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Hauppauge PVR 1212- The Ultimate Media Center Companion

9487 Views 16 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  redmosquito
I generally don't give out praises like 'Ultimate' to much of anything. For instance there is no one single 'king' or 'ultimate' media center setup or component. Each has their pros and cons and flaws. Each also has a loyal fan base that will tell you one is far superior to whatever you have or like. That's okay... maybe a particular unit does what they want better than the others, but it may not do what you want the best. Hence why I say each are good but none are the 'ultimate'.

We're not talking about media players though, but a device that is truly the ultimate companion device for virtually all media centers. It is the Hauppauge PVR 1212.

What makes this so special and why does it earn the title I bestowed upon it? It does what no other device out there can. It will record everything from your cable or satellite box in up to full 1080 resolution, and... get ready for this... with full Dolby 5.1 surround.

When I say it records everything, that isn't me whistling Dixie. This will record things you can't even record to your cable provided DVR. Things such as Pay Per View movies and events as well as on demand programming. It even comes with software to schedule recordings on a timer as well as a easy and slick DVD authoring program that allows you to create professional looking disc menus and you can even burn ACHD on a single or dual layer DVD and have High Def play back in your bluray player. Or you can stream it to your favorite media center.

For years my brother has been telling me to buy a DVD burner for my HT setup, and for years I have been baulking at the thought. Why? Well the thought of only being able to record via SVideo at best and only two channel audio just wasn't appealing to me and I couldn't justify the price. While I was down visiting him he showed me a link to this little gem, and I couldn't pass it up.

I got mine for $173 shipped, so definitely look around and search for discount coupons because the average going price for this is $229 without shipping.

Installation of the software is straight forward, but there are some quirks that I will explain.


Knowing I was getting this unit, I went to my cable company and traded in my standard def cable box in my bedroom/computer area for a high def Scientific Atlanta 8300HDC just like I have down stairs in my HT room. The first 'quirk' I ran into was I rushed and plugged everything in and then turned on my 720p LCD and cable box and I saw and heard nothing. There was a constant 'snapping' sound coming from my AV receiver. A quick check at Hauppauge's site and FAQs told me that you have to setup the software on your PC for the right audio inputs, in this case SPDIF. Once I set that the audio came right through, but no picture. That was also a quick fix, and not a problem with the PVR 1212. I bought component cables from MonoPrice and basically... I am throwing them out. The cable gauge is great, but the plugs are not tight and easily slip off the connectors. I originally didn't want to use the cables that Hauppauge provided because they were longer than I needed, but they are very good quality and fit snug.

I was now up and running and able to see and hear everything on my LCD HDTV as well as in the recording software window on my PC's LCD HDTV monitor. It was time for a test.

I fired up the cable box and went to an on demand channel and selected a show. For this test I didn't do anything fancy or test the scheduler, it was a simple queue up the program on the cable box and them hit record on the PC software. Just like the old days of using a VCR ;)

My first run failed. Around 40 minutes into the recording I blue screened with a message one of my quad core cpu's took a dump. This is most likely my fault because I tend to use my system pretty heavy and once I rebooted my system and brought it up clean (verses being up for a week with whatever pgm remnants were hanging around in memory) it ran through flawlessly.

Video quality is pretty much what you see is what you get. If your cable channel doesn't look good on your HDTV, that's what your recording will look like. Garbage in, garbage out. Just pick a clean channel, or better yet an HD channel if it's available and you will be blown away by the recorded image and 5.1 surround sound! Like I said, nothing else out there does what this unit does. At least nothing on the consumer market and for this price.

Cons... Okay, I recorded an episode of Band of Brothers. Episode 1 tagged in at 4.92GB. The video quality is outstanding, but the actual DVD does look better, but not by leaps and bounds. So yes you won't get the best PQ compared to a professionally made commercial DVD, but cable/satellite never was as good as DVD or BD. Even cable/satellite HD content as good as it looks compared to regular channels isn't as good as a commercial BD.

We're not talking about doing what you can buy though. There are tons of classic TV and shows that are not available on DVD, and may never be released. Up until now the only options were to record it to your tiny cable box DVR hard drive, or send it to a DVD recorder, but only via SVideo and two channel audio. The PQ loss going from component or HDMI to composite or SVID is pretty dramatic. Now you don't have to deal with that.

