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Top 5 Capture Cards For Gaming

Avermedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus
Best Choice

Avermedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus

4.9

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Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro
Premium Pick

Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro

4.7

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Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket
Best Value

Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket

4.5

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I never really got into playing games on my own. I’ve been a gamer for about 20 years now, I guess, but my happiest memories are still about 20 years old. They are of taking turns with my brother to play Mario 64, back when it was new, with each of us screaming at the other to ‘jump now!’, ‘hit that box!’, and ‘grab him by the tail’!

Thankfully, I’ve moved on since then. But I still don’t really enjoy games unless I’m sharing the experience with someone else. Ideally, this is a friend in the same room. But if it comes down to it, streaming over the web is also pretty fun. Other people stream their gaming for other reasons. Some people make a lot of money, of course, but most just want to share their experience with someone else.

Not that anyone is necessarily watching. The most heartbreaking story I came across in researching this article was about the Twitch streamers who spend years broadcasting to no one, and the tools you can use to find streamers with zero viewers. Seriously, check it out. And then have a little cry.

Still, I’m sure that won’t be you. As long as you play in an interesting way, at least you can convince your brother to watch. Sometimes. Maybe. But before you ask him, you’d better make sure that your stream is high-quality, not laggy, and available for everyone. For that, you’re going to need some kit. Specifically, a capture card and an awesome webcam for streaming. But wait, I hear some of you ask …


Do I Need A Capture Card For Streaming?

Good question. It depends on what you mean by ‘need’.  It’s certainly possible to stream your gameplay without a capture card. In the same way, it’s certainly possible to brush your teeth without a toothbrush. It’s just that without one, the experience is less fun, takes longer, and you look weird.

That’s why most of the guides out there on how to stream a PC game on Twitch recommend that you get a capture card. A good capture card has plenty of advantages. It takes some of the heavy lifting away from your CPU and GPU, making your games run more smoothly when streaming. A good capture card will also allow you to stream games from a variety of consoles as well as your PC.

Best Choice: Avermedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus

Pros & Cons

  • 60 fps capture
  • No need for a PC
  • Easy to Use
  • Frame rate could be better

Specifications:

  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Frame rate: 60 fps
  • Interface: USB 3.0
  • Works with: Consoles, PC, and Mac

Avermedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus Review

Let’s start with the best, and go from there. The Avermedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus is the best capture card available at the moment for one reason. I could go for ever about frame rates, screen resolutions, buffering rates, and data transfer rates. In fact, I’ll do that at the bottom of this article.

But the thing is, you’ve probably got enough to worry about anyway. What you want from a capture card is something you can just plug in and use. That’s what makes the  Avermedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus so good.

It is the only capture card on this list that doesn’t need a PC to operate. That means that you can just plug it in, and it will start capturing your gameplay, whether you are playing on your laptop or Xbox or Switch or Amiga or whatever.

It will light up when you are capturing, so you don’t miss anything good, and you can easily switch it between SD card mode or streaming mode (which does, admittedly, need a PC). The proprietary software that comes with this little box, Rec Central, is also super easy to use, and it is a breeze to overlay text or tweaking your picture so it looks just right.

All this means that the Avermedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus is simply the easiest piece of kit to use on this list. It gets out of the way, and lets you focus on the important stuff. It also works extremely well if you are traveling, or often go round your friends’ houses for gaming sessions.

In that case, in fact, you might also want to check out our guide to the best gaming laptop, just to make sure you have everything you need.

I don’t want to sell the  Avermedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus short, though. Sure, it’s easy to use, and that’s great. But it also does everything else right as well, otherwise it wouldn’t be top of this list. 60 fps capture is smooth and quick, and the output looks gorgeous. So, if you are looking for a capture card that covers every possibility, get this one.

