Update, 08/15/2022: We’ve reviewed our recommendations and updated our recommendation for the best external capture card with the new NZXT Signal 4K30.
What to look for in a Capture Card in 2022
AND a capture card has two jobs it must accomplish to be effective. Basically, it has to capture the incoming audio-visual signal and then either store it or send it somewhere else. In some situations, you’ll want the capture card to record footage while also sending a signal to an application or AV output.
When using a capture card, the source of the audio-visual signal will be the game console. While consoles starting with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have built-in features for broadcasting and recording games, they are often limited and sometimes even block the game from viewers. The capture card not only bypasses console limitations, but also allows you to customize the stream using your computer and broadcast software (such as OBS or SLOBS).
If you only record or capture footage from a PC, a capture card may not be the best solution. This is because modern computers can capture or stream game footage without special hardware. The capture card doesn’t take any load off the PC itself, so it’s only really useful if you want to stream games from game consoles.
One important consideration when purchasing a capture card is to make sure that the console or device you choose can be used with the capture card. Almost all capture cards require HDMI inputs, so if you’re using a retro console you’ll need an adapter.
Finally, be sure to choose a card that supports at least the resolution and refresh rate you want to stream at. Higher resolutions and refresh rates are good options, but the hardware you’ll need is generally more expensive. However, if you’re going for the bare minimum hardware you need for streaming, you may need to upgrade sooner. It’s up to you to balance your current needs with future resilience.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at our top recommendations.
- ✓ A flexible card for any type of streaming or capture
- ✓ It offers 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound capture
- ✓ Supports ultra-wide aspect ratios
- ✓ Cheaper than external cards with similar specifications
- ✗ You need a desktop computer with a free slot
Choosing a capture card that is “best overall” usually means that the product must perform adequately (or better) in most scenarios. That’s exactly what Live Gamer 4K from AVerMedia delivers. It’s not the best at one thing, but we can’t imagine anyone being disappointed by it, no matter what their needs are.
As an internal PCIe card, the Live Gamer 4K has more than enough technical power to handle most standard streaming and capture setups. At 4K resolution, the card can handle 60 frames per second (FPS) and HDR video. Using the included RECentral software, the card can capture 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound.
PC and console gamers willing to sacrifice 4K can also record at up to 144 or 240fps for 1440p and 1080p respectively. On top of all that, Live Gamer 4K supports ultra-wide aspect ratios, which is not very common. The price of the card is also very reasonable considering how much you get for it.
The Live Gamer 4K seems to have everything anyone could want, but no product is perfect. This is an internal capture card, so those who own laptops or can’t install Live Gamer 4K are out of luck. If you specifically need an external capture card, don’t worry, we have external card recommendations for you.
Overall the best Capture Card
AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K
This internal capture card has it all: 4K capabilities, ultra-wide capture support, and 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound capture, all at a decent price.
- ✓ Amazing value for money
- ✓ 1080p 60 HDR shooting
- ✓ 4K60 HDR10 passthrough with zero lag
- ✗ No hardware encoder
- ✗ No 240 or 144 Hz pass through
- ✗ Best for capturing console using PC
If you want to easily stream or capture footage from a console game and already have a capable PC, then the Elgato HD60 S+ is a cost-effective solution. It is a compact device that you can easily connect to a laptop or desktop system.
The HD60 S+ is limited to 1080p60 HDR recording, but most users stream at 1080p or lower anyway, so this isn’t a major issue. it won’t affect your actual game either because passthrough supports 4K60. However, if you are using this Elgato model, you cannot use the 120fps modes on the new consoles. The same applies to 240Hz or 144Hz signals.
The lack of hardware encoding is a big reason why this digitizer card is so cheap, so you’ll need a powerful CPU to ensure smooth capture, and if possible, the HD60 S+ should have its own dedicated USB 3.0 port.
Considering the type of footage the HD60 S+ produces, we think it’s suitable for all console users, unless 4K recording is an option for you. For everyone else, it’s a bargain.
Best Budget Capture Card
Elgato HD60 S+
The Elgato HD60 S+ comes with all the basic features most console game streamers need, but make sure you have a powerful PC to make up for the lack of hardware encoding.
- ✓ 4K60 capture at great bitrate for the money
- ✓ Zero-lag 4k passthrough
- ✓ It supports high refresh rates in resolutions below 4K.
- ✓ It can capture HDR footage
- ✗ Requires a desktop computer with a free PCIe slot
Elgato 4K60 Pro MK.2 almost won the best overall spot at AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K. After all, on paper they have virtually the same specs. However, the Elgato products do not offer surround sound capture and, unlike the Live Gamer 4K, can only record in stereo. While it didn’t quite hit the mark, there’s a lot to like about the 4K60 Pro MK.2 for a comparable price.
As the name suggests, this card can capture 4K footage at 60Hz refresh rate. It’s also suitable for shooting HDR10 video, so you don’t have to turn it off while gaming.
