As they say, success is better when you can share it with others. And as gaming enters the mainstream, your potential audience of viewers grows. Luckily, the best capture cards are here to help you showcase your game footage in an enticing way.

Like it or not, our favorite pastime has developed its own social characteristics. All sorts of communities that support gaming have sprouted up. Sometimes these are within established social media platforms or on their own exclusive sites.

Obviously, Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, and Twitch come to mind for most of us, but there are tons of others out there. In turn, those mad killing sprees, dirty no-scope trick shots, penta-kills, shopping cart drive-bys, and hilarious moments hold more value than ever before.

The best way for most gamers to capture and preserve these moments is by using a game capture card. The best capture cards can help you share your in-game plays, set up a stream, create a YouTube Channel, build a library of video clips, and much more.

On this page, we compiled a list of the best capture cards. We also discuss which gamers will benefit most from a capture card. Ready to capture and share video like a pro? Read on.

Zoom Out: Comparison Table of the 20 Best Capture Cards

We’ve curated this list of the best capture cards available and sorted them by price ascending. For an in-depth look at each model, check out the Zoom In section below.

ImageCapture CardResolutionFPSInterfacePrice 
1080P Game Video Capture Card with HDMI and YpbPr Input, Mic-in Video Recorder Compatible with Xbox 360/One/ PS3 /PS4 etc1. Mypin Card480⁠-1080p30USB 3.0💰💰Check Price
HDMI Game Video Capture Card, USB 3.0 Capture Device, 1080P 60fps Video & Audio Grabber, Broadcast Live and Record for Xbox One PS4 Wii U Nintendo Switch Consoles DSLR Camcorder etc.2. Homful Card360-1080p24⁠-60USB 3.0💰💰Check Price
Elgato Game Capture HD60, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Xbox 360, or Wii U gameplay, 1080p60 (Renewed)3. Elgato HD60108060USB 2.0💰💰Check Price
AVerMedia AVerCapture HD, Game Streaming and Game Capture, High Definition 1080p, Ultra Low Latency, H.264 Hardware Encoding Game Recorder - USB Video Capture (GL310)4. AVer HD480-1080p30-60USB 2.0💰💰Check Price
MiraBox Capture Card,USB 3.0 HDMI Game Capture Card Device With HDMI Loop-out Support HD Video HDCP 1080P Windows 7 8 10 Linux Youtube OBS Twitch for PS3 PS4 Xbox Wii U Streaming and Recording, HSV3215. MiraBox Card480-1080p24-60USB 3.0💰💰Check Price
Plugable Performance NIX Video Game Capture Card 1080P 60FPS, USB C & USB 3.0 and HDMI Passthrough for Monitor - Compatible with Windows, Linux, macOS, OBS Streaming6. Perform NIX1080p60USB 3.0💰💰Check Price
ClonerAlliance Chert 4KC, HDMI to USB-C Video Capture Dongle, Ultra Low Latency, Play Game Consoles on Laptop, Driver Free, 4K Input Supported.7. ClonerAlly 4KC1080-2160p30-60USB 3.0💰💰💰Check Price
Hauppauge - HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition High Definition Game Capture Device - model 14808. Hauppauge HD480-1080p30-60USB 2.0💰💰💰Check Price
Elgato Game Capture Card HD60 S - Stream and Record in 1080p60, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One & Xbox 3609. Elgato HD60S480-1080p30-60USB 3.0💰💰💰Check Price
ClonerAlliance Flint 4KP, 4K Passthrough and Live Commentary Video Capture Device. Ultra Low Latency. 1080p 60fps for Gaming Consoles, Camcorder, DSLR10. ClonerAlly 4KP1080-2160p30-60USB 3.0💰💰💰Check Price
AVerMedia Live Gamer HD 2 Full HD 1080p 60 Record and Stream Multi-Card Support Low-Latency Pass-Through Real-Time Gameplay PCIe Ryzen Support (GC570)11. AVer LG HD2480-1080p60PCIe💰💰💰Check Price
Razer Ripsaw HD Game Streaming Capture Card: 4K Passthrough - 1080P FHD 60 FPS Recording - Compatible W/PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch12. Razer Ripsaw480-2160p30-60USB 3.0💰💰💰Check Price
HDML-Cloner Box Pro, Capture 1080p HDMI Videos/Games and Play Back Instantly with The Remote Control, Schedule Recording, HDMI/VGA/AV/YPbPr Input. No PC Required.13. ClonerAlly BP1080-2160p30-60USB 3.0💰💰💰Check Price
Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro - Stream and record in 1080p60, superior low latency technology, H.264 hardware encoding, PCIe14. Elgato HD60P480-1080p60PCIe💰💰💰Check Price
15. AVer LG HD480-1080p30-60USB 3.0💰💰💰Check Price
AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra - 4Kp60 HDR Pass-Through, 4Kp30 Capture Card, Ultra-Low Latency for Broadcasting and Recording PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, USB 3.1 (GC553)16. AVer LG Ultra1080-2160p60-240USB 3.1💰💰💰Check Price
Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro - 4K 60fps capture card with ultra-low latency technology for recording PS4 Pro and Xbox One X gameplay, PCIe x417. Elgato 4K60P1080-2160p60-240PCIe💰💰💰Check Price
AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K - 4Kp60 HDR Capture Card, Ultra-Low Latency for Broadcasting and Recording PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, PCIe Gen2x4 (GC573)18. AVer LG 4K1080-2160p60-240PCIe💰💰💰Check Price
Magewell USB Capture HDMI Gen2 - USB 3.0 HD Video Capture Dongle Model 32060 (Replaces XI100DUSB HDMI)19. Magewell USB1080-2160p60-120USB 3.0💰💰💰💰Check Price
Magewell Pro Capture Quad HDMI Video Capture Card20. Magewell Pro1080-2160p60-144PCIe💰💰💰💰💰Check Price

