Best Capture Card for Streaming

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If you have a console or a second PC, you need a capture card. Getting the best capture card for your budget is hard, so we analyzed dozens of capture cards, and we found that the top 3 below to be the best capture cards for streaming.

AVerMedia Live Gamer HD 2

With streaming becoming more and more popular these days it does get quite hard to stand out above the crowd, but one way to do just that is to up your image quality from a low resolution 30 FPS stream to a high-quality 1080P, 60 FPS.

Now, the one way you will be able to get that better quality and still keep the needed performance while playing your games is by having a dedicated streaming PC with a capture card.

So say hello to the Aver Media Live Gamer HD 2, one of the best game capture cards on the market these days.

Improve Stream Quality

Live HD Gamer 2 will help you bump up your image quality without any issues, so it is definitely a must-have if you want to go into the streaming world and stand out above all of the others.

So with that, let’s jump into our review of the Live Gamer HD 2.

Firstly the Aver Media Live Game HD 2 will be a bit pricey for some. Currently, it is retailing for around $185.00 on Amazon.

 

AVerMedia Live Gamer HD 2

AVerMedia Live Gamer HD 2 Full HD 1080p 60 Record and Stream Multi-Card Support Low-Latency Pass-Through Real-Time Gameplay PCIe Ryzen Support

Buy from Amazon

So for the casual streamer, it might be a bit too much, but it is definitely a must-have for streamers aiming for the best possible quality for their live streams.

Also, Aver Media does have a bunch of other game capture cards also available. So if you want something more affordable or even a better than the Live Gamer HD 2, definitely check them out.

Produces Great Live Stream

So just a quick run of the Live Gamer HD 2 and how to set it up. It is an internal PCI-Express game capture card that is able to record up to 1080P, 60 FPS. Perfect for streaming or just normal game recording.

Inside the box, you get the capture card itself with it’s a cool black metal cover with a blue LED Aver Media logo on the side. You also get an HDMI cable and a 3.5 to 3.5-millimeter cable to run audio parts through.

Now as for installing and set up, it is quite quick and easy. All you need to do is connect it to any PCI-Express Gen 2 or higher port on your motherboard.

Doesn’t matter if it’s a one time or a 16-time slot, all of them will work. After that, just connect an HDMI cable from the gaming source to the HDMI on the card.

Also, if you wanted to, you can also run your display directly through the capture card with zero latency or just use it as you would normally would through your GPU.

You also get two 3.5 millimeter in and out ports on the card. If you want to record a different or external audio source or output it to a different one as well.

Now as far as software, the Live Gamer HD 2 does not need any drivers. It’s just a plug and plays and it’ll work.

Works with OBS

Literally, all you need to do is install your preferred streaming or recording program like OBS, XSplit or Aver Media’s RECentral 4 and you’re good to go.

Now you might also be asking, “Why do I need a capture card and a secondary PC to do my live streaming? I’m already live streaming fine with my just single computer.”

Well, the answer is you don’t really. You can still use your normal method without a capture card, but if you are serious about upping the image quality of your stream and also your gameplay, then it is kind of essential.

The reason being, you can use your single system to do everything, but you are going to need quite a beastie CPU to handle all of the encoding and gaming.

Otherwise, your image quality is not going to look the best. And again, you will take quite a performance hit.

With a single system, your CPU has to render the game and also the streaming and encoding, which for some it’s just too much to ask.

Monitor CPU Usage

For example, we played some games while streaming on our 8700 K overclocked to five gigahertz and the best settings we could get is a very fast preset in OBS,

which did also cause our CPU to run between 80 to 90% at all times. Which honestly, does cause a lower quality stream and then also sometimes it can cause skipped frames for the stream, which you honestly don’t want.

But when using a second PC to handle all of the encoding and streaming work, it frees up your main gaming CPU for a higher frame rate in games and for a better quality stream on that secondary PC.

Now, the game you are streaming will also make quite a big impact on the performance and image quality of your stream.

Some games don’t really use a lot of CPU power, so you’re getting around 40% of CPU usage which does allow you to also use your single system to do all of the encoding work. You will take some performance hit, but not too much.

But for a more intensive CPU game like just, for example, Ashes of the Singularity, you won’t really be able to use your gaming system to play and stream at the same time.

That is where the secondary streaming system is going to help out quite a lot to free your CPU for better frame rates in games and then also a much smoother and higher image quality stream.

The image quality that we got out of our single system stream was horrible.

We had to use it on ultra-fast encoding and that didn’t really look that well.

