Without one of the best capture cards, your ambitions for a live streaming career won't get far. Whether you're interested in Twitch streams, or making videos for YouTube, a good capture card is one of the most essential pieces of kit you'll need. The best options we can recommend will offer you superior capture quality, video storage, and versatile software that makes the whole creative process easier for you.
For PC gamers, one of the best capture cards may not be as necessary, but will really take the strain off of hardware components. On a console, capture cards will give you a wider array of features and recording options than on-board console software will. In 2023, some of the best capture cards on the market can natively record in 4K, at 60fps. While passthrough in this resolution and frame rate has been available for several years now, we're now seeing capture devices that can keep up with the visuals of the Xbox Series X and PS5, even with HDR support. Just keep in mind that Twitch still doesn't allow for streams in 4K, so this is only really a bonus for making videos.
If you're new to the world of video game content creation, it might be helpful to check out how to get started. Annoyingly, there's a lot to think about, and our streaming for gamers guide has everything you need to know. That guide covers it all - from budget kit to the best ring lights, webcams, and microphones. For now, let's tell you about some of the best capture cards on the market.
The best capture cards 2023
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Elgato has been the go-to name for capture cards for years and the HD60 X is the sum of that experience. An evolution rather than revolution, it builds on the HD60 S+ to deliver an outstanding experience for both capture and passthrough. Offering impressive features with a simple plug-and-play setup, we think the HD60 X will likely sit at the top of most creators' best capture card leaderboards.
The first mainstream capture card to offer variable refresh rate (VRR) support for passthrough, our testing proved that the HD60 X is the perfect companion for both the PS5 and Xbox Series X. There’s 10-bit HDR on offer for both capture and passthrough too, and with latency-free HDMI output, you won’t even know you’re running your gameplay through a capture device at all. Throughout testing I kept my Series X running through the HD60 X, even when just casually gaming, and noticed no impact on picture quality, input responsiveness, or visual performance.
The HD60 X will capture 4K content at 30fps and 1080p or 1440p content at up to 60fps, while offering 4K60fps or a whopping 1080p240fps via HDMI passthrough. Even playing via the preview in OBS responsiveness remained high and all but the most competitive gamers likely won’t notice any input delay at all. Elgato does offer their own capture software, the inspiringly named ‘Elgato 4K Capture Utility’ but my advice is to stick with OBS. I found recording quality to be noticeably worse using Elgato’s software with a few frustrating UI bugs along the way too.
Ignoring their software offering, we think the Elgato HD60 X ticks just about every box and might just be the best external capture card for console gamers and streamers available right now.
Read more: Elgato HD60 X review
The Toblerone-shaped AverMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus is quite frankly ludicrously lovely to capture with. Easy doesn't cover it as you flick between PC and micro SD settings and there's no missing the giant flashing lights to make sure that you're capturing or have left HDCP on (again). The quality is exceptional with crisp 60fps arriving straight onto your PC or Micro SD card.
The latter is essential instead of a USB stick for speedy transfer as this is the only no PC-required capturing device on the list that has the capability to work with 60fps. It's definitely worth the extra investment if you don't always want your PC running when capturing and if you are streaming, the included RECentral is intuitive for overlaying text and tweaking your picture in picture set up. An overall exceptional piece of kit with a small form factor but an impressive swathe of handy features.
Rec Central, AVerMedia's proprietary player is intuitive and exceptionally easy to use and you can even record PS4 party chat without having to add an extra cable like the Elgato. Overall a brilliant offering for both streaming and capturing.
Best for... Easy capture and streaming at 1080p 60fps with no budget constraints. Plus you can keep playing in 4K while you stream.
Elgato is one of the biggest, best-known names in capture, and for good reason: their devices are relatively cheap, easy to use, and function incredibly well. Here's our breakdown of all the Elgato game capture deals (opens in new tab), covering all devices in the range. The Game Capture HD60S is easy to set up, simply plugging in between your PS4/Xbox One and the TV. It also does all of the work for you, with the software cycling through resolution options until it finds a signal (although you can also set it up and tweak options manually should you have any problems getting a signal on your TV). Another great bonus is that you don't need the software running to use it: as long as it can draw power it'll send a signal to your screen so theres no need to unplug it when you don't want to capture.
