Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hauppauge's HD PVR, Dream Arcades Dream Stick will make gamers HAPPY HAPPY

It was all a dream ...


Dream Stick arcade stick controller
Made by: Dream Arcades
Price: $99
 Available: NOW - for a limited time
For use with: Microsoft Xbox 360, PC (with Xbox 360 wireless adapter)

I don't really get hyped over controller. The themed "MW3" controllers look slick. The "Halo: Reach" controllers rock. However, being a child of the 80s, I was never that excited about finding a controller and saying 'I.Must.Have.This.' That changed with Dream Arcades' Dream Stick arcade controller.

Here's the skinny: Dream Arcades is a company that makes REAL arcade games. They sell prebuilt arcades, they sell arcade kits and now, they make arcade controllers for the Xbox 360.

The first thing you'll notice when you spy the Dream Stick is how sturdy the controller is. From the joystick - which is a professional joystick - to the sturdy plastic buttons - the controller is nothing to play with. It is handmade - complete with a few flaws here and there - but the cheesiness doesn't matter when you pick it up. It runs off 2 AA batteries - the innards are that of a wireless Xbox 360 controller - stitched together with actual arcade controller data cables to make it a pro-style controller. There's isn't a PS3 version of the controller - it doesn't use expendable batteries, though you drill a small hole for the USB charging port. Hmmmmm.

The only real drawback is a set of buttons is missing. On the 360 controller, you have the triggers, left and right, and the shoulder buttons. Not so on the Dream Stick. You will have to go into the menus of video games you are playing and reconfigure the control scheme. That's fine on older games, but if you want to use it on newer games, you may have to choose if you want the triggers or the shoulder buttons enabled.

The controller syncs easily with the 360. There's a black button on the front of the controller that you use to get it talking to your 360.

As far as controls, it's rock solid. Mind you, it's really just a huge housing for a 360 controller, so you know what you are getting.

I used the Dream Stick on the Xbox LIVE menu and a handful of Xbox LIVE games, including AfterBurner: Climax, Mortal Kombat 2, OutRun online, Aegis Wing, Yie Ar Kung Fu and a few others. The only game I had a problem with was Daytona USA because I couldn't change the button layout for acceleration. Meh.

Aside from that minor issue, the controller is awesome. Seriously. 

If you want one, you better snag on now because Dream Arcades are NOT making them. You can customize it - change the button colors and trick it out with a headphone jack as well.

If you love arcade games, buy it. If you love fighting games and want a controller that won't wimp out? Buy it.

The verdict? 9.5 (out of 10 stars) The lack of an extra set of buttons is really a drag, but for the rest of what you get - in a slick package, you can't go wrong.

Capture your gaming exploits

Hauppauge HD PVR
Made by: Hauppauge
What does it do? Capture video gameplay via your PC in HD
Price: $199
Available: NOW

So you just took the head off of a camper during an online match in Battlefield 3. Or, you used your hook to attach a runaway fuel canister to an enemy in Just Cause 3. If you were playing OnLive, you can easily capture a few seconds of your own sessions - but on your PS3 or Xbox 360 - or Wii ... what do you do? Easy. You can invest in a tripod, get a Flip camera or a Sony Bloggie camera and record your footage. It's not bad but it looks rather cheesy. What is an awesome gamer, like yourself, owning n00bs to do?

Enters Hauppauge, stage left. Their HD PVR device, which retails for $199, is a gaming journo's or pro gamer's dream. You can use the device to capture gameplay footage in HD - via the component inputs - from any device that has component outputs. Aside from NOT being able to capture 3D content, it can pretty much capture any video signal via your PC and convert it to a digital video.

There are two types of people who will enjoy using the Hauppauge HD PVR. The first type, the gamer, looks to talk smack about what they did online last night. This device will back up their claim.

You can run the video signal through the device - which you have to keep on even if you aren't going to capture video - and use your PC to record any and everything that's on-screen. If you are recording and you get a message that reads 'I love hotwings!' it will appear in the capture video.

You can adjust how you capture the video - from the signal source - it does NTSC, PAL and SECAM - to the audio (2 channel or 5.1) and even adjust the bit rates. If you notice your video feed is choppy, you can adjust the settings on the fly. You can also adjust the lighting, contrast and several other settings on the Arcsoft Showbiz software, that comes bundled with the device. It's basic and outputs your video into M2TS (PS3), MP4 (360) and another format.

The second type of person who would enjoy this device is the archiver. You have tons of videos on VHS - your son's first baby steps, your wedding, Rush week at your college - that you want to get converted into digital form. The Hauppauge HD PVR is your answer. It has a set of composite - red, white (audio) and yellow (video) inputs on the front of the device, and another set on the rear. You go through the same process mentioned above to capture video.

The only drawback for the unit is the price. It's $199 - and doesn't actually have a hard drive or any way to record anything by itself. Plus, you have to have a PC in order for it to work. 

The verdict? BUY - 10 (out of 10 stars)

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