The best capture cards let you stream and capture your PC or console with the minimum of fuss. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, a capture card makes a big difference to the quality and ease of setup of any stream. Actually these days, most of these are self-contained devices, but we’ll call them capture cards here for historic reasons. Either way, a good capture card lets you make the content you want without needing to become a professional video producer.
Are you recording 4K footage to edit later or focusing on streaming? Need a capture card that travels well with your laptop? Make sure to pick up the capture card that best suits your needs. We’ve tested all the capture cards on this list for performance and ease of use, so you know which is right for you.
We recommend most people focus on a 1080p target resolution and at least 30fps with any potential capture card purchase. 60fps is great if your PC can handle the extra load, but play it safe if you’re starting. There are good 4K capture cards out there, but they’re also expensive, and the storage needs are harsh for those files. Plus, the bandwidth requirements often mean 4K is not worth the hassle for streamers.
The picks below work well with OBS and Xsplit for streaming and video capture and make sense 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.
Best capture card for PC gaming
Elgato Game Capture HD60 S
This is the perfect card for anyone wanting to take their gameplay to streaming platforms 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 great for anything beyond trimming your videos. However, it does have ‘Flashback Recording’ to help you retroactively capture even if you forgot to hit ‘record.’
Even though streaming is fairly straightforward these days, there are still ways to make things even easier. 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.
At $250, the Live Game Duo may seem expensive, but it is essentially giving you two capture cards for the price of one. It is a great setup 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 aspirations for 4K recording or streaming, you’ll have to look further down our 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.
Read the full Avermedia Live Gamer Duo review here.
The Avermedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus packs smooth 60fps 1080p recording and 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, but particularly tempting if you need to record on the go. It works straight out of the box, too—always a plus.
If you want to take your recordings from amateur to the next level up, 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 is in the HD60 Pro’s favor as well, although it does mean you’ll have to install it on a desktop PC, so using a laptop to control your capture card is out. Still, if you’re looking for a neat solution, this is pretty sweet.
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The Razer Ripsaw HD’s main downside is that it doesn’t come with any 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 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 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 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.
EVGA is best known for its graphics cards, so it was a surprise when it announced the XR1, its first external capture device for streamers. The flashy OBS certified capture device has a built-in audio mixer that’ll show your levels using these neat-looking RGB LEDs on the unit itself.
The XR1 records and streams at 1080p/60fps and supports advanced Pass-Through of 1440p/120fps and 4K/60fps signals. This means the XR1 will take those native signals and spit them out at 1080p/60fps for your stream without needing to change any of your display settings while you game. The capture does a good job, although we did notice the colors were a little washed out; nothing a little tweaking in OBS couldn’t handle, though.
Best capture card FAQ
Why do I need a capture card if I just use OBS?
OBS and other third-party capture and streaming software are great, but there are limitations, let’s say you want to stream gameplay from a game console or use an HDMI camera instead of a webcam; the easiest way to get them to work your PC without an external or internal capture card.
With software like OBS, you are entirely reliant on your system resources, such as your CPU or GPU, when it comes to capturing video inputs. That can be a drain if you’re capturing at a high bit rate and trying to play a game simultaneously. Modern CPUs have gotten good at the necessary multi-tasking, but a dedicated capture card can help lighten the load.
Do capture cards reduce quality?
On the contrary, a good capture card could increase the quality of your stream, potentially lighten the load on your main PC, and improve the performance of your games while streaming. One of the most significant factors of live streaming is bandwidth.