What Is a Capture Card and Do I Need One. What is a capture card

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The best capture cards for 2022: Xbox, PlayStation, and PC

The capture card allows you to stream and capture gameplay on your computer and consoles without interrupting your gameplay. Capture cards serve as an intermediary, stealing a game feed while in-game to record it to your computer or stream it to a platform like Twitch. However, these devices aren’t built the same, so you’ll need one of the best capture cards to record or stream your gameplay at the highest possible quality.

We’ve collected seven capture cards that are great for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PC, and Nintendo Switch. All of the cards below will work as long as your console has an HDMI port, but we’ve tailored our pick to ensure the best possible experience for their platforms.

If you’re interested in a PC video capture card, check out our guide on how to build a PC. Some cards only work inside your computer, so you’ll need to learn how to insert a PCIe card (it’s actually quite simple).

Further reading

Elgato Game Capture HD60 S+

Elgao Game Capture SD 60S capture card.

Pros: Instant streaming, flashback recording, console, PC and Mac support

Cons: No H.264 encoder, limited editing software capabilities

The Elgato HD60 hits the next generation with the Elgato HD60 S +. Stylistically and mechanically, it’s almost identical to the HD60 S – our previous recommendation for this slot – although it does have one unique advantage: the 4K60 transition from HDR.

While the HD60 S + is still limited to capturing 1080p HDR at 60 frames per second (fps), you can still monitor your channel with full graphical fidelity to your new console. The HD60 S + can also capture 4K, though it’s limited to 30fps.

Elgato has clearly targeted the Xbox Series X / S and PlayStation 5 with the HD60 S +, but it also works on PS4 and Xbox One. No matter what console you use, setup is simple. When you connect an HDMI cable to both ends and run the included USB cable to your computer, streaming software such as OBS Studio and XSplit will automatically detect the console as an input source.

PlayStation supports capture cards for the same reason as other consoles to be able to transfer captured data to your computer, so you can customize the stream better. This section covers the steps you must follow to set up your capture card on your PlayStation console.

Do I Need a Capture Card?

If you want to stream and record content on your screen, a capture card is highly recommended. While gaming consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X have built-in streaming capabilities, they are limited in terms of PC power and data speeds. They just can’t encode and render realtime video in high quality. This is where the capture cards come into play.

Not only are capture cards popular with gamers, but the popularity of live streaming and newly recorded camera content has made capture cards a popular item for all types of video streamers. The ability to capture and save content for later use, such as post-production editing on a computer, is invaluable to many people in today’s technology-driven world.

Live Streaming and Recording for Gamers

All you need is a computer and an application to start recording game footage from your computer. As mentioned, some game consoles have streaming features built in, but a capture card will be required if you want to record as well. There is a large community of gamers who edit their content on platforms like Twitch, YouTube, and Vimeo to share with their followers. Being able to stream and record HD videos from your game console to share with the community is a dream and even a livelihood for multiplayer. A reliable capture card carries the load of any gaming PC, offering HD streams with high frame rates. For platforms like YouTube or Twitch, the capture card is a convenience,which allows you to focus on creating the most entertaining content.

The capture card and accessories like HDMI, USB and SDI cables allow you to capture, stream, edit and share your entire experience. When deciding to buy a capture card, you need to determine which type is right for you: USB interface or PCI-e interface.

The value of a USB capture card such as the BZBGEAR® BG-CAP-HA lies in its versatility that you can take with you. BG-CAP-HA is an HDMI capture device that receives up to protected email signals and captures and stores email resolutions protected by USB 3.0. However, if your main goal is to only use the capture card with your PC, the PCI-e capture card is your best option.

BG-CAP-HA HDMI Capture Device with USB 3.0 Powered

If your camera only has SDI outputs and you want to live broadcast and record, BG-CSA is perfect. BG-CSA is an SDI capture card that acquires streaming video from SDI-enabled devices and converts it to a USB signal for use with a PC or laptop. SDI capture cards are great when the camera is away from your computer as SDI cables are durable, inexpensive, and better for long cables. Not to mention, they are more reliable thanks to the locking mechanism, which is why SDI cables are the preferred choice for professionals. SDI applications are typical of TV broadcasts, live events, and houses of worship.

BG-CSA USB 3.1 Gen 1 3G-SDI capture device with scaler and sound

BG-CSA USB 3.1 Gen 1 3G-SDI capture device with scaler and audio ports

With a capture card and other accessories such as an HDMI cable, you can stream, capture and share your entire game, now you can save your exciting game from PlayStation for later review or upload to social media platforms.