Whereas, when we used it on our second system there it looked a lot better and it freed up a lot more CPU power.

Now, we do also know that not everybody has the money for two high-ish end systems to handle all of the gaming and the streaming work.

Well, you can still use one of your older PCs and run that Live Gamer HD 2 through that.

Consider a Second PC

For example, we use one of our older systems with a first-generation 930 I7 and even though the I7 wasn’t strong enough to really up the image quality against the 8700K it did help lift the load off of the 8700K for higher and stable performance.

So if you do have an older system, if it has hopefully and a bit a newer and faster CPU like an I5, an I7, or even a Ryzen CPU, then you’re going to be completely fine.

Though again, if you’re looking to up your streaming game then a capture card like the Live Gamer HD 2 is definitely something you need to take a look at.

Definitely, we’re going to use it as well for our live streams to handle more of our encoding work, we’re most likely going to use our Threadripper to handle all of the encoding.

So we are looking forward to much higher image quality thanks to this guy so we don’t really take any performance hits.

So if you guys are looking to get the Aver Media Live Gamer HD 2 for yourself.

Elgato Game Capture Card HD60 S

The Elgato HD60S looks very similar to what we looked at about a year and a half ago called the HD60, but the difference is that this new one has very little latency when you’re streaming.

So, if you’ve ever seen the lag that often happens with capture cards between what you’re doing on your PC and what shows up on the streaming computers screen,

this eliminates that, provided you meet the minimum hardware specifications, which are a bit steep and we’ll get into that when we look at this in more detail later in the review.

 

Elgato Game Capture Card HD60 S

Elgato Game Capture Card HD60 S – Stream and Record in 1080p60, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One & Xbox 360

Buy from Amazon

It looks very similar to the HD60, in fact, the case is the same, but the ports are slightly different. They have added, instead of the regular USB connector, a USB type C plug, but they give you a USB type C to USB 3.0 cable in the box.

So, if you don’t have a USB type C connector, chances are you’re going to be fine with the included cable. You can, of course, run a USB type C to type C cable and plug it into your fancy new laptop and get it to streaming.

Works with PS4 and Xbox One

You also have HDMI in, so this is where you plug your game console or PC. If for whatever reason your console or computer doesn’t output audio via HDMI, there is an audio input, and it will mix those two sources together for the output to your streaming PC.

And there’s also an HDMI output on the other end. So, if you still wish to plug in a monitor or a secondary display to make sure you have zero lag when you’re doing your streaming, this will let you do that.

What you’re going to see a little later in the review is that although it does work with very little latency, most of the time, sometimes it creeps in.

So if you are very concerned about having your gameplay suffer from this device plugged in, we would always suggest using the external monitor to get all this working.

Now we hooked up a rather beefy laptop to make all of this work. We have a very recent XPS 15 from Dell, which has a quad-core I7 Skylake processor.

Minimum Requirements

That is a sixth-generation Intel chip. Again, quad-core, and that’s the minimum, an I5 quad-core, fourth-generation or better. So, a lot of you have laptops maybe with an I5 processor,

there’s a good chance that’s a dual-core and not a quad-core. And with the dual-core chip, you’re not going to get 60 frames per second streaming.

We’re finding on our dual-core I5, another recent a Skylake edition of the Intel chip, we were maybe getting 45 frames per second of streaming capacity,

so you’re not going to get you there if you’re looking for the highest quality, 60 frames per second, 1080p stream. So for those folks, we would recommend going with the HD60 which has some onboarding coding,

which makes the file smaller before it gets it over to the laptop. Because what’s happening with this one is that not only is it bringing in that video, getting you very low latency in the process,

but it’s also having to process it on the processor as it’s doing all of this. And you just need a lot of threads available to make all this work. And unfortunately, you’re going to need something a little bit on the expensive side to get this product working the way they are advertising it.

What we want to stress first is the lack of latency that you’ll see while you’re streaming provided you are meeting the hardware specifications. In fact, in our testing, we really can’t detect much latency , so we’re pretty pleased with that.

Real-Time Playback

Initially, the capture card seems like a pretty impressive feat to be able to get this streaming in real-time with very little latency, if any, which has been nice to see.

If you have an HD60, this is the very same interface that, that device has. It’s the same software, so up in the corner of the software, you will see how you’re doing with your streaming.

If you are dropping frames, you’ll get a warning up in this corner to alert you to that fact. So there is a notification when you are running low on your ability to get things brought in the way you want them to.

Live streaming in the software can be configured for a bunch of different services.

