The best capture cards are an essential part of a streaming set-up. With the rise of streamers and watchers, it’s a perfect time to invest in a capture card to complete your gaming set-up.
While a good CPU and GPU can record your gameplay with the help of dedicated software, they take away crucial horsepower that could be otherwise used for higher framerates or better resolution.
Consoles are running on a particularly thin margin as they don’t have any power to spare when they’re running the latest AAA titles.
A capture card allows your main system to focus completely on gaming while it takes care of capturing and streaming the gameplay. So, it is essential if you want to capture your gameplay in its full glory.
What To Look For In A Capture Card For Gaming?
The best capture card really depends on what you plan on doing with it. In 2021, there are dozens of capture cards with a range of diverse features and the choice always boils down to you.
Here are a few parameters with which you can determine the best capture card for you.
1. Edit or stream
Are you planning on capturing content to edit it later or do you plan to use your capture card to stream live? While the top-notch capture cards are equipped with both the functions, every capture card has its own strength. Some favor recording while others favor latency-free streaming.
2. Internal external
There are two types of capture cards, internal and external. The internal capture cards plug into the PCI slot of your motherboard, the same slot that a GPU plugs into. The external capture card, on the other hand, user interfaces such as HDMI and USB to capture and stream.
If you’re a PC gamer, you can afford the luxury of choice between an internal and external capture card. However, if you’re playing on consoles, you’re stuck with external cards as you can’t open up a console and hook up a capture card inside it.
Price is the biggest consideration while making any purchase, and a capture card is no exception. A capture card is a rather expensive component, but the cheapest of the bunch will run you down about $100 while the best of the bunch can go upwards of $500.
The cheaper ones are not fit for streaming as they have a huge latency problem, they’re fit for simply recording.
Here, we have shortlisted the best capture cards for pretty much all usages and budgets. As a benchmark, all the capture cards on this list record at 1080p resolution at least and are able to stream.
Best Capture Cards In 2021
1. Elgato 4K60 S+
The Elgato 4K60 S+ one of the Best Capture cards which captures 4K content without any compromises, although there is a rather hefty price tag to pay for the limitless features.
It’s an external capture card with an H.264/H.265 hardware encoder built-in. The capture card automatically adjusts recording resolution, bit rate, and file format on whatever device is plugged in, so you can jump straight into the games instead of huffing around the settings.
If you’re on PC, you’ll need a Windows 10 machine with Ryzen 7/ 6th Gen i5 or better CPU, paired with 8GB of RAM and a 10-series or better Nvidia GPU.
However, since it has a built-in encoder, you don’t need a PC in the first place. You can simply record your gameplay to an SD card from your PC or console. For the same reason, Elgato 4K60 S+ the best capture card for next-gen consoles with 4K output. It also supports HDR, so you can show-off amazing details captured from a PS4 PRO or Xbox One X.
However, The Elgato 4K60 S+ is not free from cons. The capture card doesn’t support high-resolution/frame-rate passthrough like the PCIe version, and “Instant Gameview.
The capture rate is delayed by 250 MS, which means what you’re playing is recorded 2.5 seconds after it’s displayed on the screen, a feature that doesn’t really make a difference unless you want to instantly review your capture.
Yet, all said and done, the 4K60 S+ is a beast that’s built to capture the best quality gameplay.
Elgato Game Capture HD60 S is among the best Capture cards out there for streamers. The center of attraction here is the ability to stream high-quality gameplay while simultaneously recording and capturing it at a high frame rate. The Elgato HD60 S is relatively affordable than its competition but it tops out at 1080p and can’t record 4K footage.
The Elgato HD60 S provides you with USB 3.0 connectivity and requires Intel HD integrated graphics, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 600 series, or above or VCE 3.x compatible AMD graphic card.
The requirements aren’t sky-high, making it perfect for budding streamers who don’t own the best in the class system.
If you’re new to streaming you should definitely give this capture card a shot, but at the same, it comes with its cons. The major disadvantage of Elgato HD60 S is that while you can capture your gameplay, you can’t certainly edit or trim it.
It’s not even a problem worth mentioning for PC gamers, but if you’re playing and capturing on a console, then you would need an external PC to process the captures. Another disadvantage is you don’t get the luxury of ‘Flashback Recording’ in HD60 S, a highlight feature of its bigger brother, the 4K60 S+.
So, The Elgato HD60 S is a great capture card for budding steamers at a really affordable price with few compromises. You can go for it if you focus on hassle-free recording and seamless streaming.
The Razer Ripsaw HD is the best capture card for consoles. The latest consoles such as Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, along with the upcoming next-gen consoles, support 4K gaming giving Razer Ripsaw HD an edge over others.
While you’re still streaming and recording at 1080p 60 FPS, the Ripsaw HD has a 4K passthrough port which allows you to play uninterrupted 4K games.
Razer Ripsaw HD comes up with USB 3.0 connectivity. The capture card packs a built-in audio mixing and microphone input which makes your streaming far better with a good quality audio commentary recording at the same time.
