Have you ever wanted to be able to make recordings of what’s happening on your computer screen? Even if you haven’t, chances are that you can think of a few practical uses for that technology. Capture cards allow you to record high definition or standard definition video right from your screen. While it’s primarily used by professional gamers looking to stream and upload their performance, just about anyone can find some use for a capture card.
Even if you’ve never heard of a capture card before, we’ve tried to make it so you can navigate this guide with confidence. We’ll break down 10 of the best capture card models in terms anyone can understand then provide you with the tips you need to shop like a pro.
TL;DR - 10 Best Capture Cards for 2020:
- Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro
- AV.io 4K Grab and Go USB Video Capture
- Hauppauge HD PVR HD
- AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus
- Razer Ripsaw HD Game Streaming Capture Card
- ClonerAlliance Flint Capture Card
- DIGITNOW USB Capture HDMI Video Card
- HDML-Cloner Box Pro, Capture Card
- MYPIN HDMI Game Capture Card
- AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable Lite
1. Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro
The Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro is praised as one of the best capture cards among all kinds of gamers. If you're a pro who wants the best recording capabilities possible, you'll probably end up with an Elgato capture card. The simple PCI-E interface design of the Elgato Game Capture HD60 reduces the risk of lag when directly streaming, and the software interface is very intuitively designed and makes it easy to hit the ground running even if you've never used a capture card before.
But once you do get it up and running, you can count on some seriously solid performance. It can consistently produce FHD 1080p resolution at a speed of 60 frames per second, but it's also built with efficiency in mind. With this capture card, Elgato has managed to reduce the load on your CPU while allowing a variety of different effects, and it's compatible with most consoles as well.
2. AV.io 4K Grab and Go USB Video Capture
If you want the best video performance you'll find in video capture along with a rugged and portable design you can take with you just about anywhere, the AV.io is among the best options available to you. It's incredibly compact and can connect to your PC through either DVD-I or an HDMI 4K passthrough, so you won't ever have to wrestle with compatibility issues with your machine. This is one of the easiest capture cards to use, although it does bear a premium price tag.
But the ability to shoot 4K video at a rate of 30 frames per second and Full HD at double that is a huge get, and this capture card will automatically adjust your video scale and aspect ratios based off of your source devices and the circumstances you're shooting in. That makes it easy to scale up or down to the needs of different PCs and consoles.
3. Hauppauge HD PVR HD
The Hauppage HD PVR isn't the most powerful capture card around, or even on this list, but it belongs with the best choices for newcomers to streaming and recording who want to get into the field with a relatively modest amount of money. The setup process for this capture card is incredibly simple, and it comes with a great suite of software built in that can get you up and running without much technical knowledge at all.
This capture card is small enough to fit in your pockets, and it even manages to pack in a pretty decent microphone, so you won't need to invest in any extra audio recording gear. Support is available for both HDMI and VGA, so it's designed to work just fine even with legacy consoles and other sources, and it can save directly to a USB thumb drive as well.
4. AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus
The AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus bears a comparable price tag and a similar niche in the market as the Hauppauge, but it does a few things differently. A 4K passthrough in the Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus means that you can record or stream video from your consoles without even needing to connect it to a computer, but if you do decide to run it through your gaming PC, you'll get access to a truly impressive software interface that provides you with all the tools you need.
Regardless of how you choose to record, you can produce 1080p resolution video at a smooth 60 frames per second. That's not bad for a $150 capture card, and the incredibly small size of the Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus means that you can slip it comfortably into your pocket and take it with you whenever and wherever you need to go. It even includes a 3.5 mm audio port for hooking up audio recording devices.
5. Razer Ripsaw HD Game Streaming Capture Card
When the Razer Ripsaw HD was first released, it was something of a disaster. The fundamentals were sound, but it came with a whole lot of freezing and crashing issues. Fortunately, Razer really hit the pavement and managed to fix those major issues with the Ripsaw HD, and this capture card has transformed into one of the best competitors to the Elgato HD60 Pro.
As is to be expected from a Razer product, the exterior design on the Ripsaw HD is stunning. The lean design resembles an especially lithe router, and the lights and ports are elegantly placed so you have quick and ready access to everything you need. The USB-C interface on the Ripsaw HD is complemented by both and HDMI output and input. All the major streaming software should work just fine with this capture card without a hitch, and the Ripsaw HD is a good choice if you want an entry level model to get started with.
6. ClonerAlliance Flint Capture Card
Working with a capture card for the first time can be an intimidating experience, but the ClonerAlliance Flint is designed to be as easy as possible for new users to make the most of. A nearly plug and play design allows you to hit the ground running with a quickness, and it offers 4K passthrough with 1080p recording without lag or latency. It even comes with a variety of converters and adapters so you can make it work with practically any system you can imagine. Compatibility across software platforms is equally as varied.
And you don't need to worry about your live commentary getting lost in the mix or having to sync a separate audio track up to your video. Connecting up a decent pair of monitor headphones allows you to appropriately add your own live feed audio commentary to the video as it happens.