We have ours running to Twitch in our testing, but it does work with Youtube, and we think a few other services, too.

You can add them just by hitting the plus button in the software. We think it’s only one at a time, though, so you can’t broadcast to multiple services simultaneously.

Game audio is what’s comes in via the HDMI from the Xbox, so you can have your game audio on top of that.

External Microphone Support

You can also hook up external microphones to it and record your game commentary. And it does have a feature where it will duck the in-game sound so that your voice is heard there.

Elgato has a software mixer as well, so you could bring in multiple audio sources and have their Elgato sound capture mix them into a single source and you can use that source like a microphone.

So, you could bring in; maybe if you had four or five people on different mics with a mixer, you can bring them all in through different sources and then get them into a single output that you can dump into the software.

What’s cool is that it has a DVR function so you can rewind to different parts of your gameplay in case you weren’t recording and did something cool.

You can also go back in history, playback from a spot that you thought was pretty cool and record that latent footage. So it has a bit of a DVR built-in too.

If you want to start streaming, you just push a button, and then if you want to be able to start doing some audio commentary, you can hit that button too to get that going.

Elgato also has something they call stream command, and what it will do is pull up your webcam.

But this is where some of the problems come into play because this is where the latency starts to come back because the capture card had to render both the gameplay and webcam footage,

As we streamed with the game and webcam, there was a much longer delay between the time that we push the button and things to happen on screen.

And you don’t get a warning about that latency creeping in, so the more you do, the more this will slow down.

It’s funny because it doesn’t just suddenly start being laggy — it just kind of fades into a lag period. And we’re finding that sometimes it does this and sometimes it doesn’t. So it’s hard to say what triggers that or not.

Lacking Software

The software promises a lot, but they really have a hard time delivering it. The hardware is great, the stream quality looks really nice, but sometimes you just get a frozen screen and nothing working at all.

We think we’re going to have a hard time finding people that have laptops more powerful than ours. We mean there certainly are ones that are out there, but you know, as far as its processor is concerned, this is as close to the top of the line that you can get on a laptop, and it’s struggling even though its hardware can definitely do more than the software is asking.

What we found is that the latency definitely increases when you activate the stream commander feature. So, sometimes it’s really latent, and other times it seems to work correctly, and there is no rhyme or reason to it.

Sometimes, we’ve found that if we turn it off like and then turn it back on, the latency gets a little bit better, but it’s definitely not consistent.

And our laptop is on a quad-core I7 Skylake laptop. So we think your mileage will be very similar to ours.

Great Game Capture

But the capture quality is really nice on this. We definitely are pleased with how it looks. The specs are very high on this, at least for the requirements for your computer specifications.

And we think a lot of folks are going to be disappointed by this if they don’t have a computer that is up to the task.

The good news is though that this does work well with third-party packages. Again, provided you’re meeting the minimum hardware specification for their driver,

so XSplit works really well with it. We were also able to use OBS with it, too and those seem to work better because those packages are better optimized for doing the kinds of things that game streamers want to do.

When we were streaming live, we were not getting the latency we had before on the Elgato software, so we’re really going to recommend that you use something like XSplit instead of the Elgato software.

If you’re looking for something free, then OBS Broadcaster will probably do a decent job as well. If a lot of you want to see that instead, let us know. We’ll do a follow-up of this article.

Again, we think you still probably would want to connect up that other display option to get everything working better. But even, our CPU usage, we’re about 78%, 84% total, but it is performing better, so it’s making better use of the hardware that is going into play.

So we think XSplit is probably going to be the better choice.

We are pretty much of the same opinion on this one as we were with their other HD60 product, which is the hardware is great, but their software just isn’t up to par.

It wasn’t so great a year or two ago when we looked at the HD60. Still not so great now with the HD60s. We’ve been really struggling to get consistency out of it, and we just haven’t been able to get there with some pretty beefy hardware.

Great Capture Card Overall

We just can’t recommend the total package as a good product. But, we think if you are a user of XSplit, or are a user of OBS or something similar, you will like the way this works because it does have third party application support.

We’re finding the latency is still very low with XSplit as well as OBS, provided your computer hardware is still capable of driving all of that data through.

So again, you’re still gonna need that quad-core I5 processor at a minimum. But, you will have better luck with third party applications than you will with Elgato’s own applications.

So, plan for that because you will struggle and get quite frustrated, we think, with Elgato’s included software. As nice as it looks on the screen, it just doesn’t work well enough for what we think a lot of game streamers are going to want to see.

