Live streaming, let’s plays, and videos of games have exploded this decade. It’s becoming a major part of the gaming community and how people discover and experience games – so much so that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have the built-in functionality to stream and record gameplay. Sony went as far as to include a dedicated “Share” button on the PS4 controller.
While those on-board solutions do a more than adequate job, a dedicated video capture card or device still gives you more freedom and better results. Sometimes publishers restrict what you can capture via the on-console capture function. Maybe you want better quality video or to stream to a service, like Facebook, that isn’t supported on console. Or perhaps you want to capture or stream games from an older console. If you fall into any of those camps, you will want a dedicated video capture device and the AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus or original version is a prime option to consider.
Plus or Original version: What’s the difference?
The Plus version of the LGP2 supports 4K passthrough (not 4K recording). This means a 4K video signal inputted into the LGP2 Plus will be output to 4K on your TV or monitor. Aside from 4K passthrough, the both LGP2s are identical on features, form factor, and build quality. So you can save yourself some money by getting the original LGP2 if you don’t have a 4K screen (For simplicity, I will refer to both as just LGP2 for the rest of this review).
Build and design: Portable and solid
The first thing I noticed upon unboxing the LGP2 is the device certainly is compact and lives up to its namesake. Both models measure in at 5.8 x 2.2 x 1.8 inches and 6.54 ounces (185.5 grams) – thus, not taking up much space or weight in my bag, even with the necessary cables. The outside shell is entirely plastic with mostly a matte black color coupled with a metallic red. The underside of the base sports a rubber bottom to grip onto whatever service you place the LGP2 on. All switches and buttons have a clear haptic and audible click when using them. The device as a whole feels solid and dense, but not heavy.
My largest gripe about the LGP2’s physical design is unquestionably its triangular prism, Toblerone-like shape. Standing during use, the device looks fine, but the shape is awkward when sitting in your backpack or bag. I much preferred the flat, rounded shape of the first Live Gamer Portable.
Set-up: Ports, Cables, Buttons and Switches
Setting up the LGP2 is a simple affair. In the back, you’ll find clearly labeled HDMI Out (to TV) and HDMI In (from console) ports, micro-USB port, and microSD card slot. Meanwhile, there are two optional 1/8” audio jacks in the front: one to connect to your Xbox One or PS4 controller and the other for a headset to record live commentary.
Both LGP2s are bundled with a ~1.5-foot HDMI cable, ~6-foot micro-USB cable, and a ~6-foot 4-pole 1/8” auxiliary audio cable. The included HDMI cable is often a little too short from my experience; though a 3-foot or 6-foot replacement can easily be purchased for a few bucks online. The lengthy micro-USB cable has a braided, fairly thick cord and appears to be gold-plated. It is used to power the LGP2 and transmit a signal when the device is being used with a PC. Finally, the 1/8” audio cable can be used for connecting your PS4 or Xbox One controller to the LGP2 to take in mixed game and chat audio.
On the front is a big center button you press to start and stop recording. This button also has a light-up AVerMedia gaming swirl icon indicating the device’s status depending on the color and lighting pattern. Below and off to the side are handy volume rocker buttons (if you have a headset plugged in) and a sliding switch to select one of LGP2’s three modes: PC Mode, PC-Free Mode, Storage Mode.
PC-Free Mode: Capturing on-the-go made easy
Honestly, the biggest reason to pick up one of the LGP2 models is for the PC-Free Mode, which records gameplay video without the need for a laptop or desktop computer. All you need is the LGP2 device itself, a Class-10 microSD card to save the video to, HDMI cable to output to the TV, and a microUSB cable for power. You can plug the cord into a free USB port on your console, TV, or even a portable battery (for charging phones and tablets) can power the LGP2. After you finish the few minutes or less of setup, press the large center button and you’re recording.
The physical portability and PC-Free Mode make the LGP2 very convenient and perfect for capturing footage at events such as tournaments and conventions, especially if you are press (like myself), a YouTuber, or another content creator. Video from PC-Free Mode is able to be captured up to 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second and 20 Mbps bitrate. The quality of the footage is very good yet not the greatest, as artifacting/loss of sharpness and other video noise can occur in small bouts during intensive, high-motion scenes. However for most purposes, it is more than sufficient. The quality level setting on the LGP2 can be changed but unfortunately only with a computer, via the RECentral app – though you won’t likely have to do it often, if at all.
Storage Mode: Leave that microSD card in
A breezy way to access your PC-Free Mode recordings on your computer without having to remove the microSD card is to simply slide the LGP2’s switch to Storage Mode. Once plugged into your PC, the LGP2 will show up as a storage device. Now you won’t have to worry about losing your microSD card or having to fumble with a microSD-to-SD or microSD-to-USB adapter.
PC Mode: Streaming and more capture capabilities
PC-Free Mode is great for on-the-go, raw gameplay capture but for streaming and higher-quality video recording, you will need to go with PC Mode. First off, you will want a computer with some horsepower, especially for streaming. I was able to adequately steam and record on an older gaming desktop with a 3.5GHz Intel Core i3-4150 processor, 6GB DDR3 RAM, and an Nvidia GTX 645 graphics card. You don’t need a rig that can run current-gen games, although your average laptop or typical desktop workstation probably won’t quite cut it.
Some software is required to get streaming and capturing on a PC and the most easy-to-use option is AVerMedia’s own free RECentral application. Gameplay can be captured at better quality and higher bitrate than in PC-Free Mode. There are basic audio mixing settings to control input volumes and set any delays. RECentral can stream to Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, NicoNico, USTREAM, and more. You can even add multiple picture-in-picture/video overlays: text; image files (ideal for a template or frame overlay); web browser to set a specific site; full or partial PC screen capture; looping video files; and, of course, other input sources like any additional capture devices or a camera to show live reactions. RECentral is surprisingly fairly robust and feature-filled while being quite user-friendly.
The free Open Broadcaster Software (commonly known as OBS) can take your production further, adding more functions and customizability for your streaming and recording needs. I had no problem getting the LGP2 set up on OBS.
The only major negative I found with LGP2’s PC Mode is the very slight delay I perceived when viewing video live on my computer screen. This small lag is most likely caused by the USB 2.0 bottlenecking the data transfer speeds. Hopefully in future Live Gamer Portable products, AVerMedia will opt for the significantly faster USB 3.0 or 3.1.
AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 has become my go-to device for capturing and streaming gameplay footage. PC-Free Mode lets me capture on-the-go easily and at home, PC Mode handles higher-quality recording and streaming just fine.