We’re looking at the best capture cards on the market today for use capturing footage from games and elsewhere. As an avid gamer and youtuber, the I’ve experienced some terrible devices, and wanted to provide capture card reviews in order to make sure people stay clear of spending their hard earned cash on something which is going to disappoint them. Gaming is one of the most popular hobbies in the world and the community surrounding it is huge. Whether you play RPGs or Strategy games, there is a wealth of information online and places where you can go to watch videos on your favourite games, from minecraft to call of duty, GTA to Halo, platforms such as Twitch for streaming, Youtube, and loads of gaming websites provide a place for users to share their walkthroughs, reviews, tips and more.
For all of this to happen, you need to find a way to get your footage from whatever device you’re playing on and into a video format, possibly via some editing. While the most recent generation have some capacity to share video, they’re not the most flexible or easy to use, and Capture Cards offer the most flexibility and the easiest and most effective way to get footage from your games. In this article we’re looking at the very best capture cards for gaming and also the other uses that capture cards can have including salvaging old video tapes.
It isn’t just the Xbox One and PS4 users who need to capture games either. Cards are in place to help with taking the previous generations of games such as PS3, Xbox 360, handheld devices such as PS Vita and Wii U and even allow you to go as far back as the retro consoles such as gameboys and N64s which are still widely played. Even PC gamers use these models, and two computer setups can be the best way to capture instead of putting a heavy load onto one computer and risking crashing in the middle of your best take.
Being a technology geek, I often look at the tech specs in my capture card reviews, so the video format, quality, dimensions and even the compression used can have a big impact on the quality of a top quality capture device.
What to Look For in the Best Capture Cards
The following features are the most important to look out for when you’re buying a capture card, whether it is your first or you’re looking to a more advanced model.
- Compatibility – ensuring the model works with the device or consoles you want to capture video from is essential, does it have a HDMI input for example.
- Video Quality – this is something you can research beforehand, the quality of video that it is able to capture, some will take slightly lower quality than others and if you want to put it on HD platforms you need HD video. The best 1080p or 1080i capture cards or above are usually a good option for those of us wanting to stream and provide a high quality video.
- Does it stream? If you want to stream your videos live, something that is very much ‘in’ right now with Twitch and other similar sites allowing you to show people in reel time what you are getting up to, especially good if you have a following already. There is usually a way to stream from a capture card in one way or another, but some are designed to make it easy.
- Price and Value – unfortunately the price tag is always going to be important in making buying choices. You’re looking for the best value possible of course, but you’ll probably have a budget in mind and need to find something to fit within it, some of the cheapest capture cards may be okay for your purposes if you shop around.
Internal Capture Card vs External vs SD/Standalone
This is one of the debates you may face when choosing the best capture cards to buy, internal models are the type that will be fitted into your computer via a PCI slot or similar, as opposed to external ones, which will also plug into a computer but just via different methods such as USB dependent on model. One of the models that is starting to become more popular, and I predict will grow more, is a device that captures straight to SD card such as the , this doesn’t require a PC to capture, meaning you can do it anywhere where you have your console.
Elgato Game Capture HD60
One of the best products of its type, and well worth a mention here. This is currently one of the top selling models on Amazon and other retailers and with good reason. Reviews of the product online speak for it, with so many positive comments about what this has to offer gamers on all sorts of consoles. So what makes this a great choice?
- Retrospective recording. If it is plugged in and you miss something you can go back and tell the device to save what just happened. So for instance if you’re playing a sports game and miss an amazing goal or touchdown you can make sure you don’t lose it.
- Compatible with mac and windows
- Captures 60 frames per second as the name suggests
- HD video quality suitable for making high quality video
- Built in live streaming function to allow you to share video instantly
- Easily share your videos on social media
- Add overlays such as webcam videos
- Instantly add audio commentary – get your voice onto the footage straight away or even use it for the live streams on Twitch and other streams.
- Easily records from many different consoles, Playstation, Wii, Xbox and more
One thing that people often complain about with products of this type is the lag, but the HD60 doesn’t suffer with this and as long as it is correctly set up you won’t get any delay in the capture. The footage is such great quality, you can edit it into some really wonderful highlight reels or just boast the best definition of youtube videos out there. The built in software is slick and simple to use, so you can get going in no time at all. The clear instructions from Elgato help you to set up and go in next to no time. There’s no denying it, this is one of the top models out there, and though not the cheapest, it does represent value considering the huge amount of features and perfect quality this provides. The variations of the product include a slick looking white version, a HD pro which plugs in via PCIe slot and a travel bundle with a carry case.
