Thursday, 30 January 2014

Micomsoft SC-512N1-L/DVI Capture Card Review

Updates since the review was posted:

Check out the histogram for this card here. Current HDMI, Component and VGA capture settings included.

I get asked about locations to buy this card so here is a table which I'll try and keep updated.

Has passthrough?
All adapters?
 sintronusa does.
Misses the DVI to HDMI adapters

Also about the 100% CPU bug mentioned in this review, I eventually figured it out. Read more here.

Below is the original review with updates where necessary.

Micomsoft SC-512N1-L/DVI

First, let's talk about the video inputs of the card. Composite, S-Video and Component are handled by breakout cables. You will receive two of each (more on that later).

micomsoft breakout cables composite s-video component

DVI is inbuilt on the card while HDMI and VGA are handled by adapters. I should also note that the HDMI to DVI adapter also carries audio (only stereo sound is currently supported).

micomsoft hdmi vga dvi adapter

Connection wise, that is pretty much everything you will need. The card also operates at Gen2 PCI speeds so it is able to capture 1080p at 60 frames per second. It also supports 15kHz-31kHz over VGA which is very useful for SCART RGB capturing from retro consoles.

The driver is only compatible with Windows 7 and 8 but for most people that won't be an issue. The latest drivers can be downloaded from the official Yuan page here. The driver itself is one of the easiest I have ever used.

micomsoft driver

Choosing between the different video inputs is a breeze. The driver comes packaged with a program called VideoKeeper2 but don't bother to install this as much better alternatives are available. The driver is fully DirectShow compatible and Micomsoft even suggest that you use AmaRecTV. Of course this obviously means that the card works effortlessly with XSplit and OBS for your streaming needs. If you look at the driver screenshot, you will also see it has options for video deinterlacing. Although it is nice to have, I always set it to "Weave (None)" because it is typically better to deinterlace in post processing or use AmaRec's built in deinterlacer.

If you look at the capture card, you will notice it is a two slot design. The top slot is for video and audio pass through. Unlike the Blackmagic Intensity Pro, this is actually lag less and does not alter the image in anyway. This will save you having to use splitters or distribution amplifiers. This was a big selling point of the card for me as it cut down on my cable mess significantly. I will say that I can play perfectly fine from the preview window. Tests I've done show the preview latency is under a frame.

Now let's discuss the most important aspect of any capture card, the video quality. Luckily the YUY2 (YUV 4:2:2) color space is used so many of the best lossless codecs will work (Lagarith, Huffyuv, x264vfw, UT Video).

Update: I discovered that RGB capture is now available in the February 2014 driver. See the driver changelog here. However, RGB capture has some serious capture issues. Stick to YUY2 for now until it is fixed.

Below I will talk about each video input and give advice along with a sample video so you can see the quality for yourself. Due to bandwidth issues these have been slightly compressed. Please make sure your media player can play 4:2:2 encoded files.

Composite: This card has the best composite capture quality I have ever seen. This is probably because it has a 3D comb filter. There is little to no dot crawl and very little rainbow effect. One thing to note is choosing the correct black level for your console. Most of the time you want to go to the driver and select NTSC_M_J under the Video Decoder tab.

720x240 is supported over both Composite and S-Video but the capture frame rate is always 30 fps. You must capture at 720x480 and deinterlace to get the proper 60 fps.

micomsoft composite capture
Click to enlarge
Sample video here. AmaRecTV's retro game deinterlacer was used.

S-Video: The S-Video quality is amazing. Just like composite, this is the best S-Video capture I have ever seen. It actually makes other cards like the AVerMedia C027 a joke in comparison.

micomsoft s-video capture
Click to enlarge
Sample video here. AmaRecTV's retro game deinterlacer was used.

Component: The best thing about the component input is that it supports 240p. This means you can actually capture PS1 games on the PS2 using component video.

For my testing I used the Nintendo Wii with 480p Virtual Console titles. Lots of other cards mess up Component capture in some way, usually in brightness (e.g. AVerMedia). This card lacks somewhat in color reproduction over Component (reds lack vibrancy etc) and cards like the Intensity/Elgato are slightly better in this regard. However, to call the capture quality of this card bad would be a vast disservice. It's in the top 3 cards for Component capture.

micomsoft 480p component capture
Click to enlarge
Sample video here.

HDMI: Obviously amazing since HDMI is digital and you can't really mess it up. However, it has a feature that is missing on most other HDMI capture cards. You can also toggle between limited (16-235) and full range (0-255) capture. For proper 16-235 and 0-255 capture please click here. There seems to be a bug where if you are displaying Full range content you need to select 16-235 and for Limited you need to select 0-255. Maybe a mislabel in the driver?

Since most people are probably curious about it, I wrote a whole separate article on 1080p60 lossless capture. Due to bandwidth and playback concerns, I will just host a 720p sample.

micomsoft hdmi 720p capture
Click to enlarge
Sample video here.

VGA (SCART RGB): You will need a sync stripper like the XSYNC-1 or Sync Strike to capture SCART RGB from your retro consoles. There is a small issue with color shift when capturing from these sources. This can be fixed by ticking "Color horizontal Adjust" and setting it to Type-C in AmaRecTV's Advanced tab. I've made a screenshot comparison of Type-C on and off here. It's hard to see the difference from that comparison but trust me, use Type-C. I enabled AmaRecTV's scan line doubler for the screenshot (remember to choose 720x240 in the Device tab).

micomsoft scart rgb capture 240p
Click to enlarge
Sample video here.

The only thing that could make this capture card better would be the ability to capture Composite and S-Video at 60 fps while in 720x240 mode. This would bypass the need to deinterlace and you could simply use the scan line doubler. There is however one small issue that many users have reported from the SC-500N1 that also happens with this capture card. Whenever previewing video or just being in the driver, the C1 state of your CPU gets disabled which will increase the temperature until you leave the driver or the capture program. This can easily be fixed by going to the power options in Windows and resetting the power plan. It does get slightly annoying having to do this all the time though. Update: As said at the start of the review, this bug is now fixed.

If that feature was added and that small CPU issue was fixed, this really would be one of the best capture cards on the market. The card isn't exactly cheap (as of writing it's about $350 total).

In conclusion, if you do just want an all in one solution and want to forget about capture cards, get this and never look back. The Bugatti Veyron of the capture card world for people who want the absolute best.