So, make sure your computer’s there with the quad-core processor, and the third party software is where we’re going to suggest that you go.

Now if you do have a slower dual-core computer with an I5 or better, we would check out the HD60 because that device has a lot of built-in circuitry on the box itself to bring over pre-compressed video.

You don’t get the low latency you saw with the 60s, but you do get a very nice piece of capture hardware that will also work with those third-party applications and give you a nice quality image for your stream.

Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro

The Elgato HD60 Pro has become our go-to device for capturing gameplay and streaming.

It’s an internal capture device. So if you’re living the laptop lifestyle, all you can do is pout with envy right about now.

But for those of you who are serious enough about such things to be running a desktop PC for play and streaming, this is Elgato’s latest and indeed greatest. And it’s well worth looking into.

 

Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro

Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro – Stream and record in 1080p60, superior low latency technology, H.264 hardware encoding, PCIe

Buy from Amazon

Physically it’s a small stealthy looking PCIe x1 device. We do wish it had a backplate, but frankly, in most systems, it’s so small and shallow you’ll barely see it anyway.

But still, a backplate would’ve been nice to complete the stealthy aesthetics. But anyway, let’s hit the important stuff, the functionality.

As the name implies, it captures at up to 1080p 60 frames per second and before we go much further, we want to tell you right now, it does this very nicely indeed.

The streams are superbly smooth and very, very clean. It has an HDMI in and a direct passthrough, one to feed your signal untouched back out again, so you don’t even need to worry about splitters and such.

You can just feed your GPU output through the device. It has onboard H.264 hardware encoding, which both keeps the file sizes manageable and provides you with a feed in the software that has virtually zero delay.

Now, Elgato claims that there’s no delay, and under certain use cases that’s true enough to never really be worth challenging.

For example, if you’re doing a live stream and you’re continuously commenting on your gameplay, while some capture devices will generate a significant delay between the captured stream and the real-time microphone input,

which makes everything out of sync and unusually quite distracting for your viewers.

So you either have to fix this synchronization issue in post, otherwise, that will be impossible.

Or you have to use some kind of software solution to manually delay your microphone feed so it syncs up properly with your delayed gameplay footage.

Real Zero Latency

And that’s what Elgato is getting at with the whole zero delay thing. With the HD60 Pro, you never ever have to worry about microphone sync because what’s being recorded is for any practical purpose, absolutely in sync with your actual live gameplay.

But, there is a very small delay, something surely most people will never notice, but for the sake of being thorough and you may be able to see it for yourself,

there is a very slight delay between the pure feed from the GPU compared to what the software is seeing and displaying on your PC.

And if you slow things down to one-quarter of normal speed, you can see it much easier.

And we didn’t manually step through this footage one frame at a time, which we recorded on a 1080p 60p camera and we found a delay of no more than five frames.

18ms Delay

Five frames at 60 frames per second is just about 18 milliseconds. And in comparative terms, unless your monitor has a special low latency gamer mode on its HDMI inputs, chances are you’re already gaming with an input lag somewhere around this area. Maybe even worse.

But in the practical sense, if you were looking to use the recording software’s preview feed to actually use while you are streaming, yeah, it’s certainly possible.

And we’re sure the more dedicated high twitch shooter types may have an issue, but for 94% of games let’s call it, this kind of delay is unlikely to cause any performance issues when it comes to your input and reaction speed.

And just while we’re in the world of comparisons, one very clear way we saw how clean and crispy the streaming is on the HD60 Pro is to watch a comparison to a gameplay recording.

So firstly and most obviously, the built-in recording on both consoles is not 60 frames per second, regardless of whether or not the game being played is running at 60 frames per second or not.

But the difference can be quite drastically demonstrated if you slow things down. And maybe 60 fps recording is a high priority thing for you, maybe it’s not,

But 60fps is far from the only major benefit of doing things properly with a good capture device like this one.

And yes, if you’re a PC gamer and you’d like to use this device for capture or streaming, even if it’s doing so from the very same PC that you’re gaming on.

And this is a question we always get asked when we review a capture card. Well yes, it is absolutely possible. You do need to make sure you do things like keeping your game running in full screen borderless windowed mode or things get a bit janky, but it is easily accomplished.

All those same things apply as they do with the console capture. You still use the HDMI pass-through to go from your graphics card output into the HD60 Pro and then out again to your monitor for a nice, clean, untouched signal feed.

And you still get the few frames of delay in the software and because the device has its own H.264 encoder, you’re not sucking away excessive CPU cycles from the actual game for the compression and recording.