Zoom In: A Closer Look at the 20 Best Capture Cards of 2019

Next, let’s take a closer look at each model.

1. Mypin Capture Card

1080P Game Video Capture Card with HDMI and YpbPr Input, Mic-in Video Recorder Compatible with Xbox 360/One/ PS3 /PS4 etc

If you’re looking for an affordable capture card, this model from MyPin is a solid choice. This particular card can capture 30 fps at 1080p resolution via HDMI and YPbPr input. That said, it’s only compatible with external storage devices, and cannot be used for live streaming.

Still, this attractive unit is available for a great price. Not only that, but you still get all kinds of functionality like USB 3.0 connectivity, a portable design, and a mic-in line. Fully backed by a 12-month warranty.

High Ground View:

  • Type: External
  • Interface: USB 3.0
  • Resolution: 480p⁠-1080p
  • Fps: 30

2. Homful Capture Card

HDMI Game Video Capture Card, USB 3.0 Capture Device, 1080P 60fps Video & Audio Grabber, Broadcast Live and Record for Xbox One PS4 Wii U Nintendo Switch Consoles DSLR Camcorder etc.

This slim unit by Homful is an excellent starter option for folks looking to capture 1080p at 60 fps without breaking the bank. That’s because it can display HDMI content and works with the existing drivers on your computer. Moreover, it’s able to upscale or downscale the input signal, allowing you to stream or record at any resolution up to full HD.

Other notable features? Aside from its sub-$100 price tag, the Homful Capture Card is universally compatible with PC, Mac, and Linux. It also meets UVC and UAV standards, ensuring excellent quality and reliable usage. A great starter card.

High Ground View:

  • Type: External
  • Interface: USB 3.0
  • Resolution: 360p-1080p
  • Fps: 24-60

3. Elgato HD60

elgato-game-capture-hd60-for-playstation-4-xbox-one-and-xbox-360-or-wii-u-gameplay-full-hd-1080p-60fps

The Elgato HD60 Game Capture is the updated version of the Elgato HD. They’ve made it look even sleeker with the rounded corners and matte black finish. More importantly, you can now record in 1080p at 60fps. Essentially, the quality will look nearly identical to the live feed of your game.

Elgato is still working out some of the kinks with the software, as sometimes it stutters, particularly when you use the flashback recording. Additionally, sometimes the audio will desync from the video, creating an awkward recording. A solution one of our readers presented was to run a 3.5mm audio cable from your console to the PC and set the line-in to listen (enabling it to play through your speakers). Then in the capture software, set Global Audio Offset to 700ms to sync the audio to the Elgato video feed. Then delay your cam by 700ms.

Update: these technical issues (on most setups) have been resolved by subsequent updates. As with any recording or streaming set up, mileage varies depending on what hardware/software you’re working with.

High Ground View:

  • Type: External
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Fps: 60

4. AVerCapture HD

avermedia-avercapture-best-capture-cards

The AVerCapture HDd is a great solution for all platforms, even PS4 and Xbox One users. Along with the Elgato, it is undoubtedly one of those most highly regarded units out there.

This portable unit from AVerMedia draws power from its USB connection for minimal cord running. This means the possibilities are just about limitless, as you can record just about anything anywhere. The one-click recording is initiated by tapping the middle AVermedia Logo button in the center of the device. This device offers encoding of up to 1080p and 60Mbps with HDMI pass-thru to capture gameplay in high definition.

In addition, the Capture HD features an H.264 hardware encoder. The high bit-rate offers the best replication you will get over actually seeing it on the screen yourself. The built-in hardware encoder keeps video file sizes small while still retaining the quality. Recording and streaming can all be managed with the RECentral software that’s included with purchase.

