Best capture cards for PC gaming

Best capture card for PC gaming
Best capture card for PC gaming

While it’s easier than ever to start streaming with no investment, if you want to get serious about broadcasting your gameplay, picking up one of the best capture cards for PC is a necessity. A capture card gives you a lot more options when streaming consoles than their onboard tools, and it’s an important tool when and if you make the jump to a two-PC streaming setup. Since it and your streaming software do the legwork in turning your game into video, you want to make sure the device you buy can get the job done. Needless to say, it helps if you have one of the best gaming PCs you can afford too, to handle the games and extra demands of the card.

What that job is, depends on what computer (or computers) you have, and your goals as a streamer. Most of the best capture cards can’t broadcast in 4K, so you’ll need to be careful if that’s something you want, and be prepared to spend more money. Some capture cards excel at streaming, others do better when recording footage for later. Then, of course, there’s the software. A lot of streamers ditch their card’s proprietary software for more popular options like OBS or Xsplit, but it’s nice to know that your card’s home app works well, just in case you need it. We tested all of these factors and more when picking our go-to PC capture cards.

If you’re investing in a capture card, you may want to consider looking at some of our other recommendations for streaming gear, including the best webcams and the best microphone for streaming.

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Elgato Game Capture HD60 S

Elgato Game Capture HD60 S

1. Elgato Game Capture HD60 S

The best capture card for newcomers

Resolution: 1080p | Frame rate: 60fps | Interface: USB 3.0

Excellent capture quality
Good price
Editing software isn't great

This is the perfect card for anyone wanting to get their gameplay online with as little hassle as possible. Elgato are experts in their 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. 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 seal the deal. In fact, the only downside would be the card’s fairly 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’.

AverMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus

AverMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus

2. AverMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus

A brilliant, user friendly pick

Resolution: 1080p | Frame rate: 60fps | Interface: USB 3.0

Ease-of-use
Play in 4K while you record
Doesn't stream in 4K

Straightforward and reassuringly unsubtle, the 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 with black casing, red trim, and neon-blue strip lighting, it packs 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 is a capture card with flexibility, particularly if you record on the go. It works straight out of the box too—always a plus.

Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro

Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro

3. Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro

A great card for pros, although it won't do 4K

Resolution: 1080p | Frame rate: 60fps | Interface: PCIe x1, HDMI

Advanced encoder
Bitrate of 60mbps
Only streams in 720p

If you want to take your recordings to the next level, Elgato’s internal HD60 Pro card is a good shout. Indeed, their website claims that 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. Although it only streams in 720p, it still manages a solid 60fps. Petite, classy form-factor are in the HD60 Pro’s favor as well. At around $150/£150, it’s a sound option that gives great results for less.

Razer Ripsaw HD

Razer Ripsaw HD

4. Razer Ripsaw HD

The illustrious 1080p-4K middleground option

Resolution: 1080p capture; 4K passthrough | Frame rate: 60fps | Interface: USB 3.0

4K 60fps passthrough
Built-in audio mixing
No editing software

Admittedly, the one downside to the Razer Ripsaw HD is that it's not the Elgato HD60 Pro. It doesn't have its own proprietary software, so you're forced to use OBS or subscribe to XSplit. On the other hand, many people prefer those wares to Elgato's own, and most of us use those third party applications on our own volition. And because it doesn't have its own 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—while streaming or capturing—at 4K 60fps. This ought to appeal 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. 

Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro

Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro

5. Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro

The best 4K capture card for serious aficionados

Resolution: 4K | Frame rate: 60fps | Interface: PCIe x4

4K capture with 60fps
Video encoding
Needs a high-end PC

For pro-users who will settle at nothing but the best, Elgato’s 4K60 Pro is your jam. It builds on the HD60 Pro’s ultra-low latency with 4K 60fps capture, 1080p 60fps streaming, and all the benefits of Elgato software. Even though it needs a high-end PC to get off the ground, this is an excellent piece of kit for those who are set on capturing gameplay at the highest resolution and frame rate possible. 

We’d recommend an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 20-series and at least an 8th gen Intel Core i7 CPU (or better) to avoid any latency. Although it’s wise to make sure you’ve got enough space on your HDD for all those videos as well, the 4K60 Pro has an encoder to reduce file size and save you much-needed memory real-estate. 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.

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