughter card (not included with the Colossus) is required. I have one in the parts bin so it was possible to test the feature, which adds s-video and a second composite/stereo capture option to the options provided directly on the device.

Looking at the native inputs we find HDMI, two breakout connectors for component (YPbPr) / stereo audio, two TOSLINK (optical S/PDIF), and a port to attach the infrared (IR) receiver/blaster. The top breakout/TOSLINK combo provides input and the bottom output for audio/video pass through anytime the PC is powered including standby (S3), hibernate (S4) and soft-off (S5) states. HDMI is the most interesting not only because it is new, but because of the usage scenarios it could enable were the full capabilities of the connection provided. Unfortunately (and understandably due to legal and licensing issues), this is not the case; instead, the HDMI input provides the same feature set as component plus TOSLINK (up to 1080i and Dolby Digital support). Most important, there’s no support for High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP), so HDMI capture will not work with devices that require it.

In practice, the HDMI link did record most channels/programs from the cable STB (Set-Top Box), but it was not 100% reliable as some files had no audio or video—I assume because HDCP was active in those cases. I did not notice a significant difference between HDMI and component output from the RNG 110 (using Comcast in Chicago), but results will vary between STB and providers so it is worth an attempt if the box has an HDMI output, because the streams will skip a digital to analog conversion.

There’s plenty in the package besides the card; you get a remote with IR hardware and batteries, two breakout dongles, analog audio/video cables, a driver CD (not shown), and some “value-add” software including a copy of Arcsoft ShowBiz. One of the applications Hauppauge provides with the Colossus is a system tray application that drives the IR receiver and blaster, but compatibly with other software products is very limited for the remote and changing channels with the included device is very clunky. Only one blaster is supported per PC, there’s limited set top box compatibility (none of the Pace profiles worked with the RNG110 used in this evaluation), and we experienced general stability issues both with the system tray executable and IR blasting in general.

All of this led us to a cursory evaluation of the remote. For those using this—or any STB based capture device—options like FireWire, serial, or Ethernet based channel changing are much better options. I would prefer an OEM/bare version of the card with just the dongles for those planning to use it with SageTV (or when drivers are available, Windows Media Center), passing the savings for unnecessary hardware and software to end users. The current package starts at $139 online, so removing the frills should get the Colossus down to $100 or less.

Software Analysis
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  • Anthony Toste - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    That wrong
    Are you cry about lack 64bit drivers for old 250/350 well that not possable you see the can't fix after all it frist made in 2001/2 by iCompression know as iTVC15 which I think is base on 16/32bit hardware so there for Windows 64bit OS will not work
    Oh think Hauppauge has a proven history of not supporting their equipment boy you should look at all other capture device out there which are far woste then Hauppauge.
    Reply
  • silverblue - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    AverMedia's support isn't the best either. I got a Nicam Stereo TV capture card in 2004 which was then not supported in Vista. Perhaps I should've spent more, however I was eager not to get something priced far more that offered basically the same (i.e. Hauppauge).

    My AverTV Studio203 is sat in my PC doing nothing as there's no drivers for it, nor was there a new version released after I bought it... shame. Not a stunning card, all things considered, but decent capture cards aren't exactly two a penny, and spending money unnecessarily isn't my cup of tea.
    Reply
  • silverblue - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    I'll rephrase that... I bought a card in 2004 which suddenly became unsupported, so there were no new drivers for it even before Vista came out. It's actually one of my reasons for not migrating to Windows 7 before now, believe it or not. Reply
  • djfourmoney - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    I am targeting this. Finally a card I can use with DirecTV HD box! My lack of money and employment will prevent me from being an early adopter, which is fine. I can wait for the kinks to be sorted out before purchase.

    I also agree that a "White Box" version of the card would be welcomed with a reduced price especially if your going to using it with Sage TV or Windows Media Center.

    HDMI to HDMI will completely simplify my HTPC setup, though I would still use DV-I (or VGA) for Video and Toslink for audio out to my HT in-a-box.

    Reply
  • digitalgriffin - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    After buying two different versions of their cards, and FIGHTING continously with the drivers, and inconsistent driver updates and locations, I threw them in the trash as a lesson learned. They NEVER fixed their drivers properly.

    Their reputation is permenantly damaged with me. And this article just renforces how they really don't care about creating a stable product.

    Consider the Hauppage driver quality to be as bad, and always as bad as the ATI Rage days.
    Reply
  • Golgatha - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    They have good long term support, but I will agree that their software bundles and drivers are just awful. Reply
  • chasmetz - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    MediaPortal will support the Colossus in the upcoming 1.2 Beta -> http://forum.team-mediaportal.com/mediaportal-1-ta... Reply
  • bwooster0 - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    I had a problem with an HD-PVR that was out of warranty and they fixed it and sent it back to me for free.

    I am using two Colossus cards. One in an Win 7 box and one in an XP box. They are both working fine but the XP box is doing a better job of recording SD stuff (this might be a sat box set up issue)

    There support has been good for me.
    Reply
  • Sivar - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    I've been looking for a good TV card. Hopefully the BSODs are just immature drivers.

    It is a bit ironic to use a poor image format for the pictures in an article which discusses image quality in a product. You may find this OSS program useful: It helps choose an appropriate image format for best quality at a given size. http://code.google.com/p/imageguide/
    For screen captures, JPG is not it.
    Reply
  • rcpinheiro - Saturday, April 16, 2011 - link

    Any news about the strippers? ;-)
    Obviously, I mean the HDCP strippers that many expected to appear right after the master key was revealed?
    Reply

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