Review: AVerMedia Live Gamer Extreme

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Product: AVerMedia Live Gamer Extreme
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Manufacturer: AVerMedia
Original MSRP: $179.99
This product was provided by the manufacturer for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 433 of the podcast.

My problems with the hardware design weren’t a secret with AVerMedia’s previous device, the Extremecap U3. The video quality was superb overall, but not having an HDMI out coupled with dodgy software made it tough to recommend. Now, AVerMedia has taken a lot of this information to heart with their new offering, the Live Gamer Extreme (LGX). The hardware has been completely redesigned with not only HDMI in and out, but with even more options included. On the front you’ll find two 3.5mm jacks allowing you to directly plug a microphone and/or additional source (like an MP3 player etc.), with the ability to mix the audio directly in the AVerMedia software (and in X-Split and OBS as well)

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As with the previous device, the LGX is connected via USB 3.0, but unlike before, it only works in Windows with “no support for other operating systems planned”. The Extremecap U3 actually worked in Mac OS X, but the software always seemed a revision or two behind the Windows versions and really only worked well for recording. So as a Mac user when it comes to all things PS Nation (audio and video production) that’s disappointing but also kind-of expected. I’ve tended to use X-Split more and more lately and that only supports Windows as well so it’s merely a “necessary evil” at this point, but for those that only use Mac for everything you should be aware of this limitation. I use BootCamp on all of my Macs though so I have not tried any of this with products like Parallels or Fusion since I don’t own either.

 

With this new hardware revision AVerMedia is also now offering the second version of their software, RECentral2, which allows for a wealth of recording and streaming features. RECentral was usually the main cause for frustration with the Extremecap U3, so this was where I poured most of my attention when I first started testing the LGX. There are a fair amount of improvements but there’s still a lot that needs to be fixed. On the recording side of things, the interface is cleaner and easier to navigate and setting specific recording options is easier.

… the .mp4 quality and performance is stellar …
The biggest change though is that unlike the Extremecap U3, the LGX doesn’t offer any option to record in uncompressed formats but instead offers the option for high bitrate .mp4’s (H.264+AAC) only. The thing is though, to record uncompressed on the U3 you needed to setup a RAID with SSD drives which was just ridiculous. Even at high bitrates though I’m not a fan of not having the option for uncompressed formats. When you’re editing .mp4’s and then re-encoding them etc., you have the potential for losing visual quality and that’s why in my OCD ways I always like to record uncompressed formats for both audio and video if it’s possible.

 

The good news is that the .mp4 quality and performance is stellar. Available bitrates for recording top-out at 60Mbps, which should be more than sufficient in any situation. I record everything on my Macbook Pro (OS X Yosemite 10.10.4, 2.6Ghz Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM) directly to a USB 3.0-connected SSD drive which has more than enough I/O to get the job done and I’ve experienced great results so far. Framerates haven’t stuttered once, with a complete lack of noticeable artifacting and a very nice depth of color. In fact, I’ve had to adjust the default color saturation settings for the LGX as it was really heavy out of the box. Overall, this will probably be my go-to device for recording footage from now on as the quality is pretty stellar.

… streaming quality is still all over the place …
Also included in RECentral2 (as it was in the first version) is the ability to live stream directly without needing to use a third party app like X-SPlit or OBS… well in theory anyway. One of my biggest complaints about the Extremecap U3 was the ridiculously poor streaming quality via RECentral and although it’s been improved quite a bit in Version 2, the streaming quality is still all over the place. I’m not sure if it’s simply much more sensitive to network jitter or if it simply suffers from bad things such as memory leaks. I had one stream that looked surprisingly good but most of the time the screen would tear, streak, freeze, and display less than expected overall quality.

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The good news though is that the core driver set seems to be very solid this time around allowing great control over a wealth of options within both OBS and X-Split and so far the results have been very good. Another of my big criticisms of the Extremecap U3 was the restrictive hardware design decisions, like eliminating an HDMI output. Both devices use Directdraw which should allow for you to use your PC’s display to play a game without any noticeable delay, but that became really problematic when using X-Split or OBS to stream, which you were forced to do because of the absurdly poor quality from RECentral. So it’s refreshing to see that AVerMedia took those complaints to heart in a big way with the LGX.

… impressed with the amount of control you get in the provided drivers …
Not only did they add an HDMI out, but they also included a component cable to use specifically with the PS3 (which can’t be used for anything else unfortunately). They’ve also included two 3.5mm inputs that allow you to use both an external microphone and another device if you want to mix-in your own music. Controlling the audio mix is simplified a bit but it works well and all of these controls are built right into the drivers so they’re all available to use in third party software. I’m pretty impressed with the amount of control you get in the provided drivers and I could really only hope for more finite controls over the different audio sources at some point, like having a volume slider for each independent audio input instead of a balance slider, but other than that they’re quite thorough.

 

For this review, I actually set OBS up for the first time too and once I figured the semi-confusing interface out, getting the LGX working with it was quite easy. I’d say that the overall video quality is a little bit better in X-Split but unlike that one OBS is free to use and it’s still way better than streaming directly from RECentral2.

One last thing included is the ability to create a custom “faceplate” of sorts for the device itself. With the removal of one thumbscrew you’ll be able to take the AVerMedia logo out of the top of the device and with the included app you can actually customize your own. It’s pretty cool that you can do that and definitely gives a nicer feeling of ownership, especially for those streamers that want to show some branding in other ways.

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Conclusion:
I’m quite impressed with the amount and quality of the upgrades that AVerMedia included with the Live Gamer Extreme. The addition of the audio inputs to the front of the unit offer not only a higher level of flexibility, but also another layer of simplicity as well. No longer will streamers require a separate mixer to add a microphone and/or additional audio device and now that they’ve finally added an HDMI out, no one will have to use an HDMI splitter to use a display different than what’s on your laptop or PC.

Like I said before, I would have liked to have had the opportunity to use the LGX on Mac OS X, but I’m actually getting pretty used to booting to Windows for live streams and recording anyway. While their software has improved, the streaming tech definitely needs to get better to be considered over using a third party app at this point. But when using the LGX with both X-Split or OBS, it definitely generates the best image quality and framerate out of any capture device that I’ve seen and you can see that for yourself in the videos that I’ve embedded throughout this review.

Score:
9.0

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  • SallySalvation

    So streaming with the LGX on Mac OSX using OBS will work?