The PVR 1212 has component in and component out, as well as SPDIF in/out. You can also connect composite or SVideo and use two channel RCA audio, but why? The other potential 'con' is that the unit does not pass through audio or video if the unit is off. That means if you have it setup in a room where you will be watching TV when you are not recording, you have to turn the 1212 on in order to just watch TV... even on your HDTV. You can get around this by using a switch box though.

All in all I am extremely impressed and I have just got it setup. It records in either M2TS or TS, and any media server worth it's salt can handle either of those formats.

This is definitely a :5stars::5stars: rating
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Our Dish Network VIP722 records HD and will record anything showing... actually it will record two of any HD shows.

How big is the hard drive on this unit?
As I understand it right now, this device doesn't contain a hard drive; it hooks to a PC via USB and the recording is done on the PC's hard drives.

I notice some add copy that states
"Blu-ray format AVCHD recordings, so you can burn your TV recordings onto a standard DVD disk (up to 2 hours of video at 5MBits/sec) and playback on Blu-ray DVD players"

This sounds like a sweet deal! BD without needing a BD burner! Or am I misunderstanding something.:scratchhead:
Our Dish Network VIP722 records HD and will record anything showing... actually it will record two of any HD shows.

How big is the hard drive on this unit?
I'm not familiar with the VIP722, but it sounds like the 8300HDC. Is the VIP722 a satellite receiever/DVR combo box or can it be used with any source?

What sets the PVR1212 apart is it can be used with cable/satellite or any source, and if the VIP722 is like my cable box DVR, you can record premium channels to the internal hard drive, but you can't record On Demand or pay perview programming to the drive. The other thing I don't like about the 8300HDC is that the drive is married to the unit. Yes you can add an external drive for increased storage, but if your cable box ever dies, or even if it's fine and the cable company upgrades boxes and replaces yours- you just lost everything. The shows on the external drive won't play on a different box, and everything on the internal drive will be gone with the old box.

There is no hard drive in the PVR1212. It connects to your PC visa a USB cable and stores the shows on your PC's hard drives. In that sense you have virtually unlimited storage. If you run out, just add another drive (internal or external).

Where this really shines is for things that aren't out on disc. For example my brother is a huge western fan and is currently doing the Cheyenne TV series to put on his WDTV. The current proccess is to use his 8300 to schedule each show and record it. Then he plays it back and records it to DVD on his DVD recorder. Then we took them from the DVD and put them on a Western Digital My Book, which he can now hook up to his WDTV.

Problems with that... The PQ on the 8300's hard drive copy looks great, but the the DVD burner only has composite and SVID inputs. In this case the two channel audio isn't a problem because the original TV show wasn't done in 5.1. PQ takes a big hit though.

The PVR 1212 won't have that issue because it connects to the component out of your cable or satellite box. Granted this isn't HDMI, but it's as close as I've seen to being the ideal media recorder. The process now would be- setup the scheduler, the PVR records to your PC drive, then just move the episodes to the appropriate drive/folder for the WDTV drive.

I forgot to add the PC system requirements. Keep in mind their specs are for play back of high def content, you can actually use the PVR to record media and then play it back through a media device like the PCH, WDTV, PS3, or HTPC...

System Requirements
Processor Requirements (minimum): Dual core CPU
Graphics with 256MB memory (or greater)
Note: the playback of high definition H.264 requires a fast CPU and at least 256MB of graphics memory
Sound card.

I am trying very hard not to geek out and sound like a fan boy about the PVR 1212. I listed its flaws, and will list any others I encounter as I get familiar with it. Right now though it is doing things that I have been wanting to do for ten plus years and just couldn't because there wasn't anything out there that could do it. Yes I could use my 8300HDC, but now I can watch what I record on any set in my house by simply taking a DVD to that set and player (or stream or whatever your personal preference is).

Oh... another con I guess... I know I will have to buy more hard drives now! :)
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This sounds like a sweet deal! BD without needing a BD burner! Or am I misunderstanding something.:scratchhead:
That's the claim. You can make a high definition ACHD disc on a single layer or dual layer DVD. Nero will also do this so it's not something new, just that now a person can capture in high def and make their disc all with the same hardware/software suite. Keep in mind that an ACHD disc won't play in a regular DVD player... you'll need a Bluray player or convert the video to regular DVD file format and then make an SDVD and it will play in any player, just not in HD.

