Review: Diamond Multimedia GC 1000 captures your gaming exploits with very little fuss
At a Glance
The Diamond Multimedia GC 1000 ($140) promises to record your gaming exploits in full high-definition glory, and it delivers (more or less). While the hardware succeeds at recording high-definition content from a console and saving it to your PC, there are a number of caveats that keep this little box from being a streaming aficionado's must-have capture device.
The Diamond GC 1000's setup process is simple and painless. You'll need to have a Windows PC near the console or device you'd like to capture video from — I plugged an Xbox 360 into a spare monitor near my desktop. The GC 1000 comes with component video and audio cables, but also supports S-Video and HDMI inputs. I recommend using HDMI, as passing video and audio through a single cable cuts down on the clutter considerably. You'll also need to plug the GC 1000 into a spare USB port on your desktop.
Once everything is hooked up, the installation process is fairly quick; just pop the included CD in and hit Quick Install. The prompts will take you through the steps you need to install the GC 1000's driver and Diamond's DMCap video capture software. It only took a few minutes on a fairly speed PC, and once your PC restarts you'll be good to go.
The GC 1000 presents two video capture options. The first is the most visible: a new application will show up in your system tray, prompting you to pick a time to schedule a recording. This could be a handy "set it and forget it" tool if you'd like to record regular gaming sessions or have connected the GC 1000 to a device that's always on. Firing up the DMCap application opens up a broader range of recording options.
The user interface is spartan, but its clear, concise layout serves up everything you need to get started. There are plenty of options, but the most important ones allow you to set a fixed display ratio for your recordings (or let the console decide), choose a location to dump all of your videos, and set a the recording quality. DMCap offers three quality settings — Low, Normal, and High quality — and records ".ts" MPEG files, which will play just about anywhere. A six-minute gaming session recorded at the High quality setting came in at just shy of 1GB; a session of the same length at Normal quality was approximately half that. If you're planning on uploading video to YouTube or Facebook, I'd recommend sticking to High quality and letting your video upload service of choice handle the compression. The DMCap app can also optionally upload files to Facebook or Youtube, but it offers little advantage over just navigating to the proper sites and doing it yourself.
The GC 1000's DMCap app can offer a live preview of whatever you're recording while you play. It's a neat option, but the live video preview is always a second or two behind the action, which makes games unplayable. The software ran very well on my PC, but my machine is no slouch — a Core i5-2500K with 16GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 graphics card, and solid state drives for storage. The software's recommended requirements, are far lower — a 1.6GHz Pentium 4, 1GB of RAM, and a DirectX 9-capable GPU — but you could run into performance issues on lower end hardware.
Under ideal circumstances — an Xbox 360, connected via HDMI — my experience was excellent. The GC1000 is purportedly capable of a maximum recording rate of 30 frames per second, at 1080p (1920-by-1080 pixel resolution). In my own tests, I saw 30 frames per second at 1080i. Once I'd manually dialed the display output resolution on my Xbox 360 to 720p (1280-by-720 pixel resolution), I recorded video at 60 frames per second. The video quality was great; recorded audio was superb, and there was nary a hint of dropped frames or stuttering in any of my test samples.
The Playstation 3, by contrast, was less cooperative; HDCP protection kicks in when you try to activate recording over HDMI. There's actually no warning or other indication that something is amiss — the "record" option is simply greyed out. You'll need to switch to component cables and dial down down the recording resolution to 720p to get things working. This isn't necessarily a deal-breaker, but there's no indication anywhere on the GC 1000's packaging or sparse manual that you'd run into any such limitation. Someone who picked up a GC1000 with the hopes of recording their PlayStation 3-based exploits in 1080p will be sorely disappointed when the device simply fails to function.
Whether or not the GC 1000 is worth the cost of entry will ultimately depend on your use case. If you need a tool to capture video from a console (or a camcorder or VCR), $140 isn't too bad, and HDMI support is a nice touch. There are certainly pricier options, But if your console of choice is a PlayStation 3, you'll want to keep that lack of support for HDCP-encryption in mind.