For a long time I’ve wanted to expand the content that we output here at Infinite Frontiers. We started 30 years ago as a small Doctor Who fan club and have evolved a lot in that time. Fanzines, websites, computer software, conventions – we’ve done them all. But other than promotional use, YouTube had always been an area that we’d left alone. We decided to change all that and bring it back, but reflecting everything we do across all of Infinite Frontiers. If we were going to do it properly that also meant game reviews, and for that we needed a capture card. Enter the Ezcap 280H…
YouTube wasn’t actually our first plan. I wanted to do something with Twitch instead and focus on streaming video games. Initially retro gaming then adding other systems as my set up expanded. You can blame pro wrestler Joe Hendry for that one. As well as wrestling all over the UK, he’s active on social media, YouTube and Twitch and regularly streamed live gaming sessions for his fans. Watching a lot of these and joining in with the chats inspired me to explore Twitch as an option for us to expand.
That didn’t quite work though. We got the software side running perfectly. An emulator running all the games, streaming software adding a webcam and mic feed to the gameplay and we were all set to go. Come the day of our inaugural broadcast and we found our biggest hurdle. My internet connection wasn’t fast enough. We had a few viewers but while the sound was fine, the video wasn’t. It kept dropping frames and just wasn’t good enough.
So realising we couldn’t stream, we chose to pre-record everything instead. That actually worked out for the best. With a small Twitch account our content was only set to stay online for 30 days anyway so it would be lost after a while. With YouTube we could post anything. As well as new content, we have 30 years of event footage we can draw upon and a team who can film anything they like. Reviews, unboxing videos, vlogs… The potential was unlimited.
Personally I still wanted to do game reviews so I tried to find a system that would work well. Now here was my problem. Both of my PCs are a little old. I’m still using a 10 year old laptop for a lot of my writing and editing for all of our websites. As for my main PC… It’s great for video editing and everything I need it for but that too is about six years old and is running Windows 7. I deliberately refused the free Windows 10 update and most of the capture cards needed Windows 10. Emulators just didn’t cut it when it came to quality so I needed a better solution and fast.
Enter The Ezcap 280H
I’d spotted a few HDMI capture cards online that could record without the need for a PC. Pretty much perfect for what I needed. Then I stumbled across the Ezcap 280H from Gearbest. Selling for half the price of the others I’d seen I was genuinely curious to know if it could give me the results I needed. Unlike similar devices, the Ezcap 280H is a standalone capture card and is used without the need for a PC. Plugging straight into the mains for power and then into the HDMI video source, it records video straight to a USB stick or external hard drive as an MP4 file.
Inside the compact box is capture card itself, a brief instruction manual, a mini CD with editing software and a power cable. A choice of two plug types are offered by Gearbest – US and EU. When I ordered the EU version, an adaptor was also included allowing me to plug it into a standard UK mains socket which was a nice bonus.
Using the card is simplicity itself. Connect the source device to the HDMI input, and the pass through output to your TV or monitor. Plug in your USB stick or drive for recording, connect the power and you’re ready to go. As soon as you are ready to capture your footage just press the capture button and the Ezcap 280H starts recording. Press it again to stop. Because of the way USB devices work the card can only record files at a maximum of 2Gb in size at a time (which works out at roughly 15 minutes of 1080p footage). But if, like me, you’re using this for game reviews then you won’t need to record long clips anyway.
If you want to add voiceovers to your recording, rather than waiting for the post-production stage, you can do this while recording by plugging in any microphone straight into the card as well. While it’s not something I’d use personally, it’s a great bonus feature and not something I’d expect for a budget device. In terms of the files it produces, these are saved in MP4 format and in the same resolution and framerate as the source material. This makes it perfect for capturing absolutely anything from any HDMI source that you need for your own video projects.
The HDCP Dilemma
One of the biggest frustrations of using HDMI capture cards is dealing with HDCP. This is a type of protection used in a lot of systems that prevents their output from being recorded. Normally to bypass this involves the use of a HDMI splitter that can remove the protection before running the signal into the capture card. Not here. The Ezcap 280H even strips the protection so it’s perfect for users of any console who want to record game footage for review. For me this was one of the fundamental reasons for wanting this particular card. We’re going to be reviewing PlayStation Vita games soon using the PlayStation TV but it’s HDMI output uses HDCP. This captured footage without any issues at all.
But Is It Any Good?
That’s the million dollar question. It’s well built, a joy to use and can be used by anyone without any need for lengthy instructions. The resulting videos look absolutely incredibly and really don’t look as if they were done on a product this cheap. From our point of view it’s going to revolutionise what we are doing on YouTube. It’s going to allow us to produce videos quickly and easily without compromising on quality for an instant. But don’t take my word for it. This is one of the first reviews we have recorded and uploaded using it:
This is an incredible capture device and I don’t know why I didn’t buy one of these sooner. I’ve been wanting to record videos from a lot of my classic computers and consoles for a long time and this is the perfect way to do it. The fact that I can now record PS Vita games has me sold on it alone – everything else is a bonus. It would be worth buying at twice the price. At just over £50 you’d be a fool to pass this one up!
The card can be ordered directly from Gearbest at https://www.gearbest.com/game-accessories/pp_009896551064.html?wid=1433363&lkid=21108596