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Best Capture Card for Streaming

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Have you been wondering what capture card you should get for your stream, or if you even need one to stream? Are you overwhelmed by all the options available on the market? In this article, I will discuss what to look for in a capture card, the best capture cards of 2021, and answer some frequently asked questions.

What Capture Card Do Most Streamers Use?

As of 2021, two of the best capture card manufacturers are Elgato and AVerMedia. Both carry a large range of internal and external models. I compiled this list to outline my top picks and explore some of the main features and key differences. The type of computer or streamer each model is best suited to is indicated in the product description.

elgato-game-capture-hd60

Elgato Game Capture HD60S

Works With

  • PS5 and PS4
  • Xbox Series X/S
  • Xbox One
  • Nintendo Switch
  • USB 3.0

This is the best external capture card for any streamer with an older generation console, such as the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or Nintendo Switch. Its features include:

  • Crisp and smooth 1080p and 60 FPS streaming and recording capabilities.
  • Ultra-low latency while streaming.
  • Flashback recording allows you to save your gameplay footage retroactively.
  • USB 3.0 interface.
avermedia live gamer portable 2 plus

AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus

Works With

  • Xbox
  • Playstation
  • Nintendo Switch

This capture card is perfect for the Nintendo Switch due to its portability. Some of its main features are:

  • Built-in H.264 encoder, which takes some workload off of your CPU.
  • Its H.264 encoder also allows you to record gameplay on a MicroSD card, without having a PC nearby.
  • 4K passthrough, meaning that you can game in 4K while recording or streaming at 1080p and 60 FPS.
  • Allows you to capture party chat on a console and your own commentary.
elgato 4k60 pro

Elgato 4K60 Pro

Works With

  • PS5 and PS4 Pro
  • Xbox Series X/S
  • Xbox One X

This internal capture card is best for PC gamers streaming on a separate gaming PC. It has the following features:

  • 4K60 and HDR recording capabilities.
  • Must be installed within the PC case and has 4 PCIe slots.
  • Lag-free 1080p240 and 1440p144 passthrough.
  • Flashback recording allows you to save your gameplay footage retroactively.
elgato-game-capture-hd60s

Elgato Game Capture HD60 S+

Works With

  • PS5, PS4/Pro
  • Xbox Series X/S
  • Xbox One X/S
  • USB 3.0

This is the best external capture card for gamers who stream from a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X/S. The Elgato Game Capture HD60 S+ has many great features, including:

  • 4K60, HDR passthrough, meaning you can play your game in 4K60 while streaming at 1080p, HDR and 60 FPS.
  • You can also stream in 4K resolution, but only at 30 FPS.
  • Ultra-low latency while streaming.
  • Flashback recording allows you to save your gameplay footage retroactively.
  • USB 3.0 interface.
avermedia live gamer mini capture card

AVerMedia Live Gamer Mini

Works With

  • Xbox
  • Nintendo Switch

This is the best budget external capture card. It boasts many features that more expensive capture cards lack, such as:

  • Built-in H.264 encoder, which takes some workload off of your CPU.
  • Full 1080p high definition and 60 FPS recording and streaming capabilities.
  • Zero-lag passthrough, so that you can monitor your gameplay without any latency.
  • Plug and play, and super easy to use.
elgato-Game-Capture-hd60

Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro

Works With

  • PS5 and PS4
  • Xbox Series X/S
  • Xbox One

The Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro is the best internal capture card for gamers on a budget. Its wide array of features include:

  • 1080p and 60 FPS streaming and recording capabilities.
  • Built-in H.264 encoder that relieves some workload from your PC while streaming.
  • Lag-free passthrough, so that you can monitor your gameplay on your PC.
  • Flashback recording allows you to save your gameplay footage retroactively.
  • 1 PCIe interface.

What to Look for in a Stream Capture Card

There are six important factors to take into consideration when purchasing a capture card:

  1. 1. Image Quality/Resolution

    This is perhaps one of the most important things to take into consideration since this will directly affect the quality of your stream. If you have the budget, you’ll want a capture card that at least captures in 1080p. Some streaming platforms, such as Twitch, currently don’t support 4K streams, so 1080p is the highest resolution you can stream in. Some people who have a higher budget and have an extremely powerful PC can consider purchasing a 4K capture card in order to produce extremely high-quality videos.

  2. 2. Frame Rate

    Currently, the gold standard for capturing footage is at 60 frames per second (FPS), so this should be your target when purchasing a capture card. Anything less would be sub-standard in 2021.

  3. 3. Type of Input and Interface

    The most common type of input for a capture card and modern console is HDMI. Older consoles use component cables so if you want to stream more retro games, you’ll need a capture card that features component cables instead of HDMI. As for the interface, most capture cards will be USB, but some will have a PCIe interface, which reduces recording delays.

  4. 4. Internal/external

    Some capture cards are external, meaning that they are mobile since they don’t need to be directly installed into a PC. This is great for content creators that may stream or record footage from different locations. Other capture cards are internal (often with a PCIe interface), meaning that it needs to be installed within the PC. Obviously, this is better for streamers who intend on streaming from one specific location.

  5. 5. Software

    Most capture card manufacturers develop their own streaming, recording, and editing software. Some are obviously more advanced and user-friendly than others. Personally, I use third-party software, namely OBS or Streamlabs OBS, to record and stream footage, and you can use free third-party software as well.

  6. 6. Video/Audio

    Some of the more affordable capture cards only capture the video signal, but not the audio signal. It’s important when purchasing a capture card, especially the cheaper ones, to verify that it captures both video and audio.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • tablet

    Do I Need a Video Capture Card to Live-Stream?

    This entirely depends on your streaming setup and the system you’re streaming on. If you’re using a single PC setup, you do not need a capture card to live-stream since you’re gaming on the same PC you’re streaming from. If you have a two PC setup, or are using a PC to stream and a console to play your game, you will need a capture card to capture and encode your external video and audio to your streaming PC. If you’re just streaming as a hobby and don’t put much weight on the quality of your stream, consoles do have built-in streaming capabilities, but the overall quality of your stream will likely suffer.

  • desktop

    Do You Need 2 Computers to Stream?

    Once again, this entirely depends on your setup. Personally, I recommend a powerful, single PC setup. If you have an older PC, consider upgrading certain components, as opposed to building a second PC. For a single PC setup, a CPU with a higher core count is crucial, since it will have an easier time handling gaming and streaming. Alternatively, for some PCs that will have a harder time handling both tasks simultaneously, you can get a second PC. For many people, this will result in a smoother stream since one PC will be freed up for gaming and the other PC will handle streaming. If you go with a two PC setup, you will need to purchase a capture card in order to stream, and the total costs will exceed that of a one PC setup.

  • mic

    Can a Capture Card Record Audio?

    In terms of game audio, it depends on the capture card. The more expensive and well-known brands, such as Elgato and AVerMedia, offer many capture cards that include capture game audio. Capturing audio from an external source, such as your microphone, is technically possible, but with more complex setups. The easiest way of capturing your microphone and party chat would be to connect your microphone directly to your PC, and ensure that you and your friends use an external application, such as Discord, to voice chat.

About the Author

Alex

Alex, also known as CallMeB27, is a Twitch streamer from Montreal, Canada. He earned his Master’s Degree in Business, Management, and Operations from Georgetown University. His biggest passions include video games, sports, and traveling.

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