Before we highlight some of the best capture cards for PC gaming, you will definitely want to know what make the best capture cards:
1. Image quality
Of course you want to record your videos and live stream in extraordinary quality. To pick the right capture card you need to look for the supported image resolutions and the amount of frames per second it is capable of recording, for example, 30fps or 60fps. We recommend you look for a capture card that records in at least 1080p or ‘Full HD’. If your budget allows and you want to create extremely high quality videos you can look for a capture card that records in 4K or ‘Ultra HD’. Keep in mind that you will also need a good built computer on which to edit and render 4K/Ultra HD videos.
Every capture card manufacturer includes their own software with their capture card. You need this software to use the capture card to record, live stream and/or edit footage .The quality and functionality of this software may differ per manufacturer.
3. Type of input
When choosing the right capture card you need to make sure the capture card has the suitable input for the device you want to record with. By far, the most popular input is HDMI which is used by most gaming consoles like Xbox 360, Xbox one, Playstation 3, Playstation 4 and Wii U, even desktops and laptops. Some older consoles use component cables so if you want to capture footage of retro consoles like the Nintendo 64 you need to look for a capture card that has component video input.
The interface of a capture card is the means it connects to the computer that you use for recording. By far, the most popular is USB which is very easy to set-up. Another common interface is PCIe, this is a bit more difficult to set-up but can record footage without any delay.
Eager to know what are the best capture cards on the market? Good news, here is our top picks for best capture cards for PC gaming:
1. Elgato Game Capture HD60 S
The Elgato Game Capture HD60 S is the perfect card for anyone wanting to take their gameplay online with as little annoyance as possible. Elgato is an expert in its field, and the HD60 S proves it again. Reasonably priced and easy to use, it's probably the best start if you're new to streaming, and your gaming PC can't manage it solo. Sharp 1080p recordings at 60fps are a feather in its cap, while USB 3.0 connectivity is a happy bonus.
Built-in software to get you up and running seals the deal. The only downside of the HD60 S would be the card's limited editing suite—it's not much good for anything beyond trimming video. However, it does have 'Flashback Recording' to help you capture even if you forgot to hit 'record'.
2. AverMedia Live Gamer Duo
While streaming these days is easier than ever before, it doesn't mean there aren't ways to make things even easier for your stream. The AverMedia Live Gamer Duo is a no concern internal capture card for more complicated streams and plays well with most rigs, so long as you have the room for them.
This Live Game Duo is giving you two capture cards for just the price of one. A great setup for streaming with multiple HDMI inputs like a gaming console,a fancy DSLR camera, or maybe a second PC. The only real downside is if you have plans for 4K recording or streaming, you'll have to look lower on the list. If you're looking to stream out at 1080p/60fps mostly disturbance-free though, you won't go wrong with the Live Game Duo.
3. AverMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus
AverMedia's Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus packs smooth 60fps and 1080p recording, 4K pass-through so you can still play in ultra HD (even if it’s not captured in 4K), USB 3.0, Mac compatibility, and dirty great flashing lights to tell you if you’re capturing or have left HDCP on.
Besides an attractive form-factor, it also offers insightful software for live editing and the ability to record straight onto a Micro SD card if you’d prefer to keep your HDD clear of space-absorbing video. This capture card is flexible, mainly if you record on the go. It works straight out of the box too—always a plus.
4. Elgato Game Capture 4K60 S+
If you're looking to capture the best footage without compromising any of the graphical quality, the Elgato Game Capture 4K60 S+ does just that. Thanks to onboard HEVC encoding, it lightens the CPU load and keeps video files at controllable sizes, which you'll need when recording 4K 60fps footage with HDR. More importantly, the 4K60 S+ automatically adjusts recording resolution, bit rate, and file format on whatever device is plugged in, which means you won't have to spend too much time tweaking settings.
The most important and requested update to Elgato's capture cards is the ability to capture straight to an SD card. You can capture footage without needing to plug it into another PC—just plug in the console or PC and hit record. Everything records onto the SD card for later editing.
The Elgato Game Capture 4K60 S+ is an excellent choice for content creators who travel to trade shows or off-site game demos and need an easy way to record gameplay even if the $400 price tag might be a little tough to swallow.
5. Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro
Pro-users, or gamers, or content creators, who want nothing but the best, need look no further than Elgato’s 4K60 Pro. It may need a high-end PC to get off the ground, but this is an excellent piece of kit for those who are intent on capturing gameplay at the highest resolution and frame rate possible.
It’s worth making sure you’ve got enough storage space for all those videos too, because they can get huge very quickly. And if you want to go big, with the Sabrent's 4TB RocketQ, it’s will be your wildest dream. The 4K60 Pro's encoder can reduce file size and save you much-needed memory, but they can still be chunky.
1. Do capture cards cause lag?
Most capture cards have at least some lag associated with their capture preview. The amount of lag it causes will be related to how fast your computer hardware is, the type of game you're playing, and how good your capture card is. The best capture cards cause little to no lag, and some even claim to cause 'zero' lag.
2. Does Elgato take up CPU resources?
To use the basic functionality of Elgato products, for example, the Elgato Game Capture HD60 S, including video capture and editing, your CPU needs to be multi-core. It needs to have four or more cores. If you are using an Intel CPU, it should be a 4th Generation Intel Core i5, or a processor from a newer generation that's even more powerful.
3. Does a capture card encode video for you?
It is important to note that the capture card does NOT do the encoding itself; that will still be done by your streaming PC. A common misconception is that capture cards will both capture and then encode the video files, which would lead to some offloading of processing from your computer to the capture card.
4. How powerful of a computer do I need to stream?
You'll likely be doing most of your streaming from a gaming laptop or gaming desktop PC. As far as specs go, game streaming website Twitch recommends having at least an Intel Core i5-4670 processor (or its AMD equivalent), 8GB of RAM and Windows 7 or newer.
5. Should I use a capture card on 1 PC?
Capture cards on a single PC setup will not offer any boost in performance over just capturing the game with game capture or window capture. In fact, using a capture card on a single PC setup will use more resources. To get the most out of PC gaming and a capture card you'll need two PCs - one for streaming and the other for gaming.