If youre an aspiring content creator or streamer, then you need a capture card for recording and broadcasting game footage. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One make it easy to get streaming with their respective Mixer and Twitch apps but if, say, you want to set up complex scenes with overlays, chroma-keyed backgrounds using high-end camera equipment, youll need to upgrade to a PC capture device. Think of as a graphics card for your budding streaming career: you cant work without one.As professional streaming has exploded, so too has the amount of gear available. Separating the wheat from the chaff is tough, luckily though, we’ve done the hard work for you and found the best capture cards for every budget and a variety of recording capabilities.TL;DR These are the Best Capture Cards:
1. Elgato Game Capture HD60 S+
Best Capture Card
There are a lot of reasons why the Elgato Game Capture HD60S+ is my favorite external capture card. It’s one of the few capture cards that let you play your games at 4K60 HDR while grabbing and broadcasting footage at 2160p30 or 1080p60 HDR without having to drop your video settings to do it. The Elgato Game Capture HD60S+ also offers plug-and-play simplicity with its impressive internals.All you need to get started with capturing is two HDMI cables, and a USB 3.0 Type-C connected to a laptop or gaming PC to run the software and store your footage. Speaking of which the HD60S+ has some very easy to use software with built-in support for Twitch and YouTube broadcasting. An internal capture card would be cheaper, but if youre just starting out and only have a laptop to work with, youll pay a bit of a tax. Other than that, you wont lose any functionality with the portable option.
2. AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2
Best Entry-Level Capture Card
Looking to get your feet wet with streaming? Take a gander at the Live Gamer Portable 2 from AVerMedia. The external card offers 1080p60 capture in the H.264 codec and unlike Elgatos external offerings, has a Micro SD card slot for recording footage without the need for a PC. If you tend to stream while chatting with buddies a lot, youll appreciate the dedicated audio ports for capturing party chat and headset-and-mic monitoring. On the software front, this model supports DirectShow software including the open-source OBS, and XSplit. AVerMedia says that you can use it as a capture source for QuickTime on Mac, too.3. ClonerAlliance Flint 4KP Plus
Best External Capture Card
The ClonerAlliance Flint 4KP Plus is one of the most flexible capture cards we’ve seen. It’s not only designed to let you record footage from your consoles or gaming PC, but also set-top boxes, webcams, DSLRs, camcorders, and even your phone. That last device is a killer appquite literally thanks to the phone app that the ClonerAlliance has developed, allowing you to use your phone as a makeshift commentary device to create LetsPlays on the road.When it comes to pure capture and streaming quality, the ClonerAlliance Flint 4KP Plus records at 1080p60 while letting you pass through a 4K60 signal. There’s no support for HDR at all but you do get a high bitrate up to 140Mbps.
4. AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K
Best Internal Capture Card
With the Live Gamer 4K from AVerMedia, youll have the cheapest capture card that currently allows you to capture 4K60 footage in HDR. No, you cant broadcast that yet (or edit it with the included shareware), but once streaming software and services catch up, youll be ready. Until then, you can toss the video to YouTube. Bump your capture resolution down to 1080p and youll be able to capture at frame-rates up to 240 frames-per-second. Whoa indeed. The LG4K also has RBG lighting for visual customization, in case your PC case needs a few more lights.5. Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro
Best Entry-Level Internal Capture Card
Lets face it: Uploading 4K video requires an awful lot of bandwidth. Your budding audience would be better served with more frequent streams than you working a third job to afford faster internet and a ridiculous capture card. When you make the jump to an internal card, take a look at the Game Capture HD60 from Elgato instead. As its name implies, this model will capture video at 60 frames-per-second and Full HD. Itll also occupy half the PCIe ports as its 4K sibling, and cost $100 less. In addition to pumping out full HD broadcasts, itll simultaneously record said footage to your hard drive at 1080p60 in the H.264 codec at a 60 Mbps maximum bitrate. Theres also built-in support for streaming to Twitch and YouTube.6. Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro Mk. 2
Best High-End Capture Card
The Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro Mk. 2 is the perfect way to celebrate just getting Partnered with Twitch. Its pricey, but hey, all those late nights have finally paid off. This PCIe internal card captures footage up to a 4K resolution directly to your hard drive without breaking a sweat, with an up to 140 Mbps bitrate.Beyond the basic ability to record 4K HDR footagewhich is pretty great on its ownthe Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro Mk. 2 offers a few extra features like Multi App Access so you can have multiple pieces of streaming and/or recording software accessing your capture card at the same time. Additionally, the Elgato’s HDR tonemapping allows users to play at 4K HDR while streaming in standard dynamic range.
What to look for in a Capture Card
In the roundup above you may have noticed one name popped up a lot in particular: Elgato. The companys offerings are the go-to standard in the consumer capture and pro streaming community. In my personal experience, their products offer the easiest setup and most compatibility across a variety of streaming apps and hardware setups. The companys built-in streaming software also natively works with Macs, which is a huge plus.Taking a gamble on a cheap no-name capture card… isnt worth the frustration.
There are a lot of other options, but if youd rather not go for an Elgato, stick to models from AVerMedia. Theyre a solid alternative and the company has a range of products to suit just about every budget. Software support isnt as good as that of Elgatos, but AVerMedia tries making up for it with more features. For example, one of its external units will record to an SD card thus eliminating the need to lug out your laptop just because you want to record some footage. Its latest products support 4K and HDR passthrough, and its high-end internal card records 4K HDR footage.While there might be a duopoly with streaming gear manufacturers right now, trust me: taking a gamble on a cheap no-name capture card with fewer reviews than youve got fingers isnt worth the hassle. Also, if you’re not looking for anything serious and just want to record in-game footage for the amusement of your friends, we’ve put together a list of the best game recording software right here.
Timothy J. Seppala is a Detroit-based freelance reporter who has crammed a 5.1 surround system into every place he’s lived, regardless of bedroom size. He’s intimately familiar with the myriad ways OBS can glitch out just before going live with a broadcast on Twitch or YouTube.