Do I Need a Capture Card to Stream to Twitch and Elsewhere Online?

streaming to twitchThere’s no doubt that streaming has become absolutely massive in the world of gaming and the invention of Twitch and other online platforms have been great for doing so. Most people do use capture cards to stream, whether they’re on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS4, PS3, but is it necessary? Can you stream without a capture card and what are the benefits of having one hooked up to your system? A lot of it depends on which console you’re looking to use for your stream, so we’ve put together some info on a few different setups to try and suit your specific needs when getting your footage on the biggest gaming platform for this, Twitch.

PS4 and Xbox One

So the quick and easy way to explain it is that PS4 and Xbox One were made with streaming in mind and do have the capacity to stream directly to Twitch, and it is easy to set up and great for beginners, but I still recommend using a capture card. The apps that are used for streaming have improved, but they still leave some features to be desired, as well as putting a heavy load on your console and even being liable to crashes. Streaming takes up a lot of the processing power. Plus, if you use a capture card to take the footage out of your Playstation 4 or Xbox One before streaming it you can put it through a dedicated program, giving way more control over customizing the footage and in my opinion less room for error.

Can I Stream Xbox 360 or PS3 to Twitch Without a Capture Card?

In short, no. You’re 100% going to need a capture card to do this with no support for streaming these on old gen consoles. The previous generation is still very much in use and there is a huge demand for streaming both for fun and for tutorials. You can get your hands on a capture card relatively inexpensively, and the set up isn’t the most difficult thing to sort out, especially if you have a laptop or PC you can run the stream through. To be honest, there isn’t really a circumstance where I don’t recommend using a capture card either for quality purposes, for ease of use or for taking the strain or cpu away from your devices.

Recommended Model

Our recommended model for streaming is the amazing Elgato HD60 – Elgato are one of the market leaders in the world of capture cards, and have made an amazing model for every console here with an amazing 1080p recording function (hence the HD) live commentary functions and even an amazing stream control which makes it easy to add things like your webcam and overlay them onto the stream, making you look like a real pro. This is also great for streaming from Wii U if you’re a handheld sort of user.

Using a Capture Card for Streaming PC

This is, in my opinion, the only circumstance where you can really consider not using a capture card, though it still has its benefits. You can just go ahead and stream directly from your screen using software such as Open Broadcaster which has compatibility for Linux, Windows and Mac OSX and is totally free and open source.

If you’re going to do it this way you should make sure you have a good quality internet connection (I’d advise using a lead rather than doing it over wifi for streaming) and I would also say not to try to do it this way unless you’ve got a pretty good machine with a powerful processor. If you have a dual computer setup, the way to share the workload around is to rig a capture card up to one which is dedicated to stream, for instance your laptop may be good for gaming and you can hook it up to a capture card run through your desktop and onto twitch, dailymotion, youtube, or anywhere else you want to stream to. This way you can often capture it too depending on which capture card you buy.

Using the HD60 to Stream

Just in case it is useful we’ve also put a link below to a video using both OBS and the HD60 to stream to Twitch. (You don’t have to use OBS as the HD60 comes with Elgato’s own software).


Call me biased as I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of the capture cards and watch the industry grow in recent years, but I’m yet to see a circumstance where having a quality capture card doesn’t make the process easier, even on the new gen consoles. Do you need one? Not necessarily for Xbox One, PS4 and PC, but definitely for older consoles or things like the Wii U, and will it make your life easier? Absolutely, yes.

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