7. DIGITNOW USB Capture HDMI Video Card
The DigitNow! is a capture card that will stay out of your way no matter what device you're connecting it to. Just plug in a USB cable on one side and an HDMI on the other, and you're good to go. Compatibility is available for most consoles as well as every major computer OS, and its simple design makes it easy to coordinate with whatever popular editing and recording software you prefer.
The big appeal is probably the slim design. It's essentially a dongle, allowing it to take up much less space than models like the Razer Ripsaw, which are basically standing devices on their own right. And since there's no configuration required or drivers that need to be installed, you can have it up and running in the matter of just a few minutes.
8. HDML-Cloner Box Pro, Capture Card
There are plenty of capture cards that are designed to be easy to use, but you'd have to work hard to find one as easy to use as the Cloner Box Pro. The ports are nicely designed and neatly labeled, and you can start recording your favorite games or TV shows by hitting a single button positioned on the capture card. A ton of different components ensure that you can get it up and running on a variety of different source devices.
You won't have to hunt around for software to use with this capture card either. Free editing and conversion software is included, and uploading your videos directly to social media accounts like this on YouTube is an incredibly simple process. You don't even need a PC connected to get this capture card up and running. The USB interface lets you record directly to an external HDD or flash drive.
9. MYPIN HDMI Game Capture Card
The MYPIN HDMI game capture card is a pint sized little device that can still provide you with some quality video and image capture, recording, and editing. The USB source means that it's powered directly by whatever device it's connected to, and there's no need for drivers, so you can just plug it in to your PC or console and expect it to work exactly how you want it to.
Recording directly to your hard drive is possible, but you can also live stream, making this one of the best choices for streaming games or leading meetings directly through the interface of your PC. Hardware accelerated upscaling and downscaling ensures that you'll get the best picture quality regardless of the limitations in your recording setup. And with the promise of USB 3.0 compatibility, you'll get quality speeds that can keep pace with the latest computers.
10. AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable Lite
The second AverMedia capture card on our list is another one of the best choices for those just getting started with screen capture technology. It's one of the best priced models with its $80 price tag, but it doesn't lag in terms of performance. Getting everything set up is as simple as can be, and AverMedia has greatly streamlined the process of uploading your live streams or recorded videos directly to YouTube and other social media platforms.
Voice commentary is also supported whether you're playing on your PC or the latest generation of consoles, and AverMedia offers a dedicated customer support team to help you out if you have any compatibility issues. It even includes a hardware encoder to minimize any hiccups in the production process and provide you with smooth and meaningful results for your primary audience.
Best Capture Card Buyer’s Guide
Capture cards may be relatively new technology, but you can manage to get the best capture cards for a relatively low price, and they offer some features that can be of use to a wide variety of different consumers. Whether you’re looking to record gameplay of your titles or record programs straight from your TV, a capture card provides a great way to record footage and provide live streaming and live editing. We’ll break down the important specs in greater detail and figure out what to pay attention to when shopping for a capture device.
Why Get a Capture Card
A capture card is the best choice around if you’re a professional gamer or streamer, but that’s just scratching the surface of what you can accomplish with a capture card. A good card can work as a replacement for a DVR so you can keep your favorite shows saved for later, and it can also be a powerful resource in the office. Live editing and live streaming allows you to play footage as it happens and make sure everyone in the meeting room is fin the loop about your materials.
The interface refers to how your card is going to connect to whatever device you’re recording onto. In most instances, this is going to be a computer. Many serious gaming streamers use two separate PCs. There’s a good reason for that. With a separate Mac of PC running your gaming footage and another computer recording that gaming footage, you don’t have to worry about slowdown during your game, and you’ll get smoother and crisper external capture footage as a result.
But not all capture card models require you to be connected directly to a computer. Some of the best capture cards for travel allow you to save gaming or other sorts of footage directly to a USB flash drive or an SD card. While this means you’ll have to do editing after you record, it makes them a great choice for working with PS4, XBox One, or Nintendo Switch consoles.
The vast majority of the capture cards make use of a USB interface. That makes it very easy to connect your capture card to your PS4, XBox One, Mac, or PC. You can just plug it in at the source and expect it to work. And since USB can transmit both power and information, that means that you don’t need an external power source to get everything up and running.
The best capture cards with USB support make use of USB 3.0 protocol. As the latest version of USB, USB 3.0 allows for faster transfer speeds. With a best in class USB 3.0 connection you can count on your card to provide you with low latency performance, so the gameplay happening on the screen will record exactly as you see it on your external capture recording device.
A rarer option but one worth considering if you want capture cards if you’re professional about your recording process is a model with a PCI-E interface. That can plug directly to the motherboard of your computer and provide you with more serious performance. Just keep in mind that you’ll only want to do that if you don’t plan on disconnecting your card and using it with more than one device.
