Accomplishments are great, but they’re even better when they can be shared with others. This especially holds true in the gaming world. The gaming community is no longer limited to solo game-play. In fact, gaming has taken social media by surprise – Facebook, Reddit, Twitch, and YouTube are some of the more popular platforms that are flooded on a daily basis with videos showcasing highlight reels, killing sprees, glitches, tips and tricks for all of our favorite games.
As you may have noticed, not all of these videos are showcasing PC games, in fact just do a quick search of Xbox One or PS4 satirical comedies or video game walkthroughs and you’ll realize that gamers from all consoles are sharing their amazing video game feats with the world. So, how can you record your gaming adventures for the world to see? Its simple. One of the easiest ways for a gamer to record these special moments is with the use of a game capture card.
In this article, we discuss some of the basis regarding a video game capture card, including some of the benefits of owning one, which game consoles can especially benefit, and the differences between an internal and an external capture card. Additionally, we have outlined for you some of the best game capture cards on the market in our comparison chart which is proceeded by brief, but detailed gaming capture card reviews.
Best Capture Card Complete Guide
Elgato Game Capture HD60, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Xbox 360, or Wii U gameplay, Full HD 1080p 60fps
AVerMedia Live Gamer Extreme, Game Capture and Streaming, Full HD 1080p 60fps, Ultra Low Latency, Audio Mixer Support Game Recorder, USB 3.0 (GC550)
Hauppauge - HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition High Definition Game Capture Device with Digital Audio
|1080p, 720p||30fps, 60fps||$$$$||9.5|
AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable, Full HD 1080p Recording Without PC Directly to SD Card, Ultra Low Latency, H.264 Hardware Encoding, USB 2.0, High Definition Game Capture, Recorder, Streaming (C875)
|1080p, 720p||30fps, 60fps||$$$||9.4|
Roxio Game Capture HD PRO
Gaming Capture Card Term Glossary
Capture: This is the process of capturing (this precedes recording) video and audio from various kinds of signals, including: analog composite or RF modulated video, S-Video, Serial Digital Interface (SDI), or High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI).
Record: This involves taking the captured gameplay video/audio, converting it into a digital file, and saving it as a media file that your computer can recognize and interact with.
Raw Footage: 100% original and unedited captured, encoded, and recorded gameplay footage.
Broadcasting: This is the sharing of your video game footage to a specific or general audience through the utilization of mass communication software, websites, or any other supported device – this often requires a fast internet connection and compatible hardware and software.
Twitch: This is one of the most popular platforms for broadcasting and streaming footage, and exclusively caters to the gaming community. Twitch is fun, easy to use, and is building a community of its own. Twitch allows you to broadcast your gameplay, stream it live, embed videos on your blog, and share it to many popular social networks.
Streaming With a Game Capture Card vs Console Alone
As you may or may not already know, Sony and Microsoft have equipped the PS4 and Xbox One with some simple built-in gameplay recording capabilities. Unfortunately, this software is just not up to par with game capture devices. Features are limited, gameplay can be affected, and the quality of the footage both when recording and streaming can’t really compete with a quality gameplay capture card. The best capture cards are able to stream higher quality content – consoles are often limited to streaming in low bitrates which may result in lag. In addition, many capture cards and their bundled software allow you to add custom graphic overlays to your footage, allowing you to brand your video for all to see. Some even assist you in showing a chosen scoreboard or chats within your footage, or may simplify the process of zooming footage or displaying multiple camera angles at the same time.
Capture cards make it easy to get your footage to Twitch or YouTube. Whether it is just a hobby, you’re looking for exposure and bragging rights, or trying to monetize on your gaming accomplishments, investing in a game capture card will make reaching your goals that much easier. Some gamers decide to stream their content live, others will record it and save it for many later creative uses. We can almost guarantee that those individuals on social media with some of the most popular gameplay highlights, reviews, or walkthroughs utilize a top-quality gaming capture card.
The type of capture card, and the source and connection of the footage, all play a role in how your end-product will turn out. Capturing video from a Wii will look different from that of Xbox One or PS4 gameplay. An analog connection is obviously inferior to high definition or HDMI connection, and would result in lower quality video content. Many of our top-ranked capture cards include game capture software with the purchase. Just as all game capture devices are not equal, neither is all game capture software. Many allow you to build your own gameplay library or customize your Twitch video channel. Other features such as adding voice commentary or making other edits to your footage may also be available.