If you’re happy with resolutions below 4K, refresh rates up to 240Hz are possible. While Elgato stated that 4K60 Pro supports ultra-wide resolutions, user feedback suggests this is easier said than done, so buyer beware if you have an ultrawide monitor!
But if you don’t care about ultra-wide support or surround sound capture, the Pro MK.2 is a solid alternative to the AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K.
The best internal capture card
Elgato 4K60 Pro MK.2
The Elgato 4K60 Pro MK.2 is very similar to our top overall recommendation, but lacks the ability to capture surround sound. It’s still a solid capture card and worth it if you prefer Elgato over AVerMedia.
- ✓ Zero-lag HDMI pass-through
- ✓ Easy plug and play setup
- ✓ Record or stream up to 4K @ 30Hz
- ✓ Compatible with Windows and Mac
- ✗ Requires USB 3.2 support
NZXT has been making some incredible computer peripherals and accessories lately, including the Lift gaming mouse and functional mechanical keyboard. The NZXT Signal 4K30 is another great piece of hardware to add to this list. This small, high-quality external capture card is all you need to start creating video content.
Signal 4K30 is compatible with PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles, as well as the previous generation of both companies. It supports 4K up to 30Hz and 1080p up to 120Hz recording. And if you want to play in 4K but stream or record in 1080p, HDMI passthrough makes it easy.
Your recording computer, which can be Windows or Mac, must support USB 3.2 to allow the higher transfer speeds required for 4K recording and streaming. The only other requirements are a spare HDMI port and some screen recording software like OBS Studio. Software comes with the capture card, but only for customizing settings and only for Windows.
The combination of reasonable price, 4K lossless recording, ease of use and high quality build makes it easy to recommend the NZXT Signal 4K30 to anyone looking for an external capture card.
If you don’t need to record or stream in 4K, another external capture card from NZXT is worth checking out. The Signal HD60 offers easy 1080p recording and streaming at an even more attractive price.
The best external capture card
- ✓ Uses Thunderbolt 3, unmatched bandwidth for external cards
- ✓ Enables uncompressed recording
- ✓ It allows you to capture up to 240 frames per second in FHD
- ✗ No USB C support
- ✗ It does not work with the M1 Mac at this time
- ✗ Can’t capture HDR on Mac
A big advantage of internal PCIe capture cards is access to a lot of computer resources. This means they can capture and stream footage with astronomical bitrates and offer the best visual quality and performance. External cards that rely on USB like the Elgato 4K60 S+ will always be limited in comparison.
The switch from USB to Thunderbolt 3 definitely solves the problem of resources for external capture cards. The Live Gamer Bolt can thus capture 4K 60Hz HDR footage as well as faster frame rates at lower resolutions. This external card is functionally just as capable as the internal card, but does not require installation. So any Windows system with a Thunderbolt 3 port will work.
Macs are also supported, meaning a Mac Mini or MacBook Pro could be an ideal pairing with the Live Gamer Bolt. However, there is one major objection with Macs. AVerMedia does not support the M1 Mac ecosystem. Posts from AVerMedia technical support staff indicated that the M1 driver was in development but never released, and MacBooks had largely moved to the M2 chip.
Thunderbolt 3 is becoming more common in laptops and can be added to many motherboards with a compatible add-in card. This makes the Live Gamer Bolt a more flexible solution than comparable internal 4k capture cards. Its current Mac limitations are unfortunate, but it’s a great way to turn your Thunderbolt-equipped laptop into a professional streaming device.
Best 4K Capture Card
AVerMedia Live Gamer Bolt
If you need to capture 4K footage, you’ll want to get the Live Gamer Bolt. It even works on Intel Macs! Just make sure you have a Thunderbolt 3 port.
- ✓ Dual HDMI input allows the use of a high-end camera
- ✓ 4K60 and 1080p 240 pass
- ✗ Limited to 1080p capture
Streaming is more than just finding a way to get incoming footage to a service like Twitch. A streaming setup consists of many moving parts that come together to create an attractive and professional stream.
As such, the Live Gamer Duo is one of the best products we’ve seen for a live streaming setup. While not on the cutting edge of technology, it has some useful features that make life a lot easier for streamers on a low to medium budget.
The Live Gamer Duo’s best feature is the dual HDMI inputs. This allows you to plug a camera into the second port and then mix game and camera inputs using your favorite broadcast software. No USB webcam setup can match powering directly from an HDMI camera, so this card will really help your entire streaming setup punch above its weight.
Another killer feature is the asymmetric passing and interception. While this card is limited to capturing uncompressed 1080p 60Hz footage, you can go with almost any resolution you like. You can still enjoy 4K60, 1440p144 and 1080p240 images on your local display while keeping the 1080p live stream that most viewers will watch.
If you’re someone looking to set up a dedicated streaming solution with high-quality camera footage, this is the card we’d recommend to most of you.
The best capture card for streaming
AVerMedia Live Gamer Duo
If you need a capture card that is optimized specifically for streaming, the Live Gamer Duo will be the perfect choice. With two HDMI ports, you can enjoy your game and camera perfectly.