We must mention that RECentral leaves something to be desired by serious streamers, and it doesn’t come close to matching XSplit in functionality. The good news? AVerMedia has also thrown in a 3-month premium license for XSplit Broadcasting software. You’ve probably heard of XSplit or perhaps even used it. Its fairly easy get up and running. Also included in the bundle are HDMI, mini USB 2.0, component AV, audio, and PS3 cables.

High Ground View:

  • Type: External
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Resolution: 480p-1080p
  • Fps: 30-60

5. MiraBox Capture Card

MiraBox Capture Card,USB 3.0 HDMI Game Capture Card Device With HDMI Loop-out Support HD Video HDCP 1080P Windows 7 8 10 Linux Youtube OBS Twitch for PS3 PS4 Xbox Wii U Streaming and Recording, HSV321

The MiraBox external capture card is a rugged and durable device that can capture full 1080p resolution gameplay at 60 frames per second. Plus, it’s compatible with all your favorite devices, including PC, PS4, Xbox One, and even Nintendo Switch!

With built-in USB 3.0 functionality, you can enjoy lightning-fast data transmission that works flawlessly alongside live-streaming and recording software. Moreover, the zero-latency HDMI loopout port ensures smooth frame-bt-fRAME transitions in real-time. Simply plug her in, and get to gaming.

High Ground View:

  • Type: External
  • Interface: USB 3.0
  • Resolution: 480p-1080p
  • Fps: 24-60

6. Plugable Performance NIX

Plugable Performance NIX Video Game Capture Card 1080P 60FPS, USB C & USB 3.0 and HDMI Passthrough for Monitor - Compatible with Windows, Linux, macOS, OBS Streaming

If you’re seeking a capture card with USB 3.0 and USB C connectivity, then the Plugable Performance Nix is the perfect option. This capable card captures up to 1080p video quality at an industry-standard 60fps. Moreover, it uses an HDMI pass-through port to ensure zero latency that’s guaranteed never to affect your performance.

It works with PC and Mac systems and is backed by a full one-year warranty for extra peace of mind.

High Ground View:

  • Type: External
  • Interface: USB 3.0
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Fps: 60

7. ClonerAlliance Chert 4KC

ClonerAlliance Chert 4KC, HDMI to USB-C Video Capture Dongle, Ultra Low Latency, Play Game Consoles on Laptop, Driver Free, 4K Input Supported.

The ClonerAlliance Chert 4KC is an unbelievable deal that’s way ahead of the times. It features an HDMI to USB-C dongle that connects to all types of platforms, ranging from your smartphone and Nintendo Switch to PS4 and PC.

It also boasts ultra-low latency under 90ms and supports 4K at up to 30 fps! UVC standard technology means that no driver is required. Simply plug it in, and it uses the software built into your device. This model has excellent consumer reviews and ships with free editing and utility programs.

High Ground View:

  • Type: External
  • Interface: USB 3.0
  • Resolution: 1080p-2160p
  • Fps: 30-60

8. Hauppauge HD PVR 2

Hauppauge - HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition High Definition Game Capture Device - model 1480

Hauppauge has been in the video capture business for a long time. They manufacturer a line of capable PVRs (personal video recorder). Their HD PVR 2 comes with all the cables you need to start recording, including component cables. There are no extra adapters required with this guy, but the max video bitrate is relatively low at 14MBps. That’s not quite as high as the other capture cards, especially for such a bulky unit.

One nice thing about Hauppauges PVR is that It comes in numerous models. You can get the exact model based on your specific needs and won’t be paying extra for things you don’t need. The file sizes are big with this unit, but the video quality is pretty good. 15 minutes of recorded gameplay in 1080i or 1080p is going to run you about 1.25gigs. Additionally, the PVR 2 can record 5.1 channel audio.

High Ground View:

  • Type: External
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Resolution: 480p-1080p
  • Fps: 30-60

9. Elgato Game Capture HD60 S

elgato-game-capture-hd60-s

The latest and greatest external capture card from Elgato, the HD60 S is an external card that features a state of the art USB 3.0 Type C connection. This connection is the most efficient and reliable technology to date, and this is of great importance when in the realm of streaming. As you probably know, anything to do with streaming and recording requires a lot of juice. Incorporating the optimal USB 3.0 will aid in data transmission and reduce the risk of hindering game performance.

Other than the upgraded interface, much stays the same as the standard HD60. You’re still getting the 1080p/60 fps capability and all of the bonus features such as flashback recording. If you’ve got another $20 and USB 3.0 capability, it’s a no brainer to upgrade to this model. Plus, you get that light purple S appended to the ‘HD 60’. Totally worth it.