Common Capture Card Technical Concerns
More often than not, modern technology works best with other modern technology and issues with compatibility are rarely seen. Expecting your brand new game capture card to work hassle free with your Nintendo 64 and your analog box TV may be some wishful thinking, and vice versa – and outdated capture card may not work up to par with your new PS4. If you’re seeking out HD quality, make sure you have the required tech: HDMI cable with an HDMI compatible device. Capture technology is always improving along with the game consoles and content quality. When issues are encountered, it usually boils down to a problem with the user – not using the correct cables, incompatibility with HDMI, non-HD supported device, etc. For the most part, most capture cards we’ve reviewed are compatible with just about any modern tech. As always, your mileage may vary. Ensure that your device meets the required minimum system specifications and take it slowly when setting up. If you have trouble, do a quick google search or find a YouTube video, as there are many troubleshooting tips for most of the popular capture cards out there.
External vs Internal Capture Cards
Capture cards can be further categorized into two main types, which pretty much vary based on the way in which they are connected to your device. An internal capture card is pretty much limited to the hardcore PC gamer, and is installed using a free expansion slot. An external capture card is usually connected through a USB or thunderbolt connection, and happens to be portable and easily moved from one device to another. Depending on the quality you are looking for and the type of capture card, you will be connecting with HDMI, DVI, or component cables.
One of the best things about an external capture card is the fact that you can easily move it with you from room to room, and plug it into one device to another. They are portable and are generally protected with a durable “exoskeleton” type of case protecting all the sensitive hardware. Some of the newer and more advanced capture cards are able to record gameplay footage without the need for a nearby computer, and save footage directly to their own internal memory storage. HD and standard definition external capture cards are available, and some allow you to further connect to an external drive to record and save your footage to for later access. Internal capture cards are pretty much limited to PC use and are designed for hardcore gamers that are looking to reduce stressing the CPU or GPU during gameplay. Using an internal capture card will limit frame rate spikes by taking most of the load off your CPU and RAM. It is important to note that an open PCIe (PCI Express) slot is needed in order to install and utilize one of these capture devices.
As the majority of you out there are probably seeking out an external capture card for one of your gaming consoles, we decided to review the best external gaming capture devices for you. The PricenFees mission is to provide you, the consumer, with important information regarding the products you are seeking out. As we mentioned earlier, most PC gamers should have no problems capturing, recording, broadcasting, or streaming their game-play footage with a decent PC setup and some streaming software. Below you will find reviews for the best external game capture cards.
Who Benefits Most From A Video Game Capture Card?
Even with the newest game consoles, there are many limitations regarding how you can capture, encode, and record game footage, and how creative you can be with it. If you’re a talented gamer who wants to share your skills with the world, this basic built-in software just doesn’t cut it. For the most part, console gamers will benefit to a much greater extent than PC gamers. For the PC gamer, all you need is some fast processing speeds, a powerful CPU, plenty of RAM and some broadcasting software (Xsplit, Wirecast, FFSplit, etc.) and you’re good to go.
Sony has made some much needed improvements with their PS4 regarding the addition of gameplay capture functionality and the ease which you can share recorded gameplay footage. The PS4 allows you to stream directly to Twitch, a process that is simplified with the addition of the share button located directly on the controller. All that is required is for you to sign up, link your account, name your stream with a catchy title, and select the start broadcast option. Recording is also pretty simple on the PS4, though you are limited to only 15 minutes of gameplay. The share button on the controller has many uses as you can see – a single tap brings you to the settings menu and a double tap will begin recording. The Share Factory, which is Sony’s built-in video editor has most of the basics and is pretty simple to use. In order to export your footage, you must plug an external memory device into the PS4, head to the Capture Gallery, go through the options and copy the clip to your USB.
A decent game capture card makes this entire process much faster and easier – aside from all of the other editing and streaming benefits that a capture card has to offer. Additionally, you are no longer restricted to only 15 minutes of footage. Pressing the start recording option every few minutes when you’re in the middle of some seriously intense multiplayer action can get old fast.
Similarly, to the PS4 fans, the Xbox One gamer will also greatly benefit from a game-footage capture card. Microsoft has equipped the Xbox One with software allowing you to broadcast footage directly to Twitch. Simply create a Twitch account, link it with the Xbox One, and select the Broadcast option to begin streaming. Recording footage is with the built-in Game DVR is restricted to only 5 minutes, less than the 15 minutes of the PS4. Recording and editing your video clips also comes with plenty of other limitations. The Upload Studio allows you to make some basic edits, and transferring your clips can be done with the OneDrive app. As you’d expect, trying to organize a slew of 5-minute video clips is difficult and time consuming.
Investing in a top-quality game capture card gives you more freedom with the length of time you can record, and also provides you with better editing software options. The time it takes to begin recording footage may be the difference between catching that moment on film and completely missing it.
