Recently there has been an explosion in the popularity of gaming and esports. As a result, streaming platforms such as Twitch, YouTube, Reddit and Facebook have all seen an increase in traffic. There are more and more players that want to capture their best moments and stream live. If they are good enough, they may even be able to turn this hobby into a career and make a living.
However, the quality of your stream will have a big impact on your channel’s popularity. That is why it is important to have a capture card. In addition, a capture card will help avoid any lag on your PC, PS4 or Xbox One by doing the work for it. But what card should you choose? Luckily, we have created this guide and found the best capture card for streaming.
The 10 Best Capture Cards for Streaming
1. Elgato 4K60
Without doubt, the Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro is a serious bit of kit, aimed at professionals and high-end streamers. In fact, unless you’ve got a top end rig then you may find it’s full power is a problem. Unless your hardware is powerful enough, this beast is so good that it can create latency issues.
These potential latency issues are due to its incredible performance of being able to capture full 4K resolution at 60 frames per second. You also need at least a sixth generation Intel Core i7 processor, or equivalent, plus a pretty damn good graphics card. But if your hardware can cope, then this is a true animal in screen capture cards, that will always deliver for you.
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In addition, the 4K60 Pro version comes with a couple of great advantages over their Elgato HD60. Firstly, it’s not USB, it plugs inside your PC, so it minimizes some of the latency issues. Plus, on top of that, this Pro version gives you instant preview, you won’t need a separate monitor.
This is a true streaming capture card, it’s internal, not one of the USB ones that sits outside your computer or gaming console. So, you will need to open up your PC case and fit it, but once it’s done, all you have to do is install it using the fantastic software the company provides for download. It’s a truly powerful capture card, but you are paying a powerful price.
Make sure to check out our cable management guide if you go for this card.
2. AVerMedia GC573 Live Gamer 4K
This premium capture card is basically the AverMedia answer to the Elgato 4k60 Pro. But how does it stack up against that beast of a capture card?
Just like it, it can capture full 4K video at 60 FPS. Possibly more importantly for most people, its performance is now so powerful it can record 1080p at up to 240 FPS, which is a sizable performance increase that will really appeal to the average user.
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It’s still premium price, but it will cost you less than its main rival. We need to talk about latency, which is an issue with some capture cards, either due to the poor quality of them, or then being so powerful that the hardware can’t match the performance levels.
Well, the AVerMedia GC573 Live Gamer 4K does perform here. It’s an internal capture card, which bypasses the latency issues that can be caused by using USB. You will get some latency if you don’t set up a capture rig, basically by looping it through its own dedicated graphics card, leaving your rig to focus on the main task.
So, the AVerMedia GC573 Live Gamer 4K is definitely a competitor to its main rival the Elgato 4k60 Pro, and it’s an attractively priced internal capture card, but you will have to play around the configurations to get the most out of it using the hardware you have.
3. Elgato Game Capture HD60S – Best Capture Card for PS4 and Xbox One
It can be a bit confusing to differentiate between the different models from the Elgato HD60 stable of capture cards.
The basic thing to remember is that all are excellent, with the 4K60 being the cream of the crop. However, what the HD60 does is to address the problem with its sister product the HD60 Pro, which is an internal video capture card.
It addresses the problem because it’s an external capture card. It uses the USB-C interface, rather the internal PCIe interface to work.
As with all external capture cards, you get portability, which is the selling point of the HD60s, but at the cost of performance to some degree. Because of the limit in speed through the USB 3.0 interface, latency can be more of a problem, although that should be a rare issue due to the upper limit of USB 3.0 being so high.
However, the brilliant news is that the HD60s still achieve a very respectable maximum bit rate of 40 Mbps, which should be more than enough for everyone other than the professional streamer.
As it also has a built-in live commentary feature, it’s a mix of portability, features,1080p60 capture and price, make it an easy route into achieving high-end live capture results.
4. Magewell XI100DUSB-HDMI
Magewell are not as well-known as some of the big names in capture cards, but even at its relatively high price tag, you are getting a great deal with the Magewell XI100D. It’s incredibly portable, which makes it perfect for a mobile studio.
On top of its portability, it is a great performer. In tests, it’s got an ability to work for 24 hours a day without frame drops. Now obviously that’s only going to happen if it’s optimally set up, which can take a little effort as many people have found.
We should also mention that it can get very hot. Like incredibly hot, in not a very long space of time. That’s not really a problem as long as it’s normal, and manageable. But if you not aware of it, it can be quite alarming. Some people report that over time, the heat building up in a session can actually start to be detrimental to the performance of the device.
But this thing is flexible. It’s plug and play, works with a range of encoders, and is very portable. Some people will also be pleasantly surprised to know that it’s natively compatible with Linux, with people reporting it is literally plug and play on that system as well.
So, the Magewell XI100D definitely has a couple of issues, in that some people find it difficult to get working optimally, and heat seems to be a problem under some circumstances. But, you are also getting something which can be truly plug and play, fast, and adaptable, requiring no proprietary software to work.
5. AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra (GC553)
The AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra is another capture card that’s easy to confuse with its brothers and sisters. But when you look at this device, and pick it up, you’ll realize it’s very different. This thing is bulky. It’s probably the bulkiest capture card on the market right now.
I guess you can offset that by saying it’s robust. If you’re on the move, or you’re clumsy, then it could really save your skin to have a capture card that’s able to take a bump along the way.
In terms of performance, the AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra really does do the business. It can pass through 4K content at 60 FPS. However, it’s limited to 30 FPS when recording 4K. If you are using 1080 then it can pass through at 240 FPS, and record at a very respectable 120 FPS.