High Ground View:

  • Type: External
  • Inteface: USB 3.0
  • Resolution: 480p-1080p
  • Fps: 30-60

10. ClonerAlliance Flint 4KP

ClonerAlliance Flint 4KP, 4K Passthrough and Live Commentary Video Capture Device. Ultra Low Latency. 1080p 60fps for Gaming Consoles, Camcorder, DSLR

The Flint is ClonerAlliance’s latest entry to the capture card market. This ultra-low latency device is the perfect choice for console gamers seeking the very best streaming experience.

Stream and capture gameplay and videos for Youtube, Twitch, or Facebook, and include live commentary using the built-in mixing and mic audio line. The device is compatible with all your favorite software like XSplit and OBS, and it comes bundled with its own suite of video capture and editing programs.

High Ground View:

  • Type: External
  • Interface: USB 3.0
  • Resolution: 480p-1080p
  • Fps: 30-60

11. AVerMedia Live Gamer HD 2

AVerMedia Live Gamer HD 2 Full HD 1080p 60 Record and Stream

This is AVerMedia’s brand new PCIe capture card and the second generation of its Live Gamer HD series. An internal capture card, you may want to include this in your next PC gaming build (or add it to your existing rig if you’ve got an open PCIe slot). If you are a performance junkie and can’t settle for anything unless it’s the cutting edge, you want to take a close look at this unit.

The big win here is being able to capture uncompressed video output, enabling you to achieve the pinnacle of visual picture quality. You better have that 10TB external hard drive ready to go, because those uncompressed HD video files like to hog up a lot of room (as you can imagine).

You get a ton of features with this card, including MIJPEG functionality, RECentral 3 software, and AMD Ryzen support. If it’s sleek looks manage to win you over, make sure to jump on AVerMedia’s website and register to receive your free 2-year warranty.

High Ground View:

  • Type: Internal
  • Interface: PCIe
  • Resolution: 480p-1080p
  • Fps: 60

12. Razer Ripsaw Capture Card

Razer Ripsaw HD Game Streaming Capture Card: 4K Passthrough - 1080P FHD 60 FPS Recording - Compatible W/PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

You probably know about a little gaming company called Razer. If you don’t, we will ask you to kindly escort yourself out.

Performance-wise, the Razer Ripsaw is on par with the AVerMedia LGX and Elgato HD60s. The Ripsaw is Razer’s first entry into the complex capture, record, and stream world, and it is not without problems.

Fortunately, it is Razer we are talking about here, and they aren’t going to leave gamers hanging with a mediocre product. Most of the major problems (crashing during streams, random reboots, software incompatibilities, audio issues) have been sorted out since its release, and it’s a safer option to buy. Notice we said ‘safer.’ If you want to minimize your chances of running into problems, we suggest one of the tried and true models from AVerMedia or Elgato; or even wait until Razer comes out with version 2.

Of course, Razer jumped straight to USB 3.0 interface, and we applaud them for that. The drawback is that the retro port is component only, so you’ll need an AV to HDMI converter to use it for NES and SNES games and the like. Problems aside, what we have heard about the Ripsaw time and again is that the learning curve is steep, and there’s typically some troubleshooting to get things going. But once setup, the ride is smooth, and it performs well.

Whether it is worth the trouble is up to you, but we must admit it is hard to resist the lure of Razer’s sleek green and black design.

High Ground View:

  • Type: External
  • Interface: USB 3.0
  • Resolution: 480p-2160p
  • Fps: 30-60

13. ClonerAlliance Cloner Box Pro

Cloner Alliance Cloner Box Pro

ClonerAlliance is a lesser-known option, but still a valid choice for those looking for a media box and capture card combo. As a flagship product of ClonerAlliance, the HDML-Cloner Box Pro is a popular choice for its comprehensive functionality and cost-effective performance. It is suitable for gamers, movie fans, and content creators. One standout feature of this product is that it supports two recording modes: PC-Free mode and PC mode. PC-Free mode allows you to record videos/games to your USB flash drive or external HDD. After recording, you can playback videos on your TV instantly with the included remote control.

If you have old VHS tapes to be digitized, HDML-Cloner Box Pro is also an ideal choice for you. In addition to HDMI input, with an adapter cable (included), you can connect most old video devices with AV/VGA/YPbPr interface to this capture card and create your own digital library. Furthermore, when you are away and don’t want to miss favorite TV shows, try the schedule recording function. It will automatically record videos at the scheduled time and supports up to 4 scheduled tasks. In addition, this capture card supports inputting 4K videos and has excellent live streaming capability with its low delay and live commentary. Free editing utility programs are included.

High Ground View:

  • Type: External
  • Interface: USB 3.0
  • Resolution: 1080p-2160p
  • Fps: 30-60

14. Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro

elgato-game-capture-hd60-pro

The Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro is a relatively new internal capture card offering. Elgato is known for their external cards, but they saw the opportunity to provide multi-system streamers with a rock-solid option. If you want the ultimate setup with a dedicated streaming rig, it won’t hurt to pop one of these bad boys in there.

