The 10 Best Capture Cards
This wiki has been updated 29 times since it was first published in December of 2015. If your gaming ability is good enough for public display on YouTube or Twitch, it's time to show off your gameplay in high definition using a quality capture card. We've included models that hook up to both PCs and consoles via PCIe or USB ports, work with everything from retro gaming machines to the Xbox Series X, and are capable of converting old home movies to digital files. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
November 25, 2020:
There are a few different purposes for these devices. Some are basically glorified USB adapters like the Elgato Cam Link, which basically just turns an HDMI connector into a PC-compatible format over the USB connection. The AVerMedia Live Gamer Mini, Elgato HD60 S+, and AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra aren't much more complicated, as all they add is a passthrough. This passthrough is the important part for streaming games, though, and the Ultra is one of the very few that allows high frame rates up to what many consider the sweet spot of 1440p resolution at 144 hertz. If you're focused on 4K gaming, the HD60 S+ is probably your best bet.
The AVerMedia Portable 2 Plus is a little more interesting, partly because it's good for both 1080p and 4K gaming, although it does not actually support the 1440p resolution in between the two. The interesting part about the Portable 2 is its internal storage and fully self-contained PC-free mode.
If your computer is a gaming powerhouse, or you have a separate streaming PC with passable components inside, the high-end AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K or Elgato 4K60 Mk2 will more than do the trick, they'll allow for the fastest encoding and best-looking picture possible. They, like the AVerMedia Live Gamer Duo, plug directly into a PCIe port. The Duo, for that matter, makes it easy to combine your main stream with your front-facing webcam.
Finally, we wouldn't always recommend such lesser-known brands partly for reliability reasons, but the QGeeM Recorder is a well-priced option and comes from a reasonably dependable manufacturer. It also has auxiliary audio inputs and outputs, which can help with some specialized installations. The August VGB100, on the other hand, is specifically meant for recording from legacy devices like old camcorders and retro consoles.
We also want to highlight the OBS software suite, which we have mentioned in the Special Honors section. If you plan on streaming, you might as well get started learning this software as soon as possible, because to many Twitch communities, it's basically ubiquitous.
November 23, 2020:
Capture card technology is constantly improving, so some of our previous recommendations have been replaced with more current options. We’ve removed the Plugable Nix, as some users have complained that it needs to be unplugged and re-installed whenever they turn off their gaming setup. We’ve instead added the QGeeM Recorder, a more affordable option which uses a USB 3.0 port, allowing it to transfer data at incredible 5 Gbps speeds.
We’ve also replaced the Corsair Elgato 4K60 with the more current Elgato 4K60 S+. This updated capture card continues to have extremely fast, lag-free transfer speeds like its predecessor, and also has a built-in HEVC chip that compresses video files and saves them onto an SD card. This feature is particularly useful, as the data transfer can be done without the need for any external software, and it also reduces the overall load on your CPU when you finally load in your files.
Finally, we've replaced the AVerMedia HD2 with a newer model, the AVerMedia LG4K. Like the name suggests, it can give you impressive 4K resolutions, and also provides nearly instantaneous video pass through. However, be aware that this model does not support Mac systems.
October 27, 2020:
We've added the AVerMedia Live Gamer Duo due to its high-quality resolution that's great for live streamers. It's offered at a high price, though most PCIe capture cards tend to be more reliable than external models that connect via USB. That isn't to say external models like the Corsair Elgato HD60 S+ aren't worth mentioning. I currently use the aforementioned model due to its lower price compared to some internal cards, though be sure to place your model in a safe place to prevent it from falling off your computer desk as this can damage or even break your device.
August 08, 2019:
While still among the most expensive of our selections, the Corsair Elgato 4K60 has seen a significant price drop since our last update and thus has been catapulted to the top spot. Because of its USB-C connectivity, ultra-low latency and ability to capture 4K footage, it is considered by many to be the top dog in the capture card market.
Expunged from the list are the Pyle Recorder, AGPtek HD and MyPin 60FPS, which have been replaced by more up-to-date models.
One newcomer to the field, the August VGB100, is designed to convert analog signals to digital signals, and should only be purchased by those looking to capture or stream video from older devices such as camcorders or legacy game consoles.