The capture software that comes with it is clear and easy to use, with a few basic, useful options to fiddle with the audio and streaming set ups. Theres an audio in on the unit itself if you want to add audio directly to your stream, and a range of streaming screen sets up for in-set cameras and so on. The only area in which it disappoints is its rudimentary editing package that's only really good for trimming.
Best for... High quality capture in a small package, and it's so easy to use.
Chances are, you're not going to find a true 4K capture card for as low of a price as the Razer Ripsaw HD, a capture card that does 4K passthrough while streaming games in 1080p. Whether you have a PS4 Pro, an Xbox One X, or you plan on buying the inevitable 4K Nintendo Switch refresh upon its release, the Razer Ripsaw HD just might scratch that high-res streaming itch. Not only that, but this capture card eliminates the hurdle of software-based audio mixing. You can mix audio, "hassle free," using the hardwired mic and headphone jacks.
Unfortunately, the Razer Ripsaw HD biggest feat comes with an equally major caveat. It doesn't have its own software. To stream in 1080p as advertised, you'll have to either shell out for an XSplit premium membership or rely on the less intuitive – but free and open source – Open Broadcasting Software. On top of that, unlike the original Razer Ripsaw (opens in new tab), this one doesn't support older consoles without a small collection of adapters.
Best for: Anyone who values resolution and ease of use.
If you’re serious about capturing gameplay at the highest resolution and frame rates possible then this is the card you need. As the only internal capture card on our list, it does mean that you’ll need pretty some high-end hardware (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 10 series and an Intel Core i7 CPU or better) to use it but the results are well worth it. We did find that we had to update our graphics card drivers to get the card working correctly but once configured this card will allow you to capture 4K footage at 60fps at up to 140Mbps.
Normally that would mean you’d also need a lot of HDD space but the simple-to-use software also encodes the capture while it’s recording it to save you space. The only slight niggle with it (and it really is slight) is that, although the software is pretty good at keeping up with you, the optimum way to play while using this card is to make use of the lag free HDMI pass-through and send the feed to a second monitor or 4K screen. But if you’re considering this card you probably have all of that already.
Best for… Professional level 4K game capture
Another entry into the best capture card market for AverMedia, the GC551G2 Live Gamer Extreme 3 brings variable refresh rate support to the party. With 4K30 capture and 4K60 HDR passthrough, the spec sheet is pretty attractive for console gamers. It’s also one of the more reasonably priced options at this end of the market: at $169.99/£159.99 it’s nearly 20% cheaper than our top-ranked Elgato HD60 X.
Wonderfully simple to get started with, the Live Gamer Extreme 3 is a plug-and-play option with next to no setup required. Offering latency-free HDMI passthrough in full 4K60 with HDR support you won’t even notice the card is between your console and TV, though be aware, unlike other cards the LGE3 will only capture SDR content.
On the recording side, there’s support for up to 4K30 with super smooth 120fps capture at lower resolutions. Variable refresh rate support is new to the AverMedia range and it works well. In testing I noticed no artefacts or screen tearing while gaming, even at higher frame rates and the experience was smooth throughout.
While it’s not the most powerful capture option available, the AverMedia Live Gamer Extreme 3 boasts an impressive spec sheet and generally performs well across the board. If capturing HDR content isn’t a concern or you’re not looking to push the limit with the highest resolution game capture the LGE3 is a great value pick and won’t let you down.
Read more: AverMedia Live Gamer Extreme 3 review
With the arrival of the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X 4Kconsole gaming is very much here but most of the capture cards can’t go above 1080p. The AV.io offers up to 4k capture at 30fps which, while fine for PS4 Pro, may cause you problems on the Xbox One X if your games are running at a higher frame rate. However, if you’re looking for an external 4K capture solution for Sony’s new machine this is a dream. It’s also tiny so will easily fit into your bag or even your pocket if you’re on the move. There’s no software to install and it’s easy to set up on whatever video application you have on your machine like Skype, WireCast, or OBS (which we’d recommend).
It’s even (almost) lag-free, even at 4K, meaning you can play and capture on your machine using just the supplied cables. The only downside then is the price it is not cheap at over $500 / £400 so you just have to decide if all those extra pixels are worth it.
Best for… Capturing 4K footage while on the go
There's a lot of appeal to this - admittedly expensive - 4K capture card from Elgato straight out of the gate. For a start, not only is it portable, but it promises zero-latency HDR-enabled 4K60 in a portable form factor; some seriously impressive specs for its size.