This capture card receives the gold stamp of approval from HGG. While not a globally recognized award, you can bet your sweet bippy we don’t hand this one out to just anyone.

Long story short: this enables you to do it all without sacrificing much performance.

Short story long: this internal capture card interfaces with a PCIe slot, so the big requirement here is a desktop computer. But if you can manage the install into your rig, you’ll be blessed with top tier performance. Thanks to the ‘Master Copy’ technology, Elgato boasts that this card can simultaneously record in 1080p at 60 FPS while streaming at that same high quality.

Via the lag-free HDMI output, you can hook this up to your PS4, Xbox One/360, or Wii U. Thanks to flashback recording, you’ll always have evidence of ‘that one time,’ like when you single-handedly shot down 3 helicopters with your pistol.

You can also look forward to features like Stream Command, Instant Gameview, Flashback Recording, and Master Copy technology. If you’re looking to invest in something sure to make your content and/or stream stand out, this is the one.

High Ground View:

  • Type: Internal
  • Interface: PCIe
  • Resolution: 480p-1080p
  • Fps: 60

15. AVerMedia Live Gamer HD

avermedia-game-capture-hd-best-capture-cards

This is the non-portable, internal version of the C875, and it’s designed to be installed into your computer’s PCIe slot. Moreover, it comes with a snazzy external button, maintaining that easy one-tap functionality you’ve come to know and love from AVerMedia devices.

This card lets you capture game footage from a PC or game console using RECentral. This uses a very low amount of CPU and will support game performance in situations where you are both streaming and recording simultaneously. Pass-thru HDMI & DVI cables & adapters are included with this as well. This card has HDMI and AUX inputs and outputs only. It does not have component or composite inputs unless you buy an adapter.

High Ground View:

  • Type: External
  • Interface: USB 3.0
  • Resolution: 480p-1080p
  • Fps: 30-60

16. AVerMedia GC553 ULTRA

AVerMedia Live Gamer ULTRA (GC553)

The Live Gamer ULTRA is the beefiest external capture card on the market right now. This unit can pass-through 4K content @ 60 FPS, but it is limited to 30 FPS when it comes to recording at 4K.

At 1080p, you can pass through at 240 FPS and capture in 120 fps. Not bad at all for a USB interfacing card! Like many other AVerMedia models, this card comes with a product key for PowerDirector 15.

High Ground View:

  • Type: External
  • Interface: USB 3.1
  • Resolution: 1080p-2160p
  • Fps: 60-240

17. Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro

Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro

The 4K60 Pro internal (PCIe interface) Capture Card is the newest addition to Elgato’s capture card family. With 4K TVs and monitors coming out left and right, it was only a matter of time before Elgato jumped on the 4K bandwagon. Still, we weren’t expecting this card quite so soon, and it is yet another example of the rapidly increasing pace of innovation in the gaming hardware arena.

The 4K60 Pro works well with XSplit or OBS, and the card is fairly easy to install (especially if you’ve have experience building your own rig or upgrading components in the past). This is an excellent investment if you’re a gamer or creator who wants to stand out from the crowd and offer cutting edge resolution. It carries a whopper of a price tag, but by reaching for the best, you’re future-proofing your setup.

High Ground View:

  • Type: Internal
  • Interface: PCIe
  • Resolution: 1080p-2160p
  • Fps: 60-240

18. AVerMedia 4K GC573

AVerMedia GC573 Live Gamer 4K

This is AVerMedia’s answer to the 4K60 Pro. It can capture 4K at 60 FPS and 1080p at up to 240 FPS.

That’s a massive jump in capability over their previous card’s cap of 1080p at 60 FPS. That extra FPS comes in handy considering the leaps and bounds gaming monitors have made in recent years. This capture card also includes Cyber Link PowerDirector 15, which is a solid piece of video editing software.

High Ground View:

  • Type: Internal
  • Interface: PCIe
  • Resolution: 1080p-2160p
  • Fps: 60-240

19. Magewell USB Dongle

Magewell USB Capture HDMI Gen2 - USB 3.0 HD Video Capture Dongle Model 32060 (Replaces XI100DUSB HDMI)

Magewell isn’t as well known as the Elgatos and AVerMedias of the world, but they are still worth a gander.

We’ve heard the main strengths of this compact unit are its plug-and-play abilities — it is super easy to set up with OBS and on top of that very mobile. Weaknesses of this card are the lackluster audio quality and that it gets scalding hot after extended use.

High Ground View:

  • Type: External
  • Interface: USB 3.0
  • Resolution: 1080p-2160p
  • Fps: 60-120

20. Magewell Pro Capture

Magewell Pro Capture Quad HDMI Video Capture Card

Magewell’s Pro Capture is the most expensive capture card on our list. That’s because it’s an advanced capture card with 4 channel capability.

