I'd been meaning to review one of these cards for a while since even though I have an Elgato game capture HD there were a few small but frustrating issues that kept coming back. Therefore I decided to look for a card that had the capability to record without the use of a PC entirely, since I believed that to be the thing causing the problems in the first place.
Though I had tried getting a review unit from the company themselves, no response was forthcoming. Therefore I resolved to track one down and eventually had to buy one used, as new from Amazon. This process took a while, simply because they seem to be rather thin on the ground. Not only that but they're not cheap, considering the delivery costs are rather substantial on top of the price of the unit itself.
A quick note
As stated above this item is not brand new so the unboxing I provide here will be a brief summary of what the box contains. Any discrepancies should be put down to the item's status as a previously used product regardless of condition.
What comes in the box
One AverMedia Live Gamer Portable (LGP) unit.
One USB to micro USB cable for powering the card
One 3.5 to 3.5 mm audio cable.
One component to proprietary connector cable
One AV to proprietary connector cable for PS3
One (extremely short) HDMI cable
The setup process was remarkably easy. Just download the AverMedia "driver and application", the latest firmware (just in case), the "stream engine" (to allow the device to work with programs like Open Broadcaster Software) and the "ts to MP4 utility" if you're planning on using PC-free mode.
Install the first 3 in the following order:
Plug the LGP into the PC with the supplied USB cable.
Install the application and driver after running the appropriate .Exe file.
Whilst installing, be aware that a windows security dialogue will appear asking if you want to install the software/drivers.
Once that's done, try and install the latest firmware. If nothing appears to happen (the file extracts and then shows what looks like a blank window, press insert b with NVDA to read the whole window. If it says "latest firmware", you should be good to continue.
Now install the stream engine by running the appropriate EXE file. After this, you should be good to go.
As previously discussed, the LGP can capture in 2 separate modes: PC, or PC-free. PC-free uses an SD card (not included), and outputs by default in *.ts files. The PC mode on the other hand is controlled by programs like OBS or the built in ReCentral software (the latter of which is not accessible with screen readers in the slightest). You change the card modes by flicking the switch on the front of the unit itself.
With the SD card slot facing to your right (and the record button facing upwards), the switch when it is to the right indicates PC-free mode and to the left indicates the unit is in PC mode.
PC-free mode is arguably the simpler of the two states the AverMedia Live Gamer Portable can be in. Simply insert the USB cable into a powered port, whether that's a powered wall plug or a laptop/PC connection. Then plug in your HDMI in on the right-hand side and your HDMI out on the left-hand side insert the SD card and you're good to go.
Once all the cables and the SD card are securely in their place, press the large circular record button on the top of the unit. You should feel a fairly solid click on press and release, which indicates that the card is now recording whatever signal is coming through the HDMI/component in port.
Once you're done, simply press the button again, then wait a little while just to be sure and remove the SD card.
Transfer the files over using standard copy/paste and you can do whatever you want with them.
A note about file formats
The PC-free mode, by default, saves in *.ts files. These are not easy to open (they will open in VLC Media Player and not much else from my initial testing). However, AverMedia provide a TS to MP4 utility which converts the files to *.MP4 files. These are easier to open and edit normally, using programs such as Total Recorder Video Pro Edition, or upload straight to Youtube. Youtube doesn't support the TS extension, so you'll have to convert the file first even if it's just the raw footage you want to distribute.
Recording with a PC
Recording with a PC is remarkably similar to the process used with the Elgato Game Capture HD. Make sure the card is in PC mode, enter your stream program of choice (I use OBS since it can stream and record locally) and start the recording. All being well, when you stop the recording, the file should finish writing to your hard drive.
A quick word on resolutions
By default, the LGP outputs a signal at 480p with audio at 128KBPS or lower (I can't confirm this as I changed my settings when I realised). You'll probably want to get sighted help to change the settings as, at the time of writing, the supplied ReCentral software is completely inaccessible with screen readers in terms of activating important functions.
Killer Instinct, a game that used to never quite record exactly as I wished (namely cleanly and with start and end points close to where I wanted them) with the Elgato, is no problem for this card in PC-free or otherwise. There are no problems with freezing audio at the start, in the middle, or at the ends of files and the fact that I can record with a device that has a built in hardware encoder means that even if I am using a PC, it takes no noticeable toll on my computer's performance. However, it does still suffer from the problem of picking up system sounds, but that's the fault of Open Broadcaster Software rather than the card itself when recording using a PC.
Mortal Kombat X, an arguably even more problematic game in terms of freezing audio and difficult to record gameplay in terms of start and end points, also suffers far less than with the former card. Just finished a fatality during a set of matches against the CPU? Stop the recording and the ending is exactly where you planned. That's partly due to the lag-free pass-through, which the Elgato doesn't quite have down. When starting a recording for both devices, the Elgato takes around 4 or more seconds to start, thus meaning the start of the recording isn't where you intended. The LGP, on the other hand, suffers from no such problem, starting near instantaneously. This is great for when you just want to record, for example a match in a fighting game mere moments before it begins.
- Small and light, living up to its name.
Easy-to-install drivers, software and .TS to .mp4 conversion utility.
PC-free mode is very easy to use, even if a lack of vision means you can't see the card's lights.
Can record PS3, Xbox One and PC gameplay with very little trouble and setup.
Supplied HDMI is far too short.
No included SD card, though I suspect this is to keep the price down.
The Aver Media Live Gamer Portable, if you can find one for a reasonable price, is probably the simplest capture card to use on the market. However, the lack of accessible software to configure the unit (even OBS doesn't allow you to interface with the options in an accessible form) means that this card might be difficult to start with. On the other hand, if you can get a little sighted help to scale the resolution and audio up to a more suitable quality, then it's near enough guaranteed to be better than Elgato's best offering pre-HD60 onwards in terms of setup and usability.
With its PC-free mode, carrying pouch and simple one-click capture process, the LGP is a force to be reckoned with. Moreover, the on-board hardware encoder means you shouldn't have to worry about dropped frames, freezing audio or desynced commentary again.
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