Those speeds may not sound scorching, but this is an external USB 3.0 capture card, which makes those speeds pretty good, especially when you consider the price. On top of that, if you’re looking at potentially buying the AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra, the deal is sweetened as you get a product key for the full version of PowerDirector 15, which although not the current version, is still going to save you about $50.
6. Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket
Firmly positioned in the budget end of the capture card market, the Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket is obviously aimed at the casual user, and the youngster, people with a limited wallet size. But how does it perform?
Well, you can record full 1080p HD with zero latency using this hot little pocket device. It isn’t just for gaming either, just use component cables and HDMI to TV, to connect the Rocket to a cable box, and you can record up to 5 hours of HD television onto a 32 GB USB dongle.
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In terms of gaming, you can stream live using this device on all the major games consoles, as well as PC. It’s not high-end, but it’s perfectly acceptable if you’re just starting out, or don’t need to produce high-end streaming YouTube videos in Ultra clear HD.
So, this is functional, and it does have some limitations in the software that’s bundled with it. However, a lot of people use this as a TV capture device because of its simplicity, so whatever you need it for, if you’re looking for simplicity, reliability and a low price, then the Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket is definitely a video capture card to consider.
7. Avermedia Avercapture HD GL310
Let’s be honest here, the minimum standards for most of these capture cards nowadays is pretty similar. The Avermedia Avercapture hd gl310 fits in with that claim, with a maximum resolution of 1080p, recording up to a maximum of 60 Mbps.
There are claims around zero latency, which are achievable with any video card as long as your hardware, cables and connections are good enough, plus it’s portable and runs on USB.
But where the Avermedia Avercapture hd gl310 stands out from the crowd is it does all this at an incredibly low price. Firmly at the budget end of the market, you can pay as little as $100 for it. But your getting a good, solid, portable streaming device for that money.
People have been skeptical about buying it because it runs on USB 2.0, rather than USB 3.0 which has a much higher data transfer rate. There’s also annoyance around the fact that you have to run proprietary software in the background, you can’t just plug and play using drivers.
Almost all the complaints are around setting up. Documentation is poor, and you do have to install things a certain way. There are tons of resources online to help you, and once you get things right, you are getting a very high-quality external video capture card for a price that almost anyone can afford.
8. AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus
With capture up to 1080p, and data pass through at up to 2160p, which will make Xbox streaming look fantastic, this mid-range AverMedia portable capture card is certainly one to turn heads. This is especially true because of how it looks, it looks angular, cool and just the sort of thing a gamer would have next to them.
It’s also portable, being a solidly designed external video capture card that runs on USB. It’s firmly aimed at gamers, marketing its coolness, its ability to use with consoles, the fact you can comment using a headset, plus something called party mode allows better interaction online.
The problems with the AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus are all about usability. There’s no documentation or support, you just get a quick user guide. If you get stuck, you have to go online, and it’s contradictory. They do offer live chat support, but a lot of people have really found that not helpful.
Plus, a word of warning about its limitations. For example, it will not pick up 1440P signals, it needs 1080p. It doesn’t recognize 4K at 50 kHz, and it will not pass through HDR criteria.
So, this is a high quality, robust, good-looking video capture card, portable and flexible. As long as you can get around the limitations and get it set up correctly, it’s powerful, but you will need some patience to get the maximum cost benefit from the AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus.
9. Elgato Game Capture HD
The Elgato Game Capture HD is a video capture card whose price tag leads to expectation of better quality than most of the mid-range market, especially coming from Elgato.
It sits at the bottom of the Elgato range that consists of this model, then the external HD60 and HD60 S, with the top of the range being the internal cards, the powerful HD60 Pro and 4K60 Pro. So how does it stack up in terms of features and pricing, sitting at the bottom of the pile?
Well, on the surface it looks good. It’s an external, USB video capture card that is simple, black and sleek in design. It also has a robustness about it that gives you confidence.
In terms of capture, it’s not as powerful. It can’t capture 1080p60. It can only capture up to 1080p30. If you don’t need really high-quality, but you do need a latency free capture card that just really works, and this can consistently perform at 60 fps @ 720p.
You do also get a full bundle, including cables and software. Plus a nifty feature in that it has something called flashback recording, which allows you to record even if you forgotten, up to 5 minutes.
So, it has got features and a decent mid-range performance. You will need to tweak things depending on the console or computer you are using, to get the best performance at up to 1080p30, but once you have it will deliver a solid stream every time.
10. Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro 4K
The Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro 4K is an internal video capture card, which means that it’s not portable, and you can’t talk about in terms of its looks, only its performance. It sits in the mid-price range, around the $200 mark.
It claims you can capture Ultra HD and 1080p60 footage with ease, with Ultra HD up to 30fps, and 1080 HD up to 60fps. Bundled with it is software that offers a full capture and playback solution, so you don’t need anything third-party.
In addition, this card works with Linux, which in itself is a selling point. Installation is easy, and it has a powerful fan to keep it cool, although some people complain this fan can be noisy.
Also, it can be problematic to set up, with many people stumbling over the fact that you have to disable HDCP in your consoles settings to stream from it.
The thing is, this is not billed as a game streaming card, and that’s partly right. The serious video game streaming enthusiast will struggle to get this setup at times, but if you do it’s a brilliant card. Its main following is in the copying and streaming of TV. Capture is great, you can capture game footage, streaming is not so good.
Overall, if you are looking for a flexible, affordable, internal video capture card, that can deliver good quality HD footage with zero latency, then the Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro 4K is worth considering.