That said, it’s probably overkill for most gaming and streaming setups — though some specialized users may need each and every one of those four HDMI ports. This unique niche card’s versatile compatibility with most applications propelled it onto our best capture cards list.

High Ground View:

  • Type: Internal
  • Interface: PCIe
  • Resolution: 1080p-2160p
  • Fps: 60-144

Capture Card Guide Part I: Info, Benefits, and Setup

game-capture-set-up-best-capture-cards

Capture Card Related Terms:

  • Capture: The process of capturing live video and audio in analog composite video, RF modulated video, S-video, or digital video such as SDI (Serial Digital Interface) or HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface).
  • Record: The process of recording video and/or audio in digital data (in the form of a media file) that is compatible with your computer.
  • Stream: The process of transmitting and receiving data over a network as a constant, continuous flow.
  • Encode: The process of converting raw sequences of characters into a coded form. CPU encoding to H.264 is one of the most commonly used formats of video content.
  • Broadcast: The process of distributing and sharing video and/or audio content with an audience via any electronic mass communication medium.

Many gamers want to get their gameplay on YouTube or Twitch. Whether it be for fame, fortune, fun, or women.

The best capture cards come into play by helping gamers achieve their goals, providing them with a variety of broadcasting and recording options. Most commonly, capture cards are used by gamers to record themselves playing a game. Either they stream this content or save it for later. Some creative gamers will even do cool editing and whatnot, then upload the finished video to sites like YouTube and Twitch.

They then use these platforms to provide walk-through game videos, gameplay highlights, game reviews, and other creative content. Pretty cool, right? If you want to learn the ins-and-outs of capture cards, read on.

Capture cards enable you to have more freedom and control over your recorded and streamed footage. Other benefits include:

  • better game performance while recording
  • versatile file formatting
  • uploading to social media outlets
  • personalize and edit game footage
  • customize your stream’s experience for your viewers.

It is important to note that the quality of the video you capture is reliant on the source you are recording from. Obviously, there’s going to be a big difference between capturing N64 footage vs. capturing gameplay from a PS4. Additionally, quality is impacted by whether you’re using a high definition or standard definition connection.

Capture cards usually come bundled together with game capture software. Some of this software is useful, and some of it frankly sucks. The better software can assist you in recording, setting up a gameplay library, and customize your Twitch channel. It may also help you in recording voice commentary along with the in-game footage when producing videos.

For streamers, there are free and paid streaming software options. We have a list of the most popular software here.

elgato-hd-software-best-capture-cards

For those of you with PS4 and Xbox One consoles, there are built-in recording features in both of these consoles. They don’t come without severe limitations, however. Big console streamers and YouTubers are still choosing to use game capture devices over the built-in software. This is because they need more options and freedom than what Sony and Microsoft offer.

Two parts of streaming that require significant computer resources are capturing and encoding. Video encoding is an extremely CPU-intensive task, while capturing is relatively low impact. But for both instances, game capture cards are a useful tool to help get these tasks done efficiently.

Setting up a capture card:

It’s good to know what you’re getting into before buying one of these cards. In the image below, you can see what a reasonably standard setup looks like.

setting-up-a-capture-card
Setting Up a Capture Card

Minimum System & Connection Requirements:

  • Solid Upload Speed: ~ 5mb/sec for 720p & 10mb/sec for 1080p
  • PC or Console: ~ i5 or i7 Processor PC or 8th gen console
  • 2 HDMI Cables
  • USB Cable

Setting up one of these capture cards might sound like more trouble than it’s worth. Especially when there are easy options like the “share” button on the PS4.

We understand that argument. But using a capture card combined with powerful streaming software is the best way to turn heads. It gives you complete control over your stream.

Think about it. You’ll be able to display custom graphics and intros, show scoreboards, show chats, insert multiple cameras, and re-position screens. And that’s just a taste of you can look forward to!

A new console or PC gives you the power to stream. Using dedicated streaming hardware and software gives you the ability to make a production.

Capture Card Guide Part II: Types of Capture Cards

elgato-hd60-one-of-the-best-internal-capture-cards

There are two main types of capture cards: internal and external. A capture card is installed in one of two ways. Internally, by installing it in a free expansion slot. Or externally, connected via a USB or thunderbolt connection to a computer. Depending on the device and what you are capturing, you will be using HDMI cables, component cables, or DVI cables.

External Capture Cards

external-capture-card-example
Example of External Capture Card

External capture devices are small capture cards protected by a hard case. The nice thing about external capture cards is that you can use them with numerous computers. They are portable, and you can move your card from room to room or even take it over to your buddy’s house.

