With gaming increasingly becoming an online activity and even a career to some, more importance is now being placed on top-notch streaming devices. Even an average gamer is trying to get his gaming sessions online. This can be for fun or a professional wanting to stream on twitch or create powerful content on YouTube.
However, this online presence sought by social gamers does not come free at least. Due to the continuous improvement in technology, a social gamer to share some gaming moments with friends, or one who intends to record gaming session for reference, or even a professional who earns cool cash either as a streamer or content creator, there is a need to deliver something acceptable with the modern-day devices and audiences.
These qualities can be easily summed into two things, top-quality recording and clear, lag-free and top-notch streaming. As simple as that sounds, it can be hellish with the wrong devices. Hence, for you to mesmerize your viewers while also eliminating frustration for yourself, you need to have the best capture cards as a minimum.
What is a Capture Card?
This is a special input device that accepts raw analog gaming signals from your console or PC and subsequently converts it to a readable digital data. The output will be a video content that can be edited for recording or made available to the public directly through streaming.
A capture card is a minimum requirement for any modern-day streamer or content creator. When this device is used with the appropriate accessories, your creativity will be the only thing stopping you from creating mind-blowing contents.
This device compared to streaming software, records and streams in real-time without a drop in quality. It also has a wide range of use as it can create a lag-free content with your PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Wii. Hence, if you’re a beginner or someone with interest in content creating and streaming, you surely need a capture card to get your big debut right.
Types of Capture Cards
There are two types of capture cards: The internal and external capture cards.
Internal capture card: As the name implies, it can be connected directly to the internal circuitry of your computer. This type of capture card is suitable for desktop owners. It connects to the motherboard of a computer through the PCle slot.
An internal capture card is considered the faster of the two types of capture cards. This owes a lot to its direct connection to the motherboard without any intermediary.
One of the major downsides of the internal capture card is portability and flexibility. It does not fit well with laptops and is best for stationary use. It also uses some space of the CPU, thus hampering your system performance.
Additionally, the installation is not easy and majorly suits those that use a fixed gaming desktop not being used for other purposes.
External capture card: The external capture card is the most common type of the two. It connects to your gaming PC through the USB port. And the more portable of the two types of capture cards. Also, it has the adaptability, flexibility and versatility to its advantage. It is not as fast as the internal capture cards but it is in no way slow. This type is especially useful for gamers with just one gaming system.
It uses very little space on your CPU as the majority of the processing activities are usually done on it. The majority of external capture cards are compatible with more than one console. It is also easy to carry and simple to operate.
Functionally, the two types of capture cards are effective and have the same end product. It all depends on what you need and the task at hand.
Benefits of Using a Capture Card
- Takes pressure off your CPU: This is one of the major advantages of using a capture card. When you use your PC with streaming software, the majority of the work is done by your CPU. Whereas, in the case of capture card, some of the work is done by the capture card and only little of the CPU’s space is needed.
- Improved quality: Consoles like PS4 are known to record and stream games. Also, some software can be used to stream on PCs. However, the gulf in quality between streaming with a capture card and other software is just too wide. The speed of recording, transmission rate and reliability is markedly different from capture cards. Similarly, features such as commentary are not available on software.
- Allow for dual PC connection: Using the same PC for both gaming and streaming can be a daunting task. Though there are powerful PCs that can handle the task, they are not available to all gamers. However, you can use a dual PC connection. One of the PCs will be your gaming PC and the other the streaming PC. This can only be made possible with a capture card.
How to Choose the Best Capture Cards For Streaming
With the market flooded with capture cards of varying specifications, there is a need to know what makes a good one. Here we have gathered the features you should consider in a capture card before splashing the cash.
This might look too obvious due to what a capture card stands for, but the importance cannot be emphasized enough. The image quality with which you record and stream is very important as it is the major indicator of the overall quality of your work to your viewers.
To create an eye-catching content you need a capture card that combines high-quality image with high frame rate. The least acceptable standard these days in terms of image quality is either full HD or 1080p. Also, to avoid skipping and inadequate capturing, a capture card that captures 60 fps (frame per second) is the minimum requirement.
However, as a career content creator or gamer that will be streaming and recording high effect games, you need a capture card that records in 4k or Ultra HD. Consequently, you will need the latest computers with a pretty strong and high capacity processor to edit and completely access 4k or Ultra HD videos.
Internal or external
As discussed earlier, any of these two types of capture cards work well depending on the task. For a gamer that majorly uses consoles like PS4, Xbox and Nintendo switch along with a streaming PC, an external capture is the best fit for you. Also, if you need a versatile and portable capture card that can work with multiple consoles, you should get an external capture card.
The internal capture card is suitable for gamers with a gaming PC and streaming PC especially desktop owners. Also, if the speed of the capture card is of utmost importance to you, the internal capture card is your type of card.