We’ll be sticking with NVIDIA’s built-in capture stuff. It works crazy well and unlike the built-in recording stuff on the consoles, the NVIDIA GPUs can record at 60 frames per second and at high bit rates for super clean streams.

But, if you want to use the Elgato for recording, you sure can. And there are a couple of good reasons you may want to. Firstly, Elgato has made massive improvements to their software.

The last time we reviewed an Elgato capture device, we liked it, sure, but the software was always a bit clumsy and a bit of a pain in the ass.

But now, it’s a whole new world. It’s clean, sensible, fast, stable, easy to use and set up. Everything you need is sitting right there in your face.

Stuff like game, audio, level adjustment, and live video monitoring. The same with the microphone settings and adjustment of the level of monitoring and the input sources.

It even has a multi-scene live mixing panel so you can live mix overlays while you’re recording or more likely while you’re streaming.

Up to 10 different scenes can now be set up individually so you can, for example, have one clean view of the game, one with a webcam overlay or your logos or animated gifs.

Built-In Green Screen Keying

It even has green screen chroma keying built right in. So you can do that nifty little trick where you sort of hover in front of your game. You can use any custom image you like for overlays.

You can slap your branding on there. You’ve got control over transparency and opacity and layering. You can pull in stuff from live websites for the chat room or live following donation notifications if that’s how you roll on Twitch.

It’s much more powerful than we expected, but not quite as flexible or as customizable as OBS or Xsplit.

For example, you can’t actually resize or reposition the game capture feed at all. And that alone will limit your layout choices. But it’s certainly easy to set up than OBS.

One key missing feature though that really does frustrate us is the ability to set hotkeys for switching between scenes.

Something we consider vital because right now the only way to switch scenes is to grab your mouse and click on them, manually.

Includes Video Editor

There’s also a built-in basic video editor for stiffing out the good bits and pasting them together.

Again, it’s not as sophisticated or as powerful as a proper full-on video editor. But it’s certainly functional enough to get the job done for sharing fun clips. It even has presets for sharing to various places, Twitch, Twitter, your iPhone, all that kind of stuff.

There are a few more things we need to tell you. It has what they’re calling flashback recording which to you and us is just buffered streaming.

It means you can just let the software run and it’ll keep a temporarily buffered recording of the last five minutes of the feed.

So it can be playing and if something cool happens, you can slide back to where it started, press record and keep going. You don’t have to record everything to make sure you don’t miss out on something cool.

But it is our absolute favorite new trick. They call it a master copy and it is beautiful.

The software has a setting that will actually record your microphone feed and your webcam and your gameplay all to separate files simultaneously, even if you are simultaneously streaming with everything all mixed out to Twitch.

And it does this not in the highly compressed a bit rate that Twitch needs, but in the full quality of the capture device site.

For those of you who stream live to Twitch, but also like to record locally for later editing or uploading to YouTube or just for archival purposes, you can now have your mic, your gameplay, and your webcam all in discreet files for unprecedented flexibility and control in the final edit.

We’ve been dreaming of functionality like this for years, and Elgato figured it out. It’s brilliant.

We Prefer OBS

If you’d rather stick with OBS or whatever other streaming software you prefer, the HD60 Pro does naturally happily throw its feet into the standard source options into the likes of OBS, you’ll miss out on that master copy trick. But you do get all the extra control that OBS has over Elgato’s own scene options.

So, for the super low latency feed, the HDMI passthrough, the 60 frames per second 1080p capture at super clean bit rates of up to 60 megabits per second,

the fact that use and setup is much cleaner and nicer than using an external capture device, we even say the USB port, the nifty software tricks it can do, the onboard H.264 processing,

the software being surprisingly improved in both function and user interface and performance over the little mess that Elgato’s game capture software used to be.

It still has some missing functionality we’d like to see and there’s room for improvement in other areas, but it blew way past our expectations.

For all of these things and a bunch of other little things, the HD60 Pro knocks it out of the park for us.

It’s an absolute no-brainer how this thing has become our new go-to gear for game capture.

In earlier days, Elgato was pretty much the undisputed king of capture devices. Then the competition got aggressive and Elgato lost a bit of ground.

But the HD60 Pro as far as we’re concerned put them right back at the top of the hill.

And we know we gushed a lot in this review, but we really are honestly very, very impressed with this capture, absolutely worth a good, hard, long look if you’re serious about kicking up your game capture production quality, and frankly, ease of use.

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