It's been a while since I bought a VGA cable so that I could play my Wii on a PC monitor. But now that I've bought myself a PS3, that cable wasn't going to work so I decided to go for an HD capture card - AverTV CaptureHD H727.
This is about double the price of a dedicated converter and it also means you'll need to keep the PC turned on when playing but, as it allows you to watch digital TV, listen to radio and capture from any video device including the latest HDMI with this card it should prove to be better value in the long run.
As you can see, it comes with an antenna for the radio, an Infra-red receiver and even a TV remote. It has plenty of inputs.
You'll either have to buy your own aerial or have the PC close to an aerial socket if you really want to watch TV. Also bare in mind you still need to buy a TV license in the UK even if you don't have a proper TV but is using this hardware to receive signals.
HDMI video capture cards are very few in availability at the moment and only works with modern PCI-Express slots. You will probably want to make sure you have an ATX (i.e. full sized tower) motherboard because most likely, your only PCI-E slot on the medium sized ATX boards will be blocked by today's giant modern graphics cards.
Installing the card into the PC is as simple as with any other hardware these days but getting it running was a different matter.
On my Windows 7 64 bit machine, I had a "PCI to PCI Bridge" error showing in the device manager, claiming it didn't have enough resources to run the card. After a quick browse around the internet, I found out this was a motherboard problem and that there might be a new BIOS update that would fix the problem.
Sure enough, I found a new BIOS that fixed this particular error and the card was detected.
However, the problems didn't stop there. Once I plugged in the PS3 via an HDMI cable and had it set to 1080i, the picture in the AverMedia Centre software kept blinking so badly, games were just unplayable. In the end, I went to the website and downloaded the latest version of the software and this fixed the problem.
If your AverMedia video input is flickering rapidly such that it is showing old images and not refreshing properly, you either have a software or hardware conflict.
Lets go with the easiest diagnostic first - software conflicts. For some reason, AverMedia Centre makes use of Windows Media Player to display video so, if you currently use any other software as your default video player, you might want to try uninstalling that. I had Media Player Classic associated with all files and after uninstalling it, the video output was working fine again. If you really want, you can re-install MPC afterwards and play with the file associations and codecs to see what was causing the conflict.
You should also check there aren't any problems with your Nvidia card drivers and files if you're using any. At one point, the images just started flickering again after I terminated the update process for some reason...
If you're still having problems, you might be having some magnetic interference from other hardware such as a soundcard wire touching the AverMedia card, another expansion card installed too close or wireless signals nearby.
With everything running smoothly. I could plug in any console and play it inside a window or full screen on my PC. In this case, I had the PS3 running in 1080i mode with an HDMI cable and because my monitor is a 16:10 ratio not 16:9, you can see black borders.
Unfortunately, this card doesn't have hardware support for decoding surround sound formats such as DTS so you will still need a proper AV amp to enjoy a cinematic experience.
Video capture works great with very much all video connections out and here's one recorded using the AV composite cable that comes with the PS3 (which is very low resolution, 576i) just to show this card working.
You will have problems with any HDMI that has HDCP encryption on it such as the PS3 although you can get round it by using some other software such as FRAPS or just buy a component video cable. If you are planning to do some 720p or 1080i video editing then be prepared to lose gigabytes of space in no time and have a fairly fast machine to process them!
Screenshots on the other hand works fine as long as you're not trying to freeze action. They stay at the input resolution and you can save in the usual formats such as JPG, BMP, PNG etc.
The AverTV CaptureHD H747 proves to do what it was designed to - Letting you capture video from various inputs and this should prove more value for money if you're thinking about using your PC monitor for gaming and usually have your machine on a lot anyway.
However, if you're not too comfortable installing hardware or don't want to have the PC on at the same time to play your console, the dedicated converter cables maybe the better option for you.
You could always just buy a small HDTV for this price too of course.
- Supports all current video inputs including HDMI 1080i with HDCP encryption support.
- Works with PS3, Xbox360, Wii and lets you run in full screen or window modes.
- Lets you use your PC while playing o you can multitask to view guides, chat etc.
- No hardware decoding support for surround sound formats such as DTS.
- Can take some time to set up depending on the system.