Premium Pick: Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro

Pros & Cons

  • Captures 4K
  • Real time video encoding
  • Pricey

Specifications:

  • Resolution: 4K
  • Frame rate: 60 fps
  • Interface: PCIe x4
  • Works with: PC only

Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro Review

This card lets you capture in 4K. The catch is that you have to make some sacrifices in order to do that. On the other hand, none of these are going to be a problem for pro gamers. First up, this is the only card on this list that is an internal capture card. So you’re going to need a modern housing in order to even mount the thing.

Second, you’re going to need some pretty killer hardware in order to run it. An NVIDIA GeForce GTX 10 series and an Intel Core i7 CPU or better, in fact, which is getting toward the top end of what most people can afford. Take a look, though, at our guide to the best graphics card for gaming, and you might find you can afford the hardware you need.

Third, and pretty obvious, you’re going to need one of the best 4K monitors out there to take full advantage of this card. The best way to use it, in fact, is to play on the no-lag HDMI passthrough to play on a second 4K monitor, so for best results you need two 4K monitors.

This is already an expensive list of kit, then you have the price of this card itself. All this said, the results are truly spectacular. If you want to make a name for yourself in the streaming world, this is the card to go for. Nothing beats the experience of watching a live 4K stream, and at the moment the Elgato 4K60 Pro is the only capture card out there that is up to the job.

Best Value: Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket

Pros & Cons

  • Easy to use
  • Output is MP4
  • Portable
  • Doesn’t stream

 Specifications:

  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Frame rate: 30 fps
  • Interface: USB 2.0 / 3.0
  • Works with: PC and Consoles

Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket Review

The Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket is a little different to the other cards on this list, in two key ways. The first is the price. It’s cheaper than anything else here. There is a catch, though. The catch is that this little box won’t let you stream directly. Instead, you connect it to your console or PC with a USB cable, put another USB drive in, and it will record directly to the USB drive.

For a lot of people, that won’t be a problem. If you just want a capture card that will let you record your gameplay, this is the one to go for. It’s super easy to set up: there is, in fact, a great big red button on the top of this thing that makes it record.

The Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket is also portable, and works with everything. That’s perfect if you game on a few different consoles, and want to record games at your friends’ house. Now for the kinda bad stuff.

This is the only capture card on this list that won’t record at 60 fps. It sticks to 30fps. That sounds bad, until you remember that most games run at 30 fps anyway, so with the faster cards you are continually capturing two images of the same thing.

The other issue is that some people have seen artifacts in the recordings made by this card. You are not going to win an Oscar with the output from the Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket, for sure, but for most people the video quality will be just fine. Oh, and the software this thing comes with doesn’t work on a Mac. But who cares.

Overall, the Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket is a great budget option. It you just want a device that will let you record your gameplay, and aren’t planning on being the next streaming sensation, you can do a lot worse than this capture card.

Best For Portability: Elgato HD60 S

Pros & Cons

  • Plug and Play interface
  • Built-in live streaming to Twitch, Youtube, etc.
  • Flashback recording lets you upload content you forgot to record
  • Can lag a little

Specifications:

  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Frame rate: 60 fps
  • Interface: USB 3.0
  • Works with: PC and consoles

Elgato HD60 S Review

The Elgato HD60 S is a small device, but one that more than holds its own against the larger capture cards on this list.

The 1080p, 60 fps streaming that this card offers is similar to the other cards here, and like them the video quality that this card captures is great. It also offers a direct USB 3.0 input, which means that you can connect almost any device to it, and get streaming quickly.

The difference is that the Elgato HD60 S is focused on portability and ease of use. Setting up this device is really quick, with an intuitive user interface that lets you get streaming straight away. In addition, the small size of this device means that it is highly portable. You can take it to your friends place, or even tuck it into your bag if you are traveling, and stream wherever you like.

There are only two problems here. The first is that at this price point you should expect 4K passthrough. That said, for just a little more you can get the big brother of the Elgato HD60 S, the 4K60 Pro, which is an internal PC card that will let you capture 4K.

The other problem is less serious. With very little lag, you can’t blame jerky motion on your streaming card, end everyone is going to know your system is ancient. Time to look at the best CPU for gaming.