How do external capture cards work? External capture devices capture and record gameplay without a computer, using their own internal storage, a memory card, or an external HD to record footage.

These types of cards come in HD and standard definition.

Internal Capture Cards

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Example of Internal Capture Card

Internal capture cards are typically designed for intensive use. Many gamers report much more success and reliability from these types of capture cards, though external cards have improved in recent years.

Install an internal card into a PCIe slot, and you don’t have to worry about your CPU and GPU getting overworked. That’s because internal capture cards reduce FPS spikes by taking the recording load off of your hardware. Many dedicated PC streamers install an internal capture card to their secondary streaming computer.

Capture Card Comparison

External: Portability is a wonderful thing, particularly with game capture devices. Move your capture card from room to room, or take it with you on the go. Moreover, some external capture cards have built-in internal memory, SD card slots, or the option to connect an external HD and record to there (or some combination of those features). If you’re a console gamer and you can’t get a PC/laptop close to your console set up, this is the way to go.

Internal: It is important to note that you will need an open PCIe slot to install an internal capture card. These are best for those gamers doing strictly PC gaming, but they work for consoles too (if you can get a desktop PC close to your console). These really shine in a two-system streaming setup, where one of your computers is a dedicated streaming machine.

Capture Card Guide Part III: Do I Even Need a Video Game Capture Card?

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Benefits of Capture Cards Over Streaming with Standalone Xbox One or PS4:

  • Stream in high quality (consoles stream in low bitrates)
  • Use custom overlays & brand your stream to set yourself apart from other streamers
  • Retain viewers with a lag-free, high-quality stream
  • Easily create and manage a video clip library on external storage

There is a lot of conflicting information out there surrounding these devices. Uneducated consumers and misleading advertising contribute to this problem.

Furthermore, the devices themselves are complex. When you get into the realm of broadcasting, recording, encoding, capturing, and all the other technical jargon, things can get complicated. On top of that, you have dozens of opinions on which is the best capture card. Whatever the case, we are going to simplify this complex subject.

In general, game capture devices are of the most benefit to console gamers. Even with the newest consoles, there are limitations to how much game footage you can capture and what you can do with it.

Capture cards may call for a more complicated setup initially, but they open the door to having more control over your recordings. Capture cards will also aid you in setting up a professional, high-quality video stream. This is an excellent way to distinguish yourself from the multitudes of other streamers, and it becomes easier to personalize your stream. Furthermore, high-definition at 60 FPS will provide a much smoother viewing experience.

We are going to break it down by gaming system to help you decide whether you need one.

PC

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You don’t need a capture card to stream or record your games on PC. All you need is broadcasting software (Xsplit, etc.) and a beefy system. That said, capture cards can come in handy, depending on your setup. There are two main categories of PC streamers: single system and dual system.

Single System

If you have a cutting edge system with a powerful GPU and CPU, you’ll be just fine using screen recorder software to capture and record your game footage.

Want to know why? Check out this post on the OBS Project Forum (OBS is the gold standard in open-source recording software) by Moderator Krazy:

“Capture cards in single PC setups are pretty much completely useless unless you intend to do the encoding with the hardware encoder on the card, but the quality on anything under 200 bucks is going to be completely horrible.

OBS can’t use most of the hardware encoders anyway (not that you want to), so all encoding is still going to be done by your CPU. The built-in capture methods in OBS are already as efficient as possible, so the only way to lower streaming impact without losing quality is to build a second, dedicated streaming PC and use the capture card to grab the image from your gaming rig.”

– Mod Krazy

This is why, for single system streamers, your money is probably better spent on a more powerful CPU.

Dual System

The situation where investing in a capture card makes the most amount of sense is when individuals desire the ultimate solution: having a second PC that handles all the streaming.

A capture device helps you connect this second PC to your primary PC, which allows you to maintain optimal performance on your gaming rig. This is particularly important for competitive gamers, e.g., those who need to play at a competitive FPS rate, capture & record, AND stream simultaneously.

This is how two system setups work. Your primary computer is the dedicated gaming machine that outputs it’s video to the capture card. The second PC with the capture card works as an encoding/streaming machine only. For those of you with lower-end systems, you have two options. Buy/build a costly ultra-gaming machine or get a secondary streaming computer and a capture card.

Getting this set up can take some time, but it is worth it if you plan on using it a lot. The game capture unit is installed on the second PC. The second PC captures what is happening on the first PC. Consequently, the gaming PC is not affected by the heavy CPU-intensive encoding tasks when streaming. This helps you maintain a stable FPS rate when playing, recording, and streaming at the same time.

That’s because recording and compression work is done by the capture card and second computer, not by the main gaming computer’s CPU. This lowers your primary computer’s load, focusing all its resources on the game you’re playing. Therefore, a capture card is beneficial in a two-system setup.