🤓 How to choose a capture card

When looking for a capture card, keep these four characteristics in mind:

  1. Image Quality: If you are getting a capture card to stream your gameplay then obviously image quality is important. Capture cards have different recording capabilities, some reaching 1080p, others reaching 4K. Think about what platforms you want to host your game on and what maximum resolutions they allow. Also, keep in mind that streaming at higher resolutions requires more bandwidth, so make sure your internet connection can handle it as well.
  2. Included software for the card: To use the capture card with a computer, you must install the accompanying software (or third-party software for capture cards that do not come with proprietary software). Look for cards that come with user-friendly, reliable software that comes packed with features such as adding overlays or attaching a webcam.
  3. Input type suitable for your device: Please make sure the capture card input method is compatible with the console you are using for streaming. Input is usually HDMI, but always check before purchasing.
  4. How it connects to the computer: The interface is how the capture card connects to the computer. The most common types are USB, which is easy to configure, and PCIe, which is more difficult to use, but records the material without any delay.

Now that you know why you need a capture card and what to look for when buying it, check out our list of the best capture cards for 2021.

🔥 Best capture cards

1. Elgato HD60S+

Elgato HD60S+

A familiar name for streamers and live gamers, Elgato makes a capture card that still works well and tops the charts. The Elgato HD60S + provides high-quality images, is easy to set up, and works seamlessly with your favorite live streaming software.

👉 Features:

  • 1080p HDR capture at 60 frames per second (fps)
  • 4K passing at 60 fps
  • Flashback recording (capture backwards if you forgot to start recording)
  • uSB 3.0 connectivity

➕ Pros:

  • Perfect picture quality
  • No streaming delay
  • Console, PC and Mac support

➖ Disadvantages:

2. AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K

AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K

AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K is one of the most affordable capture cards that can capture 4K footage. And if you’re streaming to platforms that don’t have 4K yet (all except YouTube), you can stream in 1080p at 240fps – not bad.

👉 Features:

  • Record 4K HDR video at 60fps
  • HDMI 2.0 audio and video input and output
  • Internal capture card with RGB lighting
  • Adjust resolutions and frame rate without pass-through monitor

➕ Pros:

  • RECentral software streams to multiple platforms
  • Virtually no delays
  • Capture in 4K

➖ Disadvantages:

3. Elgato 4K60 Pro

Elgato 4K60 Pro

Professional gamers and streamers who want high definition and frame rates look no further than the Elgato 4K60 Pro, which captures footage in 4K at 60fps. This 4K capture card also has an encoder that reduces file sizes, saving memory space.

👉 Features:

  • 4K recording at 60 fps
  • Internal Capture Card
  • Capture video in multiple applications
  • Separate track for live commentary

➕ Pros:

  • Works with all streaming software
  • HDR10 recording
  • Recording flashbacks

➖ Disadvantages:

  • Expensive
  • Requires a powerful GPU and processor
  • PCIe input only

4. AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus

AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus

For recording on the move, the quality and user-friendliness of the AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus cannot be beat. Stream in 1080p while playing 4K, and use a Micro SD card instead of a USB stick for uploading as this capture card doesn’t require a computer as a capture device. If you want to broadcast your gameplay live, you still need a computer.

👉 Features:

  • 1080p capture at 60fps
  • 3.0 USD interface
  • Built-in H.264 encoder
  • Multiple audio inputs and audio mixer control
  • Converts to storage mode and acts as a card reader

AverMedia Live Gamer Mini is all you really need for streaming, and at $ 100, it’s cheap too. It supports recording and streaming in 1080p at 60fps, and the card is equipped with a zero-latency forwarding function, which allows you to monitor the gameplay in real time. In some ways, Live Gamer Mini even beats capture cards, which are twice as expensive.

Part 2: How Does A Capture Card Work?

Capture cards actually provide services to capture video signals from external devices via an HDMI connection.

It helps users capture game consoles such as PlayStation or Xbox etc. The capture card acts as an input receiver. When the user works on two computers, one for playing games and the other for streaming, the capture card is connected to the streaming computer.

The GPU of your gaming PC will continuously transfer data to this capture card. This signal is captured, recorded and encoded as needed, and can eventually be uploaded to sites like Twitch. Few of the capture cards are designed with an encoder built in, so they work the same as a CPU when streaming.

Capture: It is simply the process of capturing any audio or live video in S-Video format, RF modulated video, analog composite video or digital video such as HDMI and SDI.

Recording: It is the operation of recording sound or image in the form of digital data, which is perfectly compatible with a computer system.

Encoding: The act of converting all unprocessed character sequences into some encoded form is known as encoding. For video content, the encoding format of H.264 CPU is preferred.

Broadcast / Stream: This is the process of making available or disseminating audio / video content to a large audience through an electronically operating mass communication system. Nowadays, video game streaming is becoming more and more popular as a modern broadcasting process.

Part 3: How to Set Up Capture Card?

You can connect Game Capture Card to the game console using an HDMI connection. Even movies can be streamed to your TV via the HDMI port, and this HDMI cable is usually included in your box.

Please follow the steps below to facilitate setup:

Step 1. First of all, use an HDMI cable to connect the Game Capture’s HDMI In terminal to the console.