I am skeptical about the 'BD' quality. There is just no way it is going to look as good as a dual layer BD with a 40GB video master on it... but it should look much better than a regular DVD. One hour takes up around 4GB of disc space.
Interesting that this little gem of a device hasn't gotten more interest on here than this.

Right now I'm laid up and part of my recovery is that I basically can't do anything! Not allowed to lift anything heavier than 5lbs, and EVERYTHING weighs at least 5lbs! Anyway, besides lots of walking I have been using the Hauppauge 1212 quite a bit and I think I am more impressed with it now than when I first got it.

As I mentioned earlier, video quality is the best you can get right now from a cable/satellite DVR to your PC. The audio in 5.1 is the main thing that sold me on this, but I am very impressed with the video as well.

My brother captured the complete Cheyenne TV series on his DVR and then to DVD with a DVD recorder. He was restricted to composite video and RCA stereo audio (which really doesn't matter since this is a 1950's TV show in the first place). I saved the series to my 8300HDC HD DVR. The DVR is connected to the Hauppauge 1212 via component video and toshlink. The difference in video quality from what he was able to get to disc and what I have is night and day.

Pretty much here's the rule of thumb, garbage in = garbage out. With the Hauppauge you'll get whatever quality you see on your cable/satellite box and HDTV setup. With that said, let's talk about High Def recording.

Aside from being able to archive TV series that aren't available on DVD, and in the best quality possible, now you can archive even HD content (or On Demand/PPV which most cable DVRs will not record). I know- some of you may be saying 'But Why? Just keep things on the DVR.' True, but DVRs have limited storage. You can add one additional external drive to some DVRs, but not all. Even the ones that are capable of utilizing an external drive have some very major draw backs as far as a media server setup.

The biggest problem is that the drive is 'married' to the DVR. What that means is you can't connect the drive to a PC, or other media device. That doesn't sound like such a big deal since the cable box DVR will playback the movies, but what happens if your cable box goes out on you or if the cable company upgrades units? None of the movies saved on the external drive will work with the new cable box DVR.

Right now I have 24 HD movies archived from various HD channels. File size is from 6GB to just over 10GB in size and mainly depends on how long the movie is. This really amazed me because some of the movies were no bigger than a good transfer on SDVD, but they do look better. High Def cable still isn't anywhere close to the image from a top quality mastered Bluray disc, but it is still better than standard definition DVD. 24 HD movies- only 170GB of drive space used on one of my Terabyte drives!

One of the things I am going to test is hooking my High Def DVD players up to the Hauppauge. I know it will work, the question is will the image quality be as good. My bet is no because I just can't see a 6-10GB file looking as good as a 40GB file. Right now for disc content I use AnyDVD HD to archive those to hard drives for my media server, but if the image quality looks the same though the Hauppauge and the file sizes are smaller... well that's the route I will be going even with disc content.

The weakest link has to be the software. Right now everything I do is done manually, meaning I hit start and stop. I haven't played around with the auto timer. The AVCHD software does work and allows you to create a functional AVCHD disc with custom menus, but it is very limited in features and editing ability.

For anyone with a media server or media device, I highly recommend the Hauppauge 1212. There simply is nothing else out there that can do what this device does... at least not at this price, or even three times the price for that matter.
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This is on my wish list for Christmas. Any clue on where to purchase it close to the deal that you got? PM me with the info or just pass a long a hint.

BTW, have you run into any heat issues? There is a blog where a guy made a fan mod that doesn't require cutting up the box or void the warranty.
I got mine from Dell of all places.

Do a Google search for PVR 1212 coupons or discounts.

I saw the fan mod too but I haven't had a single issue with it overheating. Every now and then my system does freeze on me, but it's usually when my PC has been on for a couple of weeks straight. Overall I still give it more than a passing grade :)

One thing it can't do is bitstream, but the only need I have for that is when I tried hooking up my HD DVD player to it so I could put my HD DVD titles over to my media drives. From the Scientific Atlanta 8300HD it does record 1080 and 5.1 audio!