If you’re running on a PC, you will need at least a sixth-gen Intel Core i3-6100 chipset and Nvidia’s GTX 660 GPU.
Razer Ripsaw is a decent capture card but it comes with its flaws. The capture card doesn’t have its proprietary software, so you have to depend on external Softwares like OBS or XSplit in order to stream. But on the plus side, it is compatible with most of the capture software out there, so the lack of a built-in proprietary software can be easily overlooked.
Razer Ripsaw HD is a pretty good capture card at a fair price. It’s great if you play on consoles and don’t want to compromise on your 4K experience. Despite, it’s cons, Razer Ripsaw is really impressive and hassle-free.
AverMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus captures footage at 1080p 60 fps with an HDMI and USB 3.0 connectivity. The 4K pass-through port allows you to play in 4K if your machine supports it. Furthermore, the card provides two more HDMI ports other than the MicroSD slot which can be used to store footage on the SD card.
Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus has a built-in H.264 encoder that helps in recording gameplay without a tethered PC. You can stream gameplay with the help of a PC with AverMedia’s proprietary software named ‘RECentral‘ which is far better than other third-party stream software. You’ll need at least Intel Core i5 with Nvidia’s GTX 650 or AMD R7 250X with at least 4GB RAM to hook the card with your PC.
It’s an easy to use capture card which offers great versatility. The only downside here is that ‘RECentral’, AverMedia’s proprietary software doesn’t work on Mac platforms. So you need a Windows machine to stream, which shouldn’t really be a problem since no gamer out there uses a Mac.
AverMedia Live Gamer 4K is the cheapest capture card on the market that has the ability to capture gameplay at 4K UHD resolution 60 fps and 1080p HD at a stunning 240 fps. Unfortunately, you can’t stream or edit at 4K resolution, but for the money, it’s an amazing capture card.
The AverMedia Live Gamer 4K is an internal capture card that plugs into the PCI slot on your PC’s motherboard. Thus, it can’t be used with consoles. It features HDMI 2.0 for both input and output. Unfortunately, Live Gamer 4K doesn’t provide analog and audio connections.
AverMedia is a 2nd Gen capture card and it comes with an H.265 encoder. It captures and streams seamlessly with its own RECental software, but at the same time, also features native support for OBS and XSplit.
The capture card has RGBs if your gaming PC didn’t already have enough of it. The minimum requirements stand at a 6th Gen Intel Core i5 or above with an NVIDIA GTX 1060 or above and at least 8 GB RAM.
The AverMedia Live Gamer 4K is a really attractive deal with a 300$ price tag. The only minor downside is that it occupies one of the two PCI slots, so you can’t rock a dual GPU set-up with one of these onboard. Needless to say, it doesn’t work on consoles or a Mac.
Roxio Game Capture HD Pro is an affordable capturing solution, perfect for absolute beginners. The card itself costs less than $100 and captures 1080p at 30fps. Certainly, those are the least attractive specs out of any capture card on the list, but the price completely justifies it.
The Game Capture HD Pro comes with an H.264 encoder, thus it puts lesser load to your PC. The capture card also provides HDMI and component connectors that allow you to capture footage from any console or PC.
Given the price, you might expect some downsides and there are a few. Right off the bat, it is condemned for latency issues on account of its old USB 2.0 connectivity. So while you can technically stream with it, we highly recommend against it due to the latency. Then there are reliability issues and the fact that it doesn’t support Mac.
On the plus side, the requirements to hook it up are extremely low. The minimum requirements for Roxio Game Capture HD Pro is at least an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU at 1.8 GHz or an AMD Athlon x2 64 chip at 2.0GHz. The built-in proprietary software includes many editing features like transitions, picture-in-picture boxes, soundtracks, and text to enhance the captured content and take it to the professional level.
Roxio Game Capture HD Pro is a decent capture card with its flaws. The proprietary software and the editing features somewhat make-up for the flaws, but the sole reason that it is featured on this list is its attractive price tag.
The Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket is a compact, portable device that lets you capture your gameplay in 1080p at 30 fps on computers and consoles. The center of attraction here, apart from the extremely tiny size, is its ability to capture without a PC. All you need is a console and a TV or any display for that matter.
You can then edit and upload the captured gameplay to other platforms with the help of external editing tools. Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket comes with both USB 2.0 and 3.0 connectivity.
The capture card is indeed easy to set up and if you have Xbox One X or a PS4 Pro your life will be really easy with this. You can even go live with Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket on your Xbox One without any PC or external software.
The Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket is not just a capture card, but rather a complete recording and streaming solution for console owners. If you want, you can start a Youtube channel or stream on Twitch from your console without a PC with the help of Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket.
2021 is the perfect time to jump on to the streaming and gaming bandwagon. In the absence of sports, video games and esports are what people are watching. A capture card allows you to fully realize the potential of your gaming machine, without digging into it, unlike recording software.
While capture cards are expensive, you certainly don’t need to sell an arm and a leg in order to afford one. So get one of these capture cards and start capturing the most precious moments of your gaming journey that you can cherish later.