Game streaming has become big business. YouTube celebrities like PewDiePie are getting millions of views and millions of dollars by streaming their game play on YouTube and Twitch. If you want to try your hand at the streaming game—whether it’s to get famous, make money, or just show off your skills to friends—then you need a way to capture video of your game play. The easiest way to do that is a gaming capture card. In this article, we’ll tell you what to look for when you buy one, recommend our five favorites, and explain the benefit of capture cards over other recording options.
Best Capture Cards For Gaming
First, let’s talk about the benefits a gaming capture card has over software installed on your machine. If you’re a PC gamer, you can download software to capture video; if you game on PS4 or Xbox One, then the system itself has features that allow you to record gameplay. So, why would you spend money to buy another peripheral? The answer is actually really simple: a gaming capture card is easier to use, allows more flexibility, improves game performance, and is what most pros choose to use when they make their videos.
First, it’s easier to use than a built in program. When it comes to PS4/Xbox, you do have the option to record video on your system—however, you have to record in 15 minute chunks. This is a major hinderance—something built in by the manufacturer to stop copyright infringement. Overall, it’s a hassle and the easiest way to avoid it is just get a good game capture card. These USB devices simply plug in and record at the press of a button.
Next, the game capture cards will improve graphical performance when you are recording video. When you’re using built in system capture, you’re going to lose graphical capabilities because your system’s RAM is going on overdrive to run two processes at once. The beauty of a gaming capture card is that you’re not using your machine to do the heavy lifting of recording video—instead, you have a second, dedicated machine to do just that. Since you can’t upgrade a PS4 or Xbox, you need a second machine that’s solely for streaming. PC gamers will find limited use in gaming capture cards.
Third, gaming capture cards allows flexibility in the file formats you output your videos, and allows you to connect to a separate machine that handles the streaming. With streaming editing software, you’ll be able to add your channel title cards, score boards, picture in picture camera, and more. This is why the pros—people who make money off of streaming—choose to use a capture card.
Now, here’s some things to consider when you’re buying your capture card. Are you going to have an external card that connects to your console or an internal card that is installed in your computer. Does your computer have the RAM and CPU required to run a video capture card? And finally, do you have the software needed to edit the videos or does that come with?
We’ll run down our five favorite gaming capture cards to help you pick which is best for you. We scoured the internet for the best reviewed gaming capture cards and picked the top ones so we could highlight their features. That way, you’ll get the one you need to stream and post the way you want.
1. AVerMedia Live Game Recorder
The AVerMedia Live Gamer Extreme is one of the best reviewed gaming capture cards on the market. It works with all the major systems, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. It uses USB 3.0 technology to capture video in 1080p, 60fps (frames per second) with ultra-low latency technology. That means, you’re going to get video that’s as clear and crisp as the games you’re playing on your system. It has Live Editing capabilities to merge and edit gameplay on the fly, making it easy to post your videos perfectly only minutes after recording them. It has the capabilities to add a webcam input so you can capture facial reactions and commentary with ease. It also allows posting directly to Twitch and Youtube. There’s even a feature called TimeShift which allows for recording of gameplay that’s already happened, in case you forgot to start the recording. The AVerMedia has a variety of models so you can go high-end or low-end but no matter what you’ll always get the aforementioned features listed above. This is a well-reviewed card and gamers call it one of the best entry level gaming capture cards on the market.
2. Hauppauge 1512 HD-PVR 2 High Definition Personal Video Recorder
The Hauppauge HD Video recorder is one of the best HDMI-component gaming capture cards. It’s noted for it’s high quality digital audio capture technology. You can play your games in surround sound and still record flawless audio simultaneously. The card is great for streaming, allowing you to post beautiful video straight to your streaming platform of choice. It records video in Blu Ray quality video—that’s as good as it gets for video capture. It comes with all the cables needed to record the video for perfect exporting in 1080i at 60 fps. You can export in TS, AVCHD, or MP4 to the editing software of your choice. That is one of the downsides of this gaming capture card—you need your own editing software. However, there is a non-gaming boon to this card—a lot of TV watchers use this device to capture live TV for exporting to collect, watch later, or perhaps share (don’t do this, it’s illegal). This is one of the best capture cards for getting perfect audio and visual files.
