With all of the options that are out there to capture or stream footage, it’s difficult to determine which capture card is right for you.
Each card has its own unique benefits and depending on what you want to capture and do with the card will determine what card is right for you.
What Is A Game Capture Card
A game capture card is a device that connects to your console or computer which allows users to record and stream game play.
You are able to record/stream without a game capture card although it does not provide the best quality. If you would like to create a professional looking stream and build an audience you will need to improve your stream’s quality to stand out from the increasingly saturated industry.
Why Use A Game Capture Card
The benefits of having a dedicated capture card over using device’s in-built capture software are:
- No restrictions on the amount of gameplay that you are able to capture – Xbox One has a 5-minute limit and PlayStation 4 has a 15-minute limit on clip capturing.
- Higher quality footage – Xbox and PlayStation put a limit on the bitrate of recordings due to their relatively small storage space. They also cap frame rates at 30fps when recording.
- Better editing capabilities – if you’re using the built-in editing software in consoles then you aren’t able to compile great videos. If you use a capture device then you can take the footage into Final Cut Pro or Premiere Pro to create high quality content.
- Take CPU loads off your PC – if you’re playing PC games then recording at the same time put huge loads of work on your CPU which limits performance of recording and gameplay.
In this review we are going to cover Elgato’s HD60 S, HD60 Pro, 4K60 Pro and Cam Link 4K.
To determine which capture card will best fit you we will look at:
2] Device compatibility
4] Use cases
Elgato’s HD60 S is an external capture card that connects to your device via USB 3.0. It records at 1080p 60pfs and can record footage from PlayStation 4, Xbox One, mobile and Nintendo Switch.
The key feature of this device is that it offers 0 latency when using Elgato’s software to record.
They call this Instant Gameview and it means that you can play your game from watching the playback in the recording software.
This device allows you to record at 1080p 60fps, 1080p 30fps, 1080ti, 720p 60fps, 720p 30fps, 575p, 576p, 576i and 480p.
When we tested this it did output crisp, lag free footage that looked great at 1080p 60fps. I ran a test on it where I captured Red Dead Redemption 2 on Xbox One and was more than satisfied with the output.
One of the restrictions that this device does have is that it won’t have as high of an output as the other PCIe capture cards (such as the HD60 Pro or 4k60 Pro) as it is sending data through a USB 3.0.
The maximum bitrate for this device is 40mbps. While it’s not as high as the other capture cards, it is plenty and all that you will need if you’re just streaming!
The device connects via USB which makes it compatible for any computer or laptop.
Elgato do offer game capture software for their device for both Windows and Mac.
As this is an external capture card and connects to a PC via USB – this device is extremely portable and easy to set up.
You can simply plug n’ play as you go due to the ease of use. This is convenient if you are going to events, LAN parties or simply capture footage in different locations other than your PC.
This card is perfect if you want to either stream or record footage – but not both!
A restriction that may be an issue for you depending on what you’re using the card for is the ability to create master copy (H.264) recordings.
Due to the 40mbps data limit that comes with the USB 3.0, you are unable to both stream and record a copy of the footage that is free of overlays which can be used later.
This would only be an issue if you are going to stream as well as recording footage which you might want to edit to upload to YouTube.
This device is awesome value!
For what you are getting it is a fair priced piece of hardware and we strongly recommend it.
You can see the price here.
The HD60 Pro is a very similar product to the HD60 S with a few major differences:
- It is an internal capture card where the HD60 S is an internal capture card.
- Increased max bitrate.
- Connects via PCIe where the HD60 S connects via USB 3.0.
This device allows you to record at 1080p 60fps, 1080p 30fps, 1080ti, 720p 60fps, 720p 30fps, 575p, 576p, 576i and 480p – same options has the HD60 S.
It also include the Instant Gameview feature which offers low latency output into Elgato’s capture software.
It offers an extra feature of H.264 encoding.
This means that you are going to be able to output a higher image quality with a similar or less bitrate (this means smaller file sizes when recording).
From my testing it does a great job and captures exactly the way you would expect it to!
Set up does take a few more minutes as it s an internal capture card.
Set up is not as simple as external devices as you will need to open up your PC case to plug it in via PCIe under your graphics card slot.
You will then plug the HDMI IN to your graphics card and the HDMI OUT to your monitor or TV.
I’d recommend that you use a short or retractable HDMI cord for the HDMI IN cable to reduce clutter around your PC since the connections will be less than a foot between each other – check this one out.
This is an internal capture card which means you will need access to a PC’s motherboard to plug it in.
Due to this, you are unable to use this with Mac or laptops.
This will become an issue if you often record in different locations or don’t use a PC to record or stream.
If you ever do want to move this capture card around it will require you to open your PC case and unplug it from your motherboard.
This is a big drawback as you can’t easily plug n’ play if you are going to a friend’s house or streaming in a different location.
Elgato’s HD60 Pro has a great max bitrate of 60mbps.
This means that you are able to hold a live stream as well as record at the same time.
Elgato call this feature Master Copy (H.264) and is useful if you run a YouTube channel along side your stream.
