You'll definitely need one of the best capture cards if you fancy doing any streaming. From lightly playing some games directly to a few friends, to the aspiring megastars, one of the best capture cards is the device that will, rather predictably, make or break your stream. First off, you'll want one that is capable of streaming at the highest resolution for the lowest price so you can get value and the most out of your budget. The next big question to answer, particularly for newcomers, is how to determine what makes a card one of the best capture cards? We think the biggest considerations is user-friendliness: if you need an MSc to use the card then that's probably going to work against its chances of making it into your setup. Essentially, you'll want a card to be as close to simply plug-and-play as is possible, letting you get to playing, streaming, and capturing as quickly as and smoothly as you can. Alongside this, you'll also need to your desired quality. Naturally this will be 'as high as possible' but that will of course have an impact on the price of cards.
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Elsewhere, don't forget to beef up your on-stream setup with those flashy peripherals that can add some real pizzazz to your presentation such as the best gaming keyboards and one of the best gaming mouses. And also remember that, regardless of which card you choose, you'll absolutely want to aim for one of the best gaming PCs to run it if you aren't focusing purely on console capture. If you are curious about the more technical aspects of this hobby, take a look at our hardware glossary to demystify some of the more complex jargon.
1. AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus
Pocket-sized 1080p streaming with no need for a PC
Resolution: 1080p | Frame rate: 60fps | Interface: USB 3.0 | Works with: Consoles, PC & Mac
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.
2. Elgato Game Capture HD60S
Small but perfectly formed capture at 60fps
Resolution: 1080p | Frame rate: 60fps | Interface: USB 3.0 | Works with: Consoles, PC & Mac
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, 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.
3. AVerMedia Live Gamer Extreme
Ideal for streaming and PC capture
Resolution: 1080p | Frame rate: 60fps | Interface: USB 3.0 | Works with: PC only
Of all the systems here this seems the most streaming-focused option - although it also does excellent quality capture. AVerMedia's solution has zero latency, so where other systems can lag on the capture screen this has basically no delay. That means you can play just as well on the PC you're capturing with as you can on the TV screen. This is ideal if you have a setup with a camera, images and other screen furniture, and means you only need eyes on one screen instead of juggling two.
It also has two audio inputs so you can add music and dialogue separately. The AVerMedia is simple to set up and captures crisp 1080p 60fps with no problem. There's also no editing option bar a live editing system of cutting out bits of your capture, meaning that you'll need to source software for that separately but it's an excellent offering overall.
Best for... Great streaming and high quality capture
4. Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket
Great capture device that doesn't need a laptop
Resolution: 1080p | Frame rate: 30fps | Interface: USB 2.0/3.0 | Works with: USB Thumb Drive. Records in MP4
The big win for the the HD Rocket is the fact that this little box doesnt actually need you to plug it into a PC to capture from PS4, Xbox One, PS3 and Xbox 360. All you have to to do is power it from your TV or console with the included USB cable and then pop in a USB thumb stick. Its ridiculously easy to set up and that giant red button buddies up with a clear LED light system that lets you know that everythings recording OK. The unit glows reassuringly red when capturing and theres even a helpful flashing green option that'll tell you if you've left HDCP on on your console.
While it doesn't capture at 60fps, sticking safely to 30fps like the majority of games, the Rocket records in MP4 format for easy importing and editing. Plus, the included mic and input on the box also means you can add commentary direct to the footage without waiting to get into editing to add your dulcet tones. For capturing via a PC, the set up is equally easy but its worth noting that the specific software doesn't run on a Mac. This is the only set up where we saw obvious artifacting in visually dense moments too (check the end of the video). The combo of Hauppauge Capture and its proprietary streaming software StreamEez, means you can record, edit and upload to YouTube or stream your antics live.
Best for... Ease of use and portability
5. Razer Ripsaw HD
Stream on a budget, free from visual compromise
Resolution: 1080p streaming; 4K passthrough | Frame rate: 60fps | Interface: USB 3.0 | Works with: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
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, this one doesn't support older consoles without a small collection of adapters.
Best for: Anyone who values resolution and ease of use.
6. AverMedia Live Gamer Portable
Another PC free marvel
Resolution: 1080p | Frame rate: 30fps | Interface: USB 2.0 | Works with: SD card alone or plugged into PC or Mac
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
Ready for a 4K capture device?
Elgato 4K60 Pro
4k capture device for the pro-level set-up
Resolution: 4K | Frame rate: 60fps | Interface: PCIe x4 | Works with: PC only
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 a 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 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
Portable and compact 4K capture kit
Resolution: Up to 4K | Frame rate: 30fps | Interface: USB 3.0 | Works with: PC and Mac
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
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