Step 2. The Game Capture card’s HDMI Out port must be connected to the TV using the existing HDMI cable.

Step 3. Using the USB cable provided in the box, you need to connect your PC or Mac device with the Game Capture card.

Below are some details about the connection and system requirements:

  • USB cable
  • 2 HDMI cables
  • Console
  • PC with i7 processor
  • A solid data transfer speed is desirable – around 10 MB / s for 1080p and 5 MB / s for 720p.

PlayStation supports capture cards for the same reason as other consoles to be able to transfer captured data to your computer, so you can customize the stream better. This section covers the steps you must follow to set up your capture card on your PlayStation console.

So, Do You Need a Capture Card?

Capture cards are a handy tool for connecting external sources for live broadcast or PC recording.

If your gameplay is on a PC and you don’t have an external camera, and your PC is powerful enough for you to play the game and stream simultaneously, the capture card isn’t something you need.

If you’ve decided to purchase a capture card for your setup, check out our guide to the best capture cards to find the ones that suit your needs.

While the Razer Ripsaw HD Capture Card does not come with proprietary software, it allows for built-in audio mixing with its own wired microphone. You can’t record at a resolution higher than 1080p, but thanks to the 4K 60fps pass, you can still watch your favorite games in 4K.

Best Capture Card for Just Recording: Razer Ripjaw HD

Maybe you just want to make a movie. Streaming is far from the ultimate gaming content creation, and sometimes you just need clean, fluid gameplay for videos or articles. This allows you to skip the cost of Elgatos and AVerMedias and choose the Razer Ripjaw HD.

The Razer Ripjaw HD supports 4K, 60fps transmission and supports various video resolutions. Ripjaw also has software-free audio management (although if I’ve learned anything about audio while using any capture card it will cause some problems anyway). Basically, it will do everything you need to capture video, but generally at a lower price than AVerMedia and without having to install it on your PC directly like the Elgato 4K60 Pro MK.2.

Razer Ripsaw HD

    Just trying to capture Xbox Series X footage? You may want to download the Razer Ripjaw HD! It’s a bit cheaper than the other capture cards on this list, while also doing what you need.

    View on Amazon

Which capture cards have you tried? We highly recommend the ones from Elgato and AVerMedia as they are some of the best in the industry. Have you tried other brands with some success? Let us know in the comments.

Capture cards give you more control over the quality of your live broadcast. With the capture card, you can use features such as adding overlays, comments or picture-in-picture webcam recordings.

Does A Capture Card Cause Lag?

The capture card may cause delays if the CPU load is too heavy. However, if you have a good computer, using a capture card shouldn’t be a problem for you.

Many people believe that adding extra hardware can slow down the system, and there could be some truth to that. Here are some reasons why your capture card may cause system lag:

  • The capture card may slow down your streaming computer. The CPU load may be too heavy and cause the computer to overheat. It is very important to install a good cooling system to fix this lag issue.
  • A capture card installed on an already slow or average computer will further degrade its performance.
  • A capture card connected to the USB port may cause delays.

Now that we’ve talked about how to set up your capture card, the last step is to choose a capture card that works for you.

Best Capture Cards Out There

If you’re all ready to capture your gameplay and share it on streaming platforms, you need a good capture card.

This section covers a few capture cards that I recommend. If you want a more detailed breakdown of the capture cards I think are the best, please see my recommended capture cards page here.

Best Overall Capture Card

If price isn’t a factor for you, and you just want the best of the best, pick the Elgato Game Capture 4K60 S + which you can see here on Amazon. This capture card captures in 4k resolution at 60fps and you can record your gameplay on SD card.

Again, if price is not a factor in choosing the capture card you want, this is the capture card I’ll get.

A Really Good Capture Card at a Fair Price

If you are looking for a good capture card at a reasonable price then I recommend the Elgato Game Capture HD60 S + which you can check on Amazon here. It has El Gato quality and records in 1080p at 60fps. I really like this capture card for the price.

Budget Friendly Capture Card

If your funds are a little tight and you need something that is friendly to your budget, I recommend the Razer Ripsaw HD Game Streaming Capture Card, which you can view here on Amazon.

This is the capture card I use when streaming on the console and it works great. It captures in 1080p at 60fps, which is more than enough for most video games, especially if you’re streaming to a console.

This was a quick rundown of a few of the capture cards that I recommend. If you want a more detailed breakdown, check out my page here.

As always, if you have any questions or just want to chat with me, drop by on my Twitch channel here and tell me what’s going on!

Interested in Streaming? Check Out My Recommendations

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Looking to Upgrade Your Streaming Equipment?

Below are the hardware that will take your stream to the next level:

For my full list of recommended hardware please click here.

Also, if you are feeling generous, I would really appreciate if you follow my Twitch channel you can do so by clicking here. I am trying to develop in order to help all of you better this way. I can also help you answer any streaming related questions so don’t hesitate to drop by. I really appreciate all of you !

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