It's the plug-and-play nature of this device that harbors the majority of its appeal. This is a unit that's very much aimed at PS5/Xbox Series X users with its direct capture solution - with the unit bearing the brunt of the processing/encoding as opposed to what would traditionally be your PC's CPU.
Again, due to just how small this thing is, it's designed just to be tossed into a bag and ready to be hooked up at a moment's notice when you need high-fidelity footage. Not only is there 4K passthrough (so the picture you're seeing isn't distorted or condensed) but it's recording a true-to-life account of what's happening on-screen; very expensive, but worth it if you're a serious streamer or on the move a lot.
Best for… Streamers and competitive gamers on the go
Perfect for recording a quick burst of capture when you spot something cool, AverMedia’s slim, lightweight, and portable capture box slots into consoles like a dream. With no need for a PC, the LGP is powered by the PS4, Xbox One or even PS3. It’s quick to set up and beyond easy to use. Simply plug it in between your console and TV, turn off HDCP, and press the giant red button in the centre. It’ll pulse a soothing red if your capture is working, or alternately flash blue and red to helpfully let you know if HDCP hasn’t been switched off. All your footage is recorded to a standard SD card in MP4.
Prefer to record to your laptop instead? No problem. The Live Gamer Portable (LGP) works with that too. Spitting out your videos in 30fps but at 1080p resolution, it might not look as razor-sharp on the screen as 60fps but you really can’t beat the LGP’s portability. Weighing just 117g and the size of an iPhone, if you’re looking for something to take with you on the go then the LGP should be your first port of call. Even able to record and stream gameplay at the same time, along with adding commentary on the top with no problem at all, it makes livestreaming a sinch.
Best for... Streaming and no-fuss instant capture
Similar to models made by Elgato and Avermedia before it, the EVGA XR1 is an ultra-portable capture card that records footage in up to 1080p60 with a myriad of passthrough options supporting up to 4K60 or 1440p 120 FPS.
Really, it's the latter addition combined with the aesthetics that could edge it out for some people. You will still need to plug it into a PC of some kind, but it's ready for PCs as well as cameras and Xbox Series X and PS5.
With the audio mixer, coupled with the inputs for headsets/external microphones through relevant ports on the front - meaning you can balance your audio as you go direct from the capture card as you would with an audio interface - leaving a lot of guesswork out of the equation!
Best for… Commentators and competitive gamers
Best capture card 2023 - frequently asked questions
Which capture cards do streamers use?
We've rounded up all the latest and most coveted capture cards, although, one of the most popular brands in the content creator scene is Elgato. Through the original Game Capture HD, through to the likes of the HD60 S and HD60 X, Elgato has proven to be one of the go-to brands for streaming and video game content creation. That's not to count out the likes of AverMedia, who has been involved in the scene for arguably just as long. Razer and EVGA are viable brands, too.
Do you need a capture card for PC?
The short answer here is no. On PC, software like OBS and OBS Streamlabs can record the footage for you. However, using just software can put a strain on your hardware components and result in frame rate drops and choppy footage. Beyond getting a second PC specifically for streaming, a capture card might just be your best bet.
If you have an Nvidia graphics card released within the last few years then you also have the free option of using Nvidia Shadowplay to capture gameplay and stream to the likes of Twitch and YouTube.
On consoles, you can record and stream footage as you play, but this doesn't give you the same number of options as one of the best capture cards.
Should I buy a capture card for streaming?
A capture card is an ideal way to record and stream your gameplay footage without impacting your gameplay. Depending on your internet speed and hardware set up, streaming from one PC that you're also running your games on can cause choppy footage, frame rate dips and a slew of other inconsistencies.
One of the best capture cards will take a lot of the strain off of your hardware, and will save you buying a second PC just to stream off of. Many capture cards use passthrough, which has gotten a lot more efficient in recent years as to not cause latency in your gameplay while recording or streaming.
Is a 4K capture card worth it?
Although they're definitely futureproofed, 4K capture cards are by far the most expensive option you can go for. As great as 4K is, maybe think about the logistics of it within your content plan. If you're streaming, 4K footage isn't even supported by Twitch. If you're recording and editing footage to be used later, you're staring down the barrel of more storage space and longer encoding times.
If you're a fulltime content creator, providing 4K options to your audience can make a difference. If, however, you're just starting out or you're not looking to be the next Twitch or YouTube star, we'd recommend a more budget-friendly option.