3. Blackmagic Design PCIe Capture Card
This is an internal gaming capture card for installing directly in your PC. It’s got the ability to switch between standard definition and high definition, and can capture 8 channels of SD or HD audio, plus 8 channels of SD or HD video. It’s not able to record 1080p at 60fps, however it can do 1080p at 30fps, so it’s still a powerful recorder. This is a great card to get if you want to connect your system or your computer to a second, dedicated streaming computer. That way, you’ll have a machine that’s fully responsible for streaming your video to the net. This will reduce latency and lag issues on your game and allow your gaming machine to function to the fullest.
4. Koolertron HD Game Capture
The Koolertron HD Game Capture is one of the easiest game capture cards to use because it doesn’t need anything except the USB Flash Disk. You can do everything right on the card—no need to edit or upload on your PC. You can save all the data to a USB flash drive and keep your files backed up easily. All you have to do to activate it is press the play button. It’s that easy. You hit record, and your game play immediately starts recording. You can get 1080P HDMI 60fps recording by just plugging in, putting your thumb drive in the slot, and hitting place. It’s a perfect game capture card for people who don’t want to go through the hassle of settign up multiple machines. You can even stream directly from the device, so you can send your files straight to Twitch or Youtube. Plus, it has the capability to allow for two audio channels to allow for your commentary tracks. It works with all current generation systems as well as last generation too—so if you’re still rocking a PS3, Xbox 360 or Wii U, this is a great gaming capture card for you. This is the easiest gaming capture card to use on our list.
5. Elgato Game Capture HD60
The Elgato Game Capture HD60 is great and arguably captures the highest quality video of any card on our list. It’s got High Definition 60fps making game play sharing crisper than ever. You can stream or record directly from your PS4, Xbox One, Switch, or last generation consoles. You can choose the video quality you want to output with easy, from 1080p60fps, 1080p30fps, 1080i, 720p60fps, 720p30fps, 575p, 576i, or even 480p. Now, you might wonder why you want to do this—well, if you want to put frames side by side, you can easily downsize the frames and compare and contrast them for a video. It’s easy to stream right to Twitch, Youtube or Ustreamw with the press of a button. It’s got a patented Lag-Free passthrough that allows you to seamlessly capture hours of gameplay. You can also use the Slide Back recording feature to record retroactively, making it easy to never miss a moment of gameplay. Plus, you can do Live Commentary through the gaming capture card, so it’s easy to add your insight to the video. The only problem with the device is that it uses USB 2.0 technology, instead of 3.0, so you might have to wait a few minutes longer for file transfer. However, that’s well worth it if you want a lot of flexibility in file types and the best possible quality in video capture.
Alright, we covered a lot of material in this one, so let’s sum it up! First, gaming capture is becoming a huge business, it’s a lot of fun, and you’re going to want to get into it. If you have a current generation console, you have some built-in options, but these aren’t enough for the serious streamer. Microsoft and Sony want to cut back on copyright infringing, so they’re very careful with how much material you can record. Nintendo doesn’t allow it at all! So, you need a gaming capture card. The Hauppauge 1512 HD-PVR 2 has a bunch of great features as well as the ability to record live TV right off your cable box (if it has HDMI output—or you have an adapter).
When you’re buying one, if you’re a console gamer, you need to get an external one, or you’ll need to run your computer as your capturing device with an internal one. If you’re a PC gamer, you can get an internal capture card and get a lot of bang for your buck if you have enough RAM to run the card.
Gaming capture cards are going to let you stream and download game footage directly to your hard drive. They’ll let you output files in a variety of formats. They’ll also let you edit on the fly. There’s a reason all the pros use a gaming capture card.
We recommend the AVerMedia Live Gamer Extreme as the best overall capture card for price and features. Next, we selected the Elgato Game Capture HD60 as the card with the best video output features. The Blackmagic Design DeckLink Mini Recorder is the best internal gaming capture card on our list and perfect if you’re going to use a designated system to stream and capture your video. Finally, the Koolertron HD Game Capture is the best card if you just want a simple plug and play method of capturing your gaming footage. You can’t go wrong with any of the choices on our list though! So pick the one that’s best suited for you and go get to streaming!