Elgato’s capture software also allows you to make your voice overs directly through their software which is even better
This is great value, similar to the HD60 S although it has different use cases.
Due to the requirement of having a windows PC and the fact that it is not as portable as other cards, this may or may not be for you.
If you do have a windows PC and don’t travel with your capture card often then I would recommend this over the HD60 S as you will have extra features such as streaming and recording at the same time as well as an increase bitrate to 60mbps and H.264 encoding.
You are able to see the price here.
Now if you want high performance and amazing looking footage this is for you!
The Elgato 4K60 Pro is the first consumer grade capture card that allows for the recording of 4K footage.
In terms of performance, this is the top of the line capture hardware that is on the market right now.
It captures up to 2160p 60fps for PC and consoles. You are able to push it to capture 144hz with a HDMI 2.0 cable and this tutorial.
With a max bitrate of 140mbps, this card can handle alot of data when capturing footage. One thing that you do need to keep in mind is that capturing at 140mbps will mean that it creates 60GB of data per hour.
Also, if you are looking to stream then you are unable to stream in 4K on Twitch as the max bitrate and resolution that is supported is 3,500kbps. Having a higher performing capture card will not increase your Twitch stream anymore.
I would recommend that if you are recording at 4K – do it at a smaller bitrate such as 35mbps to save hard drive space otherwise you will need terabytes of storage to hold all of your files.
It is however great for YouTube if you are looking to upload in 4K.
Also keep in mind that you will require much stronger PC specs to be able to both play and record 4K gameplay. You will need at least a 6th generation i7 CPU and a GTX 1050 to be able to record with this device – these specs won’t be able to play AAA games at 4K.
As a helpful tip – you are going to want to use your GPU for encoding this software as the capturing is extremely CPU intensive.
This card has many of the same features as the other cards such as Instant Gameview and stream command.
This card does use different Elgato software that isn’t as user friendly but it still works fine so I can’t complain there.
Similar to the HD60 Pro, this is an internal capture card.
This does mean that it is going to connect via PCIe to your motherboard.
You are unable to use this card with a laptop or Mac.
This is an internal capture card which means that if you want to take it out from your rig then you are going to need to open up your PC case to unplug it.
If you know that you won’t be capturing in other places then this is a great card.
This card is great for both streaming and recording – this can be done at the same time as it has a maximum bitrate of 140mbps.
As mentioned above this would mainly suit you if you are needing to record 4K footage that will then be uploaded somewhere else as Twitch does not support 4K streaming as of writing this.
This is the most expensive capture card that Elgato offer – with this said it does pack the most punch with extremely high performance.
If you plan on putting a heavy focus on high quality YouTube videos then this card is what you should get as the quality output is higher than any of the other device.
While this is their most expensive device, if you compare it to similar products by other companies you will be twice as much with Blackmagic.
However, if you are just planning to record or stream at 1080p 60fps then the HD60 S or HD60 Pro is a better choice in terms of value.
You can see the price here.
Cam Link 4K
This capture card is created mainly for cameras and makes a great addition to any streaming setup.
This is a brand new product that was introduced in November of 2018 which replaces the old Cam Link.
We’ve talked about the Cam Link before in relation to using a DSLR camera as a webcam setup – see the full tutorial here.
This card can capture upto 4K 30fps which is a huge upgrade from the previous Cam Link which only did up to 1080p 60fps.
It connects via HDMI and works with cameras that have a HDMI output slot.
It’s great for cameras that have clean HDMI outputs – if your camera has overlays and does not allow you to hide overlays you will need to do some third party tweeking to get it right.
This device doesn’t use the default Elgato software but instead uses the 4K version. This isn’t as user friendly but with some setup, it is quite easy to start using.
This is an easy plug and play device – it will work as long as you have a HDMI input in your device.
Most PCs and some laptops come default with this so just double check your computer’s IO before purchasing.
As you can see, this is a super portable device. It’s slightly larger than a USB drive and is easily removed if you need to take it anywhere.
This should be used alongside a game capture card to capture your facecam.
A lot of streamers use the Logitech C920 – while it is a good webcam, it doesn’t have the greatest quality.
If you want to step up your production quality and stand out from the competition I’d recommend you go with an actual camera.
This is a A+ value product as you are able to get 4K webcam footage (using a actual camera).
It has to ability to get a crisp 60fps which is what is used by big streamers in the Twitch community.
The alternative to this is getting a webcam – while this is much cheaper, it is also lesser quality.
This should be a staple in a streaming setup to go alongside a gaming capture device.
It doesn’t make much sense to have 1080p 60fps gameplay and a lower quality facecam as it will not look professional.
You can see the price of the Cam Link 4K here.
Our recommendation for most streamers is the HD60 S as it offers high quality output, wide device compatibility and portability.
Looking at the use cases and what you need the most, you may opt for the internal capture cards for greater performance.
It must be noted that having the ability to capture 4K footage is only needed if you are going to create videos to be uploaded due to Twitch’s bitrate limits.
In order to match your facecam’s quality with the gameplay you should opt to also get the Cam Link 4K.
This will allow you to use an actual camera as a webcam alongside your gaming capture device.
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