The mode or style of connection between your streaming computer and your capture card is the interface. There are two major types of interfaces; USB and PCle.
USB is a popular interface as it is common in most devices. It is easier to use and works with laptops and desktops. PCle, on the other hand, is suitable for gamers who make use of desktop computers. Their recording speed is faster than that of the USB interface, but they are more difficult to connect and use.
They can be the deal-breaker in a capture card as it’s often overlooked and mistaken. The importance of purchasing a capture card whose input terminal fits with your console cannot be stated enough. If gotten wrong, it can effectively make the capture card useless. Hence, special attention should be given to this feature.
HDMI terminal is the common type. It is compatible with consoles like Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Xbox one and PlayStation 4.However, HDMI terminal does not work with old devices like Nintendo 64. Rather, you will need to get a capture card that has component video input as well as a component cable.
For gamers who make use of PCs only, there are also PC-specific capture cards. Though, you will get the best value in HDMI input capture cards as it can be used with multiple consoles.
The freedom and joy of usage of a capture card depend heavily on this feature. This is because of extra features like adding commentary and webcam while recording depends largely on it. Hence, the need to get it right.
Majorly, we have built-in software and third-party software. The built-in software comes with most popular capture cards like Elegato. In such capture cards, the features are well-defined and you are sure of the compatibility both in the short term and on the long run. It is the more reliable and durable of the two types of software albeit at extra cost.
The third-party software is for capture cards that do not have their software. In this case, you will need to download third-party software such as OBS to get all the extra features you need on your capture card. While there are some great third-party software such as OBS, there are also other disappointing ones. Also, you can’t guarantee the reliability of third-party software in the long run.
It is quite difficult to determine the durability of the hardware. Lots of factors contribute to its sheer durability such as frequency of use and maintenance. But some capture cards are built fragile and do not have a good track record of durability. The warranty policy of a product is a good indication of reliability and durability. Another way to find out is by reading the reviews on the product online.
This is usually the game-changer for all products not just capture cards. It is no secret that the quality of the capture card you are buying depends on your budget and the size of your pocket. Also, it is well-known capture cards of high quality are usually more expensive than the inferior ones.
It is also worth mentioning that the popular and trusted brands are usually more expensive than unknowns. As a content creator or a hardcore online gamer, you should get the best product even at a steep price.
To save you time and effort, we’ve helped you handpicked 5 of the best capture cards available in the market and are reviewed below.
Best capture cards For Streaming 2020 on The Market
|1. Elgato Game Capture Card HD60 S-Stream and Record||Most versatile||5.0|
|2. Basicolor HDMI Video Game Capture Card USB 3.0||Best for effortless streaming||4.2|
|3. LEADNOVO Audio Video Capture Card, 4k HDMI USB 3.0||Best for professionals||4.6|
|4. Eyesen USB 3.0 HDMI HD Capture Card||Most pocket-friendly||4.6|
|5. Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro-Stream and Record||Most advanced||4.8|
1. Elgato Game Capture Card HD60 S-Stream and Record – Most versatile
Elgato game capture card for streaming is a versatile and adaptable device that makes game recording and streaming easily. It is designed compact and easy to carry for gaming adventures. It is compatible with popular consoles such as PS3, PS4, Xbox one and Xbox 360.
Elegato capture cards generally have their built-in software that houses some of the best features. The features include the built-in live commentary, addition of webcam and streaming overlay.
This capture card does not disappoint on the streaming and recording front. It streams at high-quality and clear 1080p image quality at 60fps. Also, content creation on YouTube and streaming on Twitch is made easy thanks to its state-of-the-art USB type C interface. More importantly, the streaming is very smooth, fast and clear due to its very low latency technology.
To get a satisfying output, your recording or streaming PC must meet these minimum specs; Windows 10 (64bit), fourth-generation, quad-core Intel core i5 processor, 4GB RAM, built-in USB3.0 port and internet connection.
- There is no lagging when it is streaming.
- Crisp and clear graphics thanks to its low latency.
- Durable, portable and attractive design.
- Sturdy and reliable.
- Customer service needs to be improved.
2. Basicolor HDMI Video Game Capture Card USB 3.0 – Best for effortless streaming
This is an impressive external capture card that is compatible with PS4, PS3, Nintendo switch, Xbox one, and Xbox 360. It has an attractive design and lots of breath-taking features.
Of its superb features is the effortless streaming. The streaming is made easy as it automatically detects formats from its inputs and gives a fitting output with the right frame rate and output size. This streaming feature is taken to another level with its knack for capturing just one frame at a time.
Basicolor capture card is compatible with Linux and windows OS (operating system). It delivers a 1080p image quality at 60 fps. It also works effortlessly with 720p quality devices without a drop in its performance.
This unit works at an impressive speed and transmits at a standard rate. It is easy to use as it is fully plug and play and does not require any driver to get going. Add its compatibility with high-speed USB 3.0 and 2.0 devices to its throughput of about 300 to 350mb/s, and you have a top capture card on your hands.
