The best capture cards will form part of the ultimate streaming setup. While your graphics card or processor can do the job, a good capture device will lessen the load on your main gaming PC to allow for high-quality streaming and high frame rates at the same time. The best capture cards can also expand your gaming repertoire beyond PC platforms and into console exclusive territory. If you're a budding Twitch or YouTube streamer, a capture card makes your dual-PC broadcast that little bit better and that little bit easier—so make sure you pick the right one for the job.
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The best capture card for you will depend on what kind of content you plan to make. Are you recording footage to edit later or focusing on streaming? Some cards are better for one or the other. Video resolution, particularly for streaming, varies from card-to-card, too.
We recommend most focus on a 1080p target resolution with any potential capture card purchase. There are good 4K capture cards out there, but they’re expensive and the storage needs can be harsh, that and you need serious upload bandwidth too. Most capture cards also come with some kind of software: While most streamers use something like OBS or XSplit, video work is nothing if not unpredictable, so it doesn’t hurt to have good software as a backup.
In general, our selections cover a few scenarios, but we've leaned good towards all-around solutions. You never know what kind of content you’re going to want to make in the future, so these cards will hopefully prepare you for anything. If you’re picking up a capture card as part of a bigger build for a streaming setup, take a look at our picks for the best webcams and the best microphones for streaming too.
This is the perfect card for anyone wanting to take their gameplay online with as little hassle as possible. Elgato is an expert in its field, and the HD60 S proves it. Reasonably priced and simple to use, it's probably the best place to start if you're new to streaming, and your gaming PC can't manage it solo. Crisp 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 would be the card's somewhat limited editing suite—it's not much good for anything beyond trimming video. However, it does have 'Flashback Recording' to help you retroactively capture even if you forgot to hit 'record.'
Even though streaming these days is easier than ever, it doesn't mean there aren't ways to make things even easier for your stream. The AVermedia Live Gamer Duo is a no fuss internal capture card for more complicated streams and plays well with most rigs, so long as you have the room.
This $250 Live Game Duo is giving you two capture cards for the price of one. A great set up for streaming with multiple HDMI inputs like a gaming console,a fancy DSLR camera, or a second PC. The only real downside is if you have plans aspirations 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 hassle-free though, you won't go wrong with the Live Game Duo.
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 intuitive 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.
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 manageable 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 significant and requested update to Elgato's capture cards is the ability to capture straight to an SD card (not included). 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 tool 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. If you're just looking to stream at 1080p and don't care about 4K footage, you've got way cheaper options that work as well on this list.
If you want to take your recordings to the next level, Elgato’s internal HD60 Pro card is a good shout. Indeed, Elgato's website claims this card features “an advanced, onboard H.264 encoder that enables you to record unlimited footage in superb 1080p [60fps] quality, at a bitrate up to 60Mbps.” Not too shabby.
It can also stream at 1080p when using Game Capture HD, OBS Studio, and Xsplit. Petite, classy form-factor are in the HD60 Pro’s favor as well. It means you'll have to install it in a desktop PC, so using a laptop to control your capture card is out, but this is still a decent capture card for the pros.
The main downside of the Razer Ripsaw HD is that it doesn't have proprietary software, so you're forced to use OBS or subscribe to XSplit. This isn't too much of a problem, as many people use those very-capable applications anyway. And because it doesn't have its software, the Ripsaw HD also supports built-in, easy to use audio mixing with the help of its hardwired, "hassle-free" mic and headphone jacks. For the price, it also has the best picture quality.
Although it's still limited to 1080p streaming and capture, the Ripsaw HD lets you experience your favorite games first-hand—while streaming or capturing—at 4K 60fps. Appealing to PC gamers who want to share their gameplay online, but don't want to miss out on the top-notch visual fidelity ushered in by their expensive and powerful graphics cards.
Pro-users, 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 Sabrent's 4TB RocketQ, or even the ultra-expensive Sabrent 8TB SSD, will be your dream tickets to storage nirvana. The 4K60 Pro's encoder can reduce file size and save you much-needed memory real-estate, but they can still be chunky in real terms.
Oh, and one more thing: the best way to play while using this card is with a lag-free HDMI passthrough that shoots the feed to a 4K screen or second monitor.