If the interface refers to the device on which capture records, the input refers to how it connects to the device that’s actually streaming your content. If you’re looking to record video or gameplay, it’s incredibly important to make sure that the inputs on your card match the outputs on your XBox 360, PS4, PC, or Mac. For the most part, that means an HDMI cable. This is the standard for HD video on practically any gaming device available today.
But if you’re looking to stream footage from legacy gaming consoles or aging video devices like cameras or camcorders, you may want to dig a little deeper through out list of the best capture cards. There are a variety of different outputs available, and finding a model that suits some of those order formats might be a deciding factor for some consumers.
Many models may use an HDMI cable as their primary mode of transmitting video, but they also come with connectors that make them usable with older devices. Just because there isn’t native support for the devices you want to record from doesn’t mean you can’t jury rig a solution with little more than a $5 cable.
A 1080p Full HD resolution is the standard for most capture cards, but the actual frame rate offered can vary between 30 and 60 fps. A rare few capture cards offer streaming for video resolution as high as 4K, but these great capture cards are generally going to cost you a bit more. If you want to enjoy great gameplay quality while also offering reasonable results for your audience, you’ll want to find a card that comes with a 4K passthrough. That allows you to record or stream at 1080p while also enjoying a great gaming experience at 4K resolution.
The bitrate is a way of measuring how much information is passed from your source device to your recording device. The higher the bitrate, the more information you can pass across. That means smoother performance even at higher resolution rates. Bitrate can have an effect on the quality of your videos, but if you want to know exactly how well it will perform, you’re best off looking at the frames per second offered.
Bitrate, however, is also worth paying attention to if you’re trying to post your gameplay performance on social media sites. Most platforms that host video necessitate a minimum bitrate level, but these benchmarks are relatively easy to hit with the best capture cards.
With a rare few exceptions, capture cards come with proprietary editing software that can help you make the most of your video. Great editing software is easy enough for even the most amateur consumers to use, but it allows a great amount of flexibility in the editing process. Editing software sometimes allows you to edit in real time, but it often includes more advanced features as well. That includes everything from the ability to change the size and quality of your videos to changing the configuration settings of your capture device.
Good software is a great choice if you’re recording footage from a PS4, XBox One, or Switch. Since there isn’t much in the way of editing software on the consoles themselves, software attached to your PC or Mac can be a good way to provide a more polished external capture experience. Also, you’ll want to make sure that your capture device supports the operating system of your computer. While Windows and Linux compatibility are pretty standard, some capture devices have a bit more trouble when trying to run on the Mac operating system.
It can be hard to predict when a show stopping moment is going to occur, but recording everything can quickly eat up the storage space on your PC. Mac, or external drive. For instances like these, flashback recording can be a great choice. Flashback recording is a highlight feature of the Elgato Game Capture HD60, but it can also be found in other Elgato devices. It automatically records video for a short period of time before erasing it. That means that you can capture moments after they happen without having to worry about your storage capacity getting clogged up.
Being able to record video capably is obviously going to be the first thing to take a look at when you’re seeking out a capture device, but you’ll also want to see how good the audio recording is. Most capture devices also come with a 3.5 mm output for connecting a microphone or speaker, and that allows you to provide in-game commentary from your Mac, PC, or console without having to dub it in later. Commentary is often as much a selling point as the gameplay itself, so it’s worth looking at the quality of the sound quality when making a purchase.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it Better to Stream With a Capture Card?
Absolutely. Recording video directly from your screen can wreak havoc on your computer performance, and that’s an especially worrying concern when you’re looking to record performance from software that weighs heavy on your computer’s performance as is the case with most AAA games. The best capture cards can cost a few hundred dollars, but if you’re willing to take a look at what they offer, they can save you a lot of hassle in the long term.
What Does a Capture Card Do?
A capture card is essentially a data receiver. It takes the information that’s streaming from your computer, console, or TV and records that footage directly onto a selected device. This allows you to stream footage directly to your social media account or save video or still recordings for later. It’s great for gaming footage, but it can be used for a number of great applications as well.
Is Elgato the Best Capture Card?
When capture card technology was still young, Elgato easily produced the best capture cards around, but as the segment has begun to grow, so has the competition. Models like the Razer Ripsaw and the Av.io Grab and Go can give any Elgato capture card a run for its money. If you want to find the best capture cards for your needs, the review list about can help you capturing your coolest gameplay clips or your favorite TV shows.
Do You Need a Capture Card for PC?
If you want to record quality gameplay on your Mac or PC, you’ll definitely want a capture card. While you can record gameplay without the inclusion of one, your card and your game will have to share the same processor and RAM, and that means that you might experience slowdown during your game or a poorer quality resolution in your recording.
If you’re looking for the best capture card, look no further than our guide. We provide you with the fundamentals you need to know about for shopping as well as highlighting some of our favorite models. And if you want a computer that can provide you with the footage that’s going to drive your audience wild, you may want to take a look at our guide to the best gaming PCs of 2020.If you liked our article on capture cards, please share and comment below what your favorite product is.