Older Consoles (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
Unfortunately, those with an Xbox 360 or a PS3 will need to purchase a capture card in order to record or stream your game footage. This generation of gaming consoles do not come equipped with any hardware or software allowing you to stream or broadcast gameplay. Built-in recording tools, even the most basic kind like we see in the Xbox One or PlayStation 4, were not seen as a necessity when these products were mass manufactured. Game capture cards are required to get your gameplay footage from your console, to PC, to YouTube or Twitch. Broadcast software may also be needed if not already included with your capture card.
What Is The Best Capture Card?
1. Elgato Game Capture HD60 Review
If you are simply looking for the best quality footage and most efficient capture card, the Elgato Game Capture HD60 is your best bet. The HD60 records full 1080p HD at 60 frames per second. Your video clips look great, and there is very little noticeable compression when viewed at a later time or when streamed through Twitch. This capture device supports a whopping 40 Mbps for streaming – much greater than the maximum bitrate Twitch supports of only 3500 Kbps.
The Elgato Game Capture HD60 measures at 4.4 x 3.0 x 0.75 and weighs less than 4 ounces. You can easily slide your device into a pocket when not in use or when traveling. The soft and smooth service is aesthetically pleasing and blends in to the environment when set up. The HD60 comes equipped with HDMI input and output, a microphone port (for when recording), and a mini USB port. The HD60 captures video directly through your consoles HDMI output, which can then be transferred through the mini USB port to your computer.
The included software is top notch and works with both Windows and Mac. Out of the box, the Elgato Game Capture HD60 supports most of the major gameplay streaming services, such as Twitch, YouTube, and even UStream. The HD60 is equipped with a nifty feature that allows you to re-record game footage that was captured but not recorded, called Flashback Recording. We found this to be more useful than expected. For example, say you didn’t have time to manually record a gnarly headshot or killing spree – no need to worry, as you can retroactively go ahead and record that footage. While there is no specified length of time that you can go back and capture video, we found it was able to go back up to an hour of buffered video in most cases.
If you’re looking for a portable, yet highly functional game capture device, the Elgato Game Capture HD60 is a great pick. The ease of setup and functionality of included software, all the way to the streaming end product or video clip on your computer, the HD60 performs surprisingly well, even when faced with high motion sequences other capture cards struggle with.
2. AVerMedia Live Gamer Extreme (GC550) Review
As mentioned earlier in our guide, if you’re serious about recording and streaming your gameplay footage to YouTube, Twitch, or Let’s Play, you need a dedicated capture device. To sum it up, the AVerMedia Live Gamer Extreme turns your PC into your own personal gaming recording machine. It works nicely with the Nintendo Wii U, the Xbox One, and the PS4, as well as any other HDMI or component video source. The GC500 Live Gamer Extreme is similar in functionality to our first pick, and its included software is top-quality with a very short learning curve. In fact, within a few minutes we were very comfortable with the software and its features.
The AVerMedia Live Gamer Extreme is rectangular and black, aside from the red AVerMedia and LGX logo graphics. For those interested in a bit of customization, this capture card allows just that. A small screw along the back edge holds in place a panel that can be taken off where you can slide on your own personal artwork. This is made even easier with the included Cover Creator program, which automatically sizes and formats your design to the exact size of the window. The back edge contains HDMI input and output, a micro USB 3.0 port, and a component video port that works in conjunction with the included component video adapter. On the front are two 3.5mm audio jacks that allow you to insert narration or other sound effects from various sources, in addition to the already connect game console.
RECentral 2 software is included and is easy to use, and highly functional allowing you to to perform many different customizations and functionalities. Its two main functions are Stream and Record. Stream allows you to stream footage directly to Ustream, YouTube Live, NicoNico, Twitch, and any other chosen RTMP streaming service. The Live Gamer Extreme supports up to 1080p streaming at 60fps. The Enable Video Backup option allows you to save your stream as an independent movie file as if you chose to record it on your own. We found this movie file to seem compressed compared to if we used the Record option on its own. Record allows you to save footage from HDMI or component video to your computer. Various custom options are available for you to mess with, including changes in resolution, bit rate, codex, frame rate, or audio source mixing. In addition, the RECentral 2 supports live video editing, though it is limited while recording is in progress.
Overall, the AVerMedia Live Gamer Extreme (GC500) is an excellent choice for those looking for a top-quality capture card. Video footage captured by this device is impressive. The included software is equally as impressive, and may even be a tad bit more intuitive than what is included with the HD60 we reviewed above.