Best For Compatibility: MiraBox Capture Card

Pros & Cons

  • HDMI Loop Out
  • Compatible with almost everything
  • Zero latency on the HDMI output
  • Not 4k

Specifications:

  • Resolution: 1080p streaming
  • Frame rate: 60 fps
  • Interface: USB 3.0
  • Works with: Everything

MiraBox Capture Card Review

The MiraBox capture card is not going to win any awards for resolution or framerate, though in these respects it matches the other cards on this list (except the 4K cards). It has one huge advantage, though: it is compatible with almost every device you own.

Our focus here is on capture cards for gaming, but this magic box will also work with your camera, or in fact anything you can run on your PC. And because there are no drivers required to run this card, it is completely compatible with Linux, Mac, Windows, or any other device you want to use.

The HDMI Loop-out is also a great feature. This lets you pass your HDMI signal straight through the box, so there is no lag on the screen you are playing on. The MiraBox will continue to stream, but you won’t notice any lag or choppy frame rate.

And because this capture card has a second input for the HDMI cable, you can connect two devices: use the USB 3.0 for your PC or console output, and you can then use the HDMI port for a dedicated webcam. This makes editing your streaming videos even easier.

Overall, this is a great card to get if you are going to be streaming output from a variety of consoles and other machines, because it will work with almost everything.


Capture Cards For Gaming: Buying Guide

If all talk about resolutions and frame rates above has your head, reeling, don’t worry. The things to look for in a capture card are pretty simple, really:

Compatibility

First, and most importantly, make sure that the capture card you are looking at works with your hardware. Most of the cards above work with a range of different consoles and on PCs, but some are PC only.

Resolution

Second, screen resolution. Almost all of the cards available at the moment will let you capture gameplay or stream in 1080p, which is the standard monitor size as of 2020. Even if you have a 4K screen, you should think long and hard about whether it is worth streaming at this quality: not only does doing this eat up a lot of disk space, but most of your viewers probably don’t have a 4K monitor.

monitor screen resolution

Framerate

You should look for a card with at least 30 fps, and ideally 60 fps. This will ensure that your card keeps up with you as your hardware develops, and will also mean that your videos are smooth.


Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a GPU for a streaming PC?

No, but it helps. Streaming adds another level of computation to your gaming setup, so as soon as you start streaming you are going to see reduced performance. My advice is to get the best GPU you can afford first, and then look at capture cards after.

Is it better to stream with a capture card?

Yes, it is. It is possible to stream your gameplay direct from your PC or console, but doing it this way means that everything is running on the same hardware, and you will experience lag. Having a dedicated box to record your gameplay simplifies things a lot.

AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable Lite External Capture Card

How do I get more streaming followers?

The honest answer is this: play well and be entertaining. Just make sure that you are not one of those people who start their own Twitch threads to beg for followers, as one Redditor found in Twitch’s Dark Underbelly!

Do streamers make money from Twitch?

Yep. They make a lot of money. Here’s a breakdown of exactly how much money Twitch streamers earn per month. Pretty impressive, right? Whilst I can’t promise that you’re going to make that much, at least with the capture cards above you can take to first step to becoming the next streaming superstar. Or at least impress your friends.


Final Words

Capture cards are almost essential when you are a streamer on the uprise. However, if you're fun and entertaining the quality of your content will far outweigh the quality of your visuals.

Still, it can't hurt to provide the best possible experience to your potential viewers and that is done by using the best capture card available.


Sources:

  1. Eric, Capture Card Setup, Streamlabs

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Matthew Lyons
Written by Matthew Lyons

Matthew comes from Texas and if you asked anyone who knows Matthew to describe him using one single word – they would all say the same thing: passionate What is Matthew most passionate about? Shooting.🎯 In the digital world, of course, not in the real one. Matthew played all sorts of different video games throughout the last 30 years, which is how long he has been gaming. All your questions regarding FPS titles will be answered by Matthew and you can rest assured that the answers have years of experience and research behind them.

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