- Value for money.
- Absolutely no latency from the HDMI loop out.
- Easy to use and set up.
- Impressive transmission speed.
- Does not come with the full accessories needed such as the HDMI cable.
3. LEADNOVO Audio Video Capture Card, 4k HDMI USB 3.0 – Best for professionals
Leadnovo capture card is a good one for professionals who need to stream in 4k image quality. It is one of the few capture cards that make high-quality streaming effortless. It has an eye-catching design with a good blend of color in the accessories.
This device delivers high-quality 4k images at 60fps. The speed of operation and transmission is also enhanced by its high-speed USB 3.0 port. It is designed in the plug and play model; hence, it does not need to install any driver to get started.
Streaming on the Leadnovo capture card is clear and lag-free. Also, with its USB 3.0 and HDMI loop-out, streaming on platforms such as twitch, Potplayer and YouTube is in real-time.
Leadnovo capture card is compatible with computers like Mac OS X 10.9 and above, Linux, Windows 7, 8, and 10. It can also be used in applications like VLC and OBS.
- Compact and effective.
- Saves time and effort as it requires no driver to get started.
- Value for money.
- Crisp and effortless streaming.
- The audio does not work with some applications.
4. Eyesen USB 3.0 HDMI HD Capture Card – Most pocket-friendly
This is a relatively inexpensive capture card that gets the job done. At about $89.99, Eyesen capture card is amongst the cheapest top-notch capture cards you can lay your hands on.
This gem of a product has versatility and compatibility as a bonus. It is compatible with Xbox one, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Nintendo switch, and other consoles. The image quality is 1080p at 60 fps.
Eyesen capture card is at its best when it works with USB 3.0 fast connection Type C port. It can effectively capture just a channel of HD HDMI at a time. Thanks to this feature, it can recognize input automatically and give the required output. It also has low latency especially when it is operating through its HDMI loop-out port.
The device operates in the plug and play style meaning that it needs no driver to get going. And has a very strong system, and wide compatibility range. It is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux.
- Easy to understand instruction manual.
- Easy to use.
- Fast transmission speed.
- Relatively inexpensive.
- Not compatible with Microsoft teams.
5. Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro-Stream and Record – Most advanced
This is another fantastic capture card by Elgato. It is high-quality and very effective capture card. And it’s made to suit the modern-day streaming requirement and does not disappoint.
Elgato HD60 pro-stream capture card works indifferently with consoles like Xbox, Nintendo switch and PlayStation. It delivers 1080p quality at the standard 60fps on all of these devices. Streaming with this device is effortless thanks to its built-in feature. This feature enables it to stream easily on platforms such as Twitch and YouTube. Likewise, it has a capture bitrate of 60mb/s.
In terms of flexibility, Elgato HD60 pro-stream capture card shows good value. Additionally, it can record at 1080p H.264 while streaming allowing you to save your game as you stream.
Just like the earlier discussed Elgato capture card, this product also has built-in software that possesses a series of enhancing features. Amongst these features are the addition of webcam when streaming, effective built-in commentary feature and addition of streaming overlay.
- Sturdy and attractive design.
- Streams with very low latency technology.
- Records high-quality contents that can be saved in mp4 format.
- Takes time to get it fully working as it is not plug and play.
FAQs on Best Capture Cards for Streaming
- What are the categories of capture cards?
Majorly capture cards can be categorized according to the type of consoles they work with. Some capture cards work effectively with PlayStation, Xbox, PCs only, etc.
There are also capture cards that can work with multiple consoles effectively. It all depends on what you need it for. But the best of the lot are those that can work with multiple consoles as they might save you from spending on a new capture card in the future.
- Should I get a capture card as an online gamer?
The simple answer is yes, you need to get one. There is no denying that some software can stream games but none can match the output and effectiveness of the capture card. A big downside to using software for streaming is the effect it has on the performance of your system. Also, the software can often crash, and they are generally not reliable. There is also the fact that most software does not have the extra features such as commentary and streaming overlay that capture cards offer.
Hence, to get the best result while also maintaining optimum performance from your system, a capture card is not a necessity for you as a social gamer, it is a must.
- Can I use a PCle interface with my laptop?
Yes, you can use a PCle interface with your laptop with the aid of PCle adapter. However, this is not advisable because it affects on the speed, quality and stability of your streaming and recording. Hence, if you do not have a desktop, you should go for the USB interface.
The rigors of what makes the best capture card have just been simplified and as a result, you should be able to approach the market confidently. We have also reviewed some of the best products presently in the market. Do well to check them out and other trusted products too.
Finally, just like other hardware, there is likely to be a plethora of cloned and unreliable products in the market. The best way to counter this is to buy directly from the manufacturer or their trusted retail outlets.