Open Broadcaster Software No matter what device you decide to go with, you will almost certainly be able to use it more effectively once you're familiar with OBS. It's free, open-source, and high versatile, with a wide range of powerful tools for configuring and customizing your streams. Most major capture cards work flawlessly with it, and modern Nvidia GPUs are actually optimized to enhance its performance. obsproject.com
Kaico Open Source Scan Converter Even diehard fans of legacy consoles admit that their graphics aren't good, but this interesting device is meant to fix that. It upscales traditional video signals originally intended for CRT displays and converts them into digital format, so anyone in the world can watch your authentic speed runs of classic titles. kaicolabs.com
Video Game Culture
What once started as a subculture seems to be entering the mainstream as more and more people identify themselves as gamers.
Video gaming is no longer just a pastime for children. In fact, 49% of American adults currently play some type of video game on a regular basis, and four out of five homes own some kind of device used for video gaming. The popularity of gaming today most likely stems from the fact that the majority of 30-40 years olds grew up playing video games as children, and many have continued to do so as they have grown into adulthood.
Another contribution to gaming popularity over the last decade has been the advent of smartphones and handheld tablets. These new gaming mediums have piqued the interest of many people who previously may not have played video games. Titles like Candy Crush Saga, and most recently Pokemon Go, have taken the world by storm with over 20 million daily players in the US alone.
Video game culture refers to a subculture formed by the commonality of playing video games. What once started as a subculture seems to be entering the mainstream as more and more people identify themselves as gamers. The influence video games have on popular culture is becoming more evident as we see an increasing number of prime time TV commercials, advertising new video games as well as TV series, and big screen Hollywood movies based on popular games.
The term gamer, which used to be a slang term for a frequent video game player, has made its way into the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Video gaming is no longer the anti-social activity it once was either. Online capabilities now allow people on different continents to play games together and chat in real time using headsets. Entire social networks have sprung up around gaming with websites, forums, and even conventions focused on specific games or genres.
These massive online video games have allowed for the creation of gaming clans, which are large teams of players who often logon to play specific games at specific times. The team members will help each other complete quests and vanquish players from other clans thereby helping each other increase in levels or unlock special game features.
Using A Game Capture Card
There are a few reasons people may choose to use a game capture card to record their video game adventures. One of the most basic being the ability to prove to friends that one has really produced the unbelievable scores or beat that really hard level they are touting. It is a way of having proof of one's accomplishments which nobody can deny.
It is often as easy as connecting the game capture device to the gaming console via the supplied cables, usually USB or HDMI.
Another reason is to help fellow gamers beat a particularly hard level, boss, or puzzle. It is similar to how game makers used to publish guides for really hard role playing games, but instead it is gamers helping other gamers for free out of a sense of camaraderie. Finally there are people who do it in the hopes of creating a mass of followers, which can be from an ego-based or profit-based motivation.
Using a video game capture card is a relatively simple endeavor that anybody can do, even those with limited tech knowledge. It is often as easy as connecting the game capture device to the gaming console via the supplied cables, usually USB or HDMI. Most do not require any separate power source.
When a gamer wants to record their gaming adventures, all they have to do is press the record button on the capture device. Some consoles have even integrated capture card controls onto the game controller, like the PS4 which allows one to press the Share button on the game controller to start capture card recording.
Recording commentary over gameplay is equally as simple. All one must do is plug their gaming headset into the necessary jack on the capture card device. Then volume can be adjusted via the headset's volume controls to ensure it is neither too quiet nor too loud.
Earning An Income From Video Game Streaming
Recently, a sub-industry has sprung up around the gaming industry. Game streaming has become a source of income for serious gamers out there, with a lucky few earning six or seven figure incomes. A quick search through YouTube, for any popular video game title with the words commentary or walkthrough headlining it shows just how many people out there are sharing their video game recordings.
He is able to rack up an impressive seven figure income from his YouTube video game captures.
There are even sites like Twitch.tv, which are dedicated to video game streaming. Game streaming sites like this are becoming so popular that Amazon actually purchased Twitch.tv for nearly billions in 2014.
A gamer by the name of PewDiePie currently has the most popular YouTube channel with over 47 million subscribers. He plays a variety of games and delivers a dynamic monologue throughout. He is able to rack up an impressive seven figure income from his YouTube video game captures.
Another popular video game streaming personality is Jeffrey Shih, known as TrumpSC on Twitch. He began streaming in 2011 and now has a partnership with Twitch that allows him to live off his earnings. It costs a small fee to subscribe to his Twitch channel and he has over 700,000 followers. Twitch takes a 50% cut, but that still amounts to millions in profit over time. He currently has a set schedule from 1:00 to 6:00 PM EST streaming Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.