If you're looking to stream on Twitch or YouTube, one of the most important things you can add to your toolbox is a capture card. These tiny devices allow you to connect your console to your PC, allowing you to capture your game feed and send it live to people all over the world. Whether you're playing on PS5 and Xbox Series X or older consoles like the PS4, Xbox One, or Nintendo Switch, it's important that you give your viewers the best picture possible, and capture cards can help with that. Even if you play on a PC, the quality you get from an internal capture card is unbeatable.
What to look for in a capture card?
The first thing you should consider when choosing a capture card is how you will use it. If you plan on streaming a lot at home and want to keep things relatively clutter-free, an internal capture card that you insert into your PC's motherboard, like the Elgato 4K60 Pro, is a great choice that offers excellent quality. Portable capture cards like the Elgato HD60 S+ are great for anyone who wants the flexibility to be able to take it with them wherever they go, although in most cases you'll need a laptop close by if you plan on traveling far from home and use your capture card. Once you've figured out what best suits your needs, choosing the right capture card is much easier.
From this point on, you need to consider the platforms on which you will broadcast. Capture cards have a variety of features that can take advantage of your platform's capabilities or restrict them entirely if you don't buy the right device for your setup.
The refresh rate is pretty straightforward. A screen with a refresh rate of 60 Hz is capable of displaying 60 images per second, or 60 frames per second. The vast majority of capture cards can only capture up to 60 FPS, so you don't have to worry too much about that, although if you're gaming on a PC, you might still want to enjoy its ultra-high refresh rates while recording. This is where the passage comes in.
You will notice that each capture device has a different pass range, including 4K passes. This refers to the signal that the capture card is able to "pass" by itself and go to its own screen while recording. In some cases, a game capture card is able to capture certain resolutions and refresh rates while going through higher resolutions and refresh rates. For example, it captures 1080p and 60Hz, but passes through 1440p and 144Hz. Each device's pass-through capabilities are different, so remember to think about your setup and which device can accommodate your gaming footage and 4K pass-through needs.
Fortunately, if you're strictly a console gamer, you're covered on all fronts for now. The PS4 Pro and Xbox One X are capable of displaying resolutions up to 4K at 60 frames per second, something that many capture cards are capable of recording directly from the game console. Many consoles also support HDRe, so while you'll want to record everything you can see on your console, capturing HDR isn't necessarily something you should worry about. HDR stands for high dynamic range, which refers to the range of colors a device and game can display. TVs and content that support HDR often have beautiful, bright colors, making a big impact on overall picture quality. Capturing HDR footage from your console is an attractive prospect, but it requires expensive equipment and only people with HDR-capable screens will be able to appreciate it. If you still want to experience console HDR for yourself, keep an eye out for devices capable of it.
There are some professional grade capture cards made for filming and cameras. They can work with consoles and your PC, but they are very expensive and completely free for the content that most YouTubers and Twitch streamers create. We left these types of products out and focused on the best capture cards that will be most useful to video game content creators.
Elgato 4K60 S +
Elgato's new 4K60 S+ is the most exciting capture card on this list, thanks to its built-in video encoder and the ability to capture footage directly to an SD card. All you need to do is connect your console via HDMI, press the capacitive touch button and you're recording, no PC required. And considering its portable form factor, the Elgato 4K60 S+ is a great choice when going to events and beyond. It features 4K HDR and 60 frames per second pass-through (with the correct HDMI cable), as well as no noticeable lag, making it something you can leave plugged in at all times. Unfortunately, unlike Elgato's internal 4K60 Pro card, it doesn't support pass-through to 1080p and 240Hz or 1440p and 144Hz.
Price can also be a deterrent for casual content creators. There is no doubt that the portability, SD card recording and video encoding capabilities are attractive features for game capture, but they come at a price that is actually quite high. If you absolutely don't need everything the 4K60 S+ has to offer, you might not want to spend the extra cash required to pick up this high-end external capture card.
You can find the Elgato 4K60 S+ for purchase by clicking here.
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If you're looking for a cheaper portable capture card, Elgato's HD60 S+ is a great choice. A successor to the Game Capture HD60 S, the HD60 S+ is capable of capturing up to 1080p and 60 FPS and pass-through of 4K HDR and 60 FPS. This makes it a great capture card that you can keep plugged in at all times, although a PC is required to record. The HD60 S+ does not have an SD card slot. The accompanying software also supports flashback recording. Game Capture HD60 S+ is perfect for Twitch, YouTube, Mixer and any other streaming or video platform you want to create content and is the best capture card to get started quickly.
You can find the Elgato HD60 S+ for purchase by clicking here.
Razer Ripsaw HD
Razer, known for their excellent gaming keyboards and mice, also has a great game capture card. Ripsaw HD is easy to place anywhere on your desk and keep a low profile while capturing up to 1080p and 60 FPS with pass-through to 4K and 60 FPS. Unfortunately, it does not support HDR pass-through. The unique feature of this capture device allows you to connect a 3,5mm microphone and headphones to record your voice and monitor your audio respectively. This is perfect if you plan on streaming with a gaming headset. For the budget-conscious gamer, this, along with decent streaming software, is all you need to start streaming your gameplay and building your Twitch channel.
You can find the Razer Ripsaw HD for purchase by clicking here.
Elgato 4K60 Pro
The Elgato 4K60 Pro is the best internal PCIe capture card out there. It's capable of capturing gameplay at up to 4K and 60 frames per second directly from your PC, and it's also easy to configure: all you have to do is plug it into your motherboard and download drivers to make it work. It can capture HDR and pass up to 1080p at 240Hz and 1440p at 144Hz. These pass-through features are particularly useful if you're going to use this card to capture gameplay from your own PC, as you won't have to sacrifice your own experience while recording or streaming. It also works perfectly with PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
You can find the Elgato 4K60 Pro for purchase by clicking here.
Elgato HD60 Pro
The HD60 Pro is a version of Elgato's internal PCIe capture card that supports capture and pass-through at up to 1080p and 60 frames per second. It has fewer features and capabilities than the 4K60 Pro, but it also comes with a much cheaper price tag. If capturing in 4K HDR isn't your thing, then the HD60 Pro video capture card is more than enough to handle your streaming and recording needs, especially if you're an aspiring streamer or YouTuber.
You can find the Elgato HD60 Pro for purchase by clicking here.