I think a lot of people may not understand what this is and does. My brother has a DVD Recorder in his HT setup but the best it can do is to record SVideo and 2channel audio from stereo RCA plugs. Sure a person can just use a DVR like the 8300HDC or whatever make/model their local cable company/satellite company provides, but they are have small internal hard drives in them that fill up fast. With the Hauppauge PVR 1212 you don't have to worry about HD space, just add another drive when needed!

All I PVR is HD cable content and TV series that aren't available on DVD. I'm up to 93 HD movies now on a 1 Terabyte drive! I also raised the capture bit rate up to 13MBps.

I still have a complaint about cable's version of HD. The other day I saw a movie they were playing on one of their HD channels and it was in 4:3 format with 2ch sound, and they were calling that high def! So some things look really good and others look like upconverted DVD content.

After Christmas I will be building a 20GB video server and have every room in the house wired to it. :)
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Wow. I gotta upgrade my computer stuff- video server? I neither have a blu ray, nor cable tv service, but receive netflix. I used to use an old vcr to record shows, but it has finally become a pain. I'd like to be able to watch a show and record another, or record two simultaneous shows, will this fit the bill? Is this really what the best device currently because a christmas gift dvr would be perfect.
No you don't have to build a video server, I'm going to is what I mean!

There are some minimum system requirements for the PVR 1212 though, make sure to check them out. Primarily they are for playback (if you are going to watch the movies on your PC). Supposedly you can still PVR everything with a less robust PC. I haven't tried it with my other PCs though so I can't say for sure.
Would it be a problem to run the Hauppauge in my in-wall rack as shown in my linked thread, with the computer (harddrive) in the adjacent room? I have the computer near the door, to the right in the picture. I can run cables in the attic ~40ft, if there isn't a problem. What I can't tell is if I will be able to record hd from over-the-air hd from my antenna as I don't see an antenna connection and don't know how that would work...
Yes you could run it from your rack, just make sure you have a good quality USB cable.

As far as the HD over the air antenna, no you can't connect it directly to the PVR1212, it isn't a tuner. If you have a tuner you use you can connect that to the PVR1212 and then record anything off the air you can get.

Basically the PVR 1212 will record from any output device you can connect to it... cable box, VCR, DVD Player... the only downfall is it doesn't have HDMI but I think if it did then the studios would have stepped in and stopped this thing from being sold. As is I am amazed it is available.
Hmm, I don't think the output from my cheezy dtv box has a component out, so I don't think that will work well. I might have to find another dtv box...or maybe a computer dtv card?
Well I just filled a 1TB drive! 105 HD Flicks! :)

The latest was the Man with No Name trilogy from MGMHD channel.

One thing that really bugs me and this isn't a problem with the PVR 1212, it's the cable company- Most of what they call HD isn't close to High Def. Or the PQ looks great but the audio is only 2channel stereo not 5.1. I believe they do this to seperate broadcast HD from Bluray content.

It really is a shame because there is no reason to short change people like that. Even the best cable HD doesn't look as good as the best BD transfer. So they really don't have anything to worry about.
Yes you could run it from your rack, just make sure you have a good quality USB cable.
I was looking into a similar install and apparently there is a 15' limit to USB cable lengths, unless you periodically install hubs.

FYI, I found this solution at monoprice, but have not tried it:

Ooops, need to have 5 posts to include a link... just search for product 6042 at monoprice.
Yes a shameless bump!

I am truly suprised that people have not embraced this little gem!

It is the ONLY device I have run across that will record 1080 resolution along with 5.1 audio! Most devices at best utilize an SVID connector with only a stereo L/R audio connection. You simply cannot record HD and 5.1 on anything else other than the PVR-1212. Well... not without spending ten fold the price for pro gear.

My Media Server is loaded with HD content from the PVR 1212, and I replace it when the Bluray version comes out... if it ever comes out on Bluray in HD. Some movies/series are not available on HD in any format other than cable or satellite broadcast.

I really feel that for $200 people that want to compile an HD archive, they can't go wrong. I have been using mine for over a year now without a single problem. I have well over 250 HD flicks from the PVR and they all play flawlessly and are all 5.1 surround... Give it a second look, or a first look if you missed this thread the first time around :)
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This has been a very informative post

Since you haven’t posted any updates to this post in a few months, I was wondering if you still used the 1212. Is there any newer model available or any other better product or this one still holds as the best option?

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