Playstation 4

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PS4 gamers will benefit significantly from a capture card. That’s because capture devices give you more flexibility and help you do all the extra fancy stuff. Instead of using Sony’s limited software, you’ll transfer footage to your laptop or PC, where you can create a stream and/or record and edit gameplay footage.

Streaming

Let’s go over what Sony has done right. Streaming is easy and quick with the PS4 software, as you can stream directly to Twitch. After all, there’s a “share” button right on the controller. All you need to do is link your account, give your channel/stream a title, and then select “Start Broadcast” after hitting the share button on the controller.

Recording

PS4 has some nifty built-in software that records up to 15 minutes of gameplay at a time. The downside is, well, its only 15 minutes of gameplay.

Once again, the Share Button is the first step to getting the job done.
Simply double-tap the button to begin recording. Then use Sony’s built-in video editor called Share Factory to get the footage ready for posting.

Ready to export those clips? Follow these simple steps:

  1. Plug an external memory unit into the PS4.
  2. Use the Capture Gallery feature.
  3. Select Options
  4. Choose to copy the video to USB.

Easy but monotonous.

Obviously, having a game capture card will enable you to sidestep much of this hassle and give you more versatility when managing your gameplay footage. Also, you’ll not have to keep hitting “start recording” after every 15 minutes.

Side note: Sony released the all or nothing HDCP toggle last year in April. This was part of the 1.70 update. Disabling this option allows you to record game footage and audio. What you don’t want to do is record movies because the FBI will track you down and possibly shoot you (and you won’t respawn).

Xbox One

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Like the PS4, a game capture device is going to give you more flexibility when working with your gameplay footage. It will provide you with more control over your streams and recordings.

As is the case with Sony, using a capture card lets you step outside Microsoft’s limits. You’ll be able to capture an unlimited amount of footage and send it to your laptop or PC, where you can then stream, record, edit, etc.

Streaming

Broadcasting is baked into the Xbox One OS. Twitch direct broadcasting is available. As with the PS4, it is a simple setup:

  1. Open the Twitch App on the Xbox One
  2. Select login
  3. Open twitch.tv
  4. Activate on your phone or computer
  5. Enter the six-digit code on your TV to link the accounts

Now all you have to do is select the “Broadcast” tile to start streaming.

Recording

The Xbox One also has a built-in “Game DVR.” The Game DVR allows you to record a clip of up to 5 minutes. When you’re ready to record, go to snap an app and select start recording. When you’re done, choose stop recording. You can view these recordings in Show My Clips.

You can then edit these clips using the Upload Studio. And if you want to transfer the videos to your PC, you can use the OneDrive app on your Xbox.

Unfortunately, these recording features come with even more limitations than the Playstation 4. If you’re looking to do some serious recording, it is going to be a pain in the ass stringing together 5-minute videos. You can begin to see where a capture card comes in handy.

OBS

Side Note: As far as using game capture devices goes, nothing has changed from the 360. This is nice if you or a friend has had experience setting one up on the 360. You can use the card to hook up to your computer to stream, record footage on the hard drive of your computer, and all that good stuff. The Xbox One seamlessly switches HDCP mode automatically for you. When playing games, HDCP is off, allowing capture cards to work flawlessly. When watching a movie or using a video service such as Netflix, HDCP is enabled to protect video content.

Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Older Consoles

If you do not have a PS4 or Xbox One, you do need a capture card to stream your games. Game capture devices are going to be the only route for PS3 and Xbox 360 gamers. This generation of consoles and those preceding it are not capable of recording or streaming gameplay. They do not have built-in recording tools like the Xbox One and PS4. Having a capture card is the only way to capture, record, and get streams set up with older consoles.

Capture cards are the required middleman to get the gameplay footage from your console to PC to Twitch. You will also need broadcast software such as Xsplit, FFSplit, Wirecast, or one of the other options out there.

Capture Card Guide Part IV: Technical Issues with Capture Cards

Generally, if you are using relatively new capture card products with more modern electronics, you’re not going to run into any issues. Just don’t expect HD quality without an HD ready device and HDMI cable.

While capture technology isn’t brand new, it isn’t old either. Manufacturers are still perfecting their products. Audio and video quality results will vary, particularly with older components and televisions.

When issues do pop up, it’s usually user-error. Maybe their old TV doesn’t have an HDMI port, or something like that. Whatever the case, the fact of the matter is there are 1000’s of TVs, different formats, and other electronic devices out there. Creating a device that is perfectly compatible with all of them is a tall order.

You’ll always want to check the required system specifications before buying a capture card. Follow the directions that come with the device, and take your time setting things up. If you get stuck, there are YouTube videos covering most brands of capture cards and the typical setups. If all else fails, you can get in touch with the support service backing your capture card and do some troubleshooting.

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