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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  • 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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