Hauppage HD PVR 2
We wanted to provide an alternative model in this list which does a similar job to the above, and this is another solid choice which is worth your consideration. It is another low latency product which does its job perfectly well, and though its features may not be quite as advanced as the Elgato, it is still an excellent product and allows you to capture, edit and share your gaming footage.
Avermedia Live Gamer
We’ve already mentioned this briefly, but it is worth going into as it offers a PC-free capture option for getting your footage, and still offers a load of great features and doesn’t really have any limitations in spite of not being linked to a PC.
- Captures in excellent quality 1080p
- Has a built in commentary feature for hooking up a microphone and starting to record your voiceover
- Comes with software for editing if you do choose to put the footage onto a computer
- Timeshift allows the retrospective recording that so many of us need during our gameplay
- Excellent quality encoder ensures high quality at low latency and low CPU
There is a more advanced Live Gamer Extreme model also available which offers uncompressed video for even better video quality, but the Live Gamer or portable C875 model are amazing choices for taking your gaming videos to the next level.
What to Do With Your Videos
Once captured, you’ve got some choices for what you would like to do with your videos. Many of us get into this space to try and build an online persona or even career. Online gamers such as Pewdiepie and the thousands of other youtubers sharing game videos have made it a really viable choice to gain a following and even make money out of gaming, which is not to be sniffed at. It’s not easy, but it can be done.
If you’re looking to do this kind of thing, some video editing is probably a wise choice, and fortunately this doesn’t have to come at any additional cost, if the model you’ve bought doesn’t come with software (most do) or you want to do more advanced things with your videos, there is some great free video editing software out there.
You don’t have to be all bells and whistles though, lots of us want to capture games just for the fun of it, for sharing with videos or making cool videos to put on Twitter or Facebook, which is fine! And most capture cards will let you do that with ease, especially the ones we’ve mentioned. A quick look at the reviews will show you which of the models are up to scratch.
The Cheaper Devices
So, it needs to be mentioned. There are options out there that are a fraction of the cost of those above. The old adage that you get what you pay for most certainly springs to mind. The quality is often low and choppy, the features limited, but there are some usb dongle – style devices such as the easycap, which allow you to at least get started for very cheap. I would urge if you can afford to, to stay away and go to the slightly more pricey models, but if you just need to do it one time or are ok with low quality then this might get you some semi-decent results. I wouldn’t say recommended, but worth us at least acknowledging in case you’re in a tough spot and need something like this to tide you over. The best cheap capture card in my opinion would be one of the Avermedia models already mentioned, but to be honest, they still cost a fair bit. Finding a capture card under $100 is a challenge, but you can always look for refurbished models or head to a second hand retailer or eBay if you are trying to save cash on your device.
Capture Card Extras: Editing Software, Microphones and Even the Computer
Having the best card isn’t enough on its own, and there are some other factors which can play a part in the quality of your final product. We have other articles on the site which go into more detail, but a summary of these extras can be found below:
- Software – as already mentioned, the software can be key, and this is something that can cost you very little or even be free. Good footage is one thing, but if you put it through a free trial of software that watermarks everything and won’t export in HD, the video you end up with is not going to do your gaming justice.
- HDMI cable – the cable needs to be able to work reliably and carry the signal properly. Skimping on the HDMI for your capture device can let you down.
- Microphone. Imagine a wonderful quality video of the latest xbox one or PS4 game, the amazing soundtrack, and then audio and voice recordings that sound like they’ve come from a 1990s toy microphone. It doesn’t cost a lot to get a decent microphone, USB or otherwise, and gives a professional edge to your videos.
Capture cards have come a long way, and will continue to do so. Even though the PS4 and Xbox One do offer some (very limited) capture and sharing, the demand for external devices such as these isn’t going to go anywhere any time soon as they offer so much more, high quality, easy to use and great for editing footage as well. Our site offers a huge amount of capture card reviews and gives information on methods of using them and even tips on the process of capturing, editing, streaming and sharing, so stay in touch with Captureway for more info and recommended models.