Home Features (Image credit: Future) The best capture cards are a part of any serious content creator’s toolbox. Whether you’re recording footage from a PlayStation 5 for your YouTube channel or plugging in a fancy new DLSR camera for your cooking show on Twitch, a capture card is an absolute necessity for, uh, capturing those moments of glory. Nowadays, capture cards come in all shapes and sizes and, best of all are, they no longer require you to pry open your PC and hope to God you’ve got an extra card slot next to your GPU to install. External capture cards are a lot more portable, so much easier to use, and in some cases, cheaper than their internal counterparts since they connect to your PC via USB 3.0 or USB Type C. 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 out. There are good 4K capture cards out there, but they’re also expensive, and those files’ storage needs are harsh. Plus, the bandwidth requirements often mean 4K is not worth the hassle for most streamers. The picks below were tested using OBS and Xsplit, two popular broadcasting apps among streams, since that’s the best to the most of your footage. A capture card is just part of our broader streaming ecosystem; you should make sure you’re investing in the best webcam and best microphone to complete your setup. Best capture card for PC gaming Image 1 of 8 (Image credit: Future) Image 2 of 8 (Image credit: Future) Image 3 of 8 (Image credit: Future) Image 4 of 8 (Image credit: Future) Image 5 of 8 (Image credit: Future) Image 6 of 8 (Image credit: Future) Image 7 of 8 (Image credit: Future) Image 8 of 8 (Image credit: Elgato) The best capture card for streaming and recording Specifications Resolution: 1080p, 4K Frame rate: 60fps (30fps @ 4K) Interface: USB 3.0 Reasons to buy + Support for VRR and HDR passthrough + Great for modern gaming monitors + USB Type-C connectivity + Good looking 1080p 60fps capture + Same launch price as HD60 S+ Reasons to avoid – Look elsewhere for 4K capture – Only simple to set-up at 1080p The Elgato HD60 X is a great device for content creators that don’t want to sacrifice the quality of their games for their viewer’s quality. That’s because it allows for a high-speed, high-quality passthrough up to 4K resolution, and supports Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) technology, too. You can both enjoy your game and record it for others to enjoy, without really skipping a beat. This capture card technically supports 4K capture at 30fps, too, though we found it to be a little fiddly, and Elgato tells us it’s more for content creators to use with webcams than anything else. Still, it’s a great little 1080p capture card, and flexible for a wide range of uses either streaming or recording. Admittedly, there’s not much of a difference between the HD60 X and the HD60 S+ that came before it, but seeing as they launch at the same price, it’s not like you’re paying out of pocket for its few improvements. Read our full Elgato HD60 X review (opens in new tab). (Image credit: AverMedia) Best two source capture card Specifications Resolution: 1080p Frame rate: 60fps Interface: PCIe 2.0, HDMI 2.0, HDMI 1.4 Reasons to buy + Can stream 2 HMDI sources at once + Easy set up and use Reasons to avoid – HD only – Only does passthrough on 1 HDMI source 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 our full Avermedia Live Gamer Duo review (opens in new tab). Image 1 of 4 Avermedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus (Image credit: Avermedia) Image 2 of 4 AverMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus (Image credit: Avermedia) Image 3 of 4 AverMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus (Image credit: Avermedia) Image 4 of 4 AverMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus (Image credit: Avermedia) 3. Avermedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus Best capture card that uses a SD card Specifications Resolution: 1080p Frame rate: 60fps Interface: USB 3.0 Reasons to buy + Ease-of-use + Play in 4K while you record Reasons to avoid – Inconsistent frame rate 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. Best gaming PCs (opens in new tab) | Best gaming laptops (opens in new tab) | Best gaming keyboard (opens in new tab) Best gaming mouse (opens in new tab) | Best gaming chairs (opens in new tab) | Best graphics cards (opens in new tab) Image 1 of 4 Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro (Image credit: Elgato) Image 2 of 4 Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro (Image credit: Elgato) Image 3 of 4 Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro (Image credit: Elgato) Image 4 of 4 Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro (Image credit: Elgato) 6. Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro MK.2 The best 4K capture card Specifications Resolution: 4K Frame rate: 60fps Interface: PCIe x4 Reasons to buy + 4K capture with 60fps + Video encoding + 1080p @ 240Hz / 1440p @ 144Hz passthrough 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 (opens in new tab) or even the ultra-expensive Sabrent 8TB SSD (opens in new tab) 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. Image 1 of 4 Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro (Image credit: Elgato) Image 2 of 4 Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro (Image credit: Elgato) Image 3 of 4 Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro (Image credit: Elgato) Image 4 of 4 Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro (Image credit: Elgato) 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. 4. Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro Best internal capture card for beginners Specifications Resolution: 1080p Frame rate: 60fps Interface: PCIe x1, HDMI 2.0 Reasons to buy + Advanced encoder + Bitrate of 60Mbps Reasons to avoid – No 4K capture Image 1 of 4 EVGA XR1 (Image credit: EVGA) Image 2 of 4 EVGA XR1 (Image credit: EVGA) Image 3 of 4 EVGA XR1 (Image credit: EVGA) Image 4 of 4 EVGA XR1 (Image credit: EVGA) Best capture card with built-in audio mixer Specifications Resolution: 1080p (up to 4K/60fps HDR passthrough) Frame rate: 60fps Interface: USB-C Reasons to buy + Customizable ARGB LEDs + Built-in Mixer + 4K @ 120fps HDR Pass-Through Reasons to avoid – Hard to configure 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. Also if you dual-wield a PC and console, such as the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, an external capture card can help you pull footage from those devices. 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. If you’re asking on purely technical terms, however, then yes, they can. Capture cards often use something called Chroma Subsampling to reduce bandwidth requirements, and that will reduce the quality of the final picture. Though it’s worth bearing in mind that once you upload your footage to a service, such as YouTube, they will severely drop the quality anyways. So there’s not a tremendous loss overall as a result. Jorge is a hardware writer from the enchanted lands of New Jersey. When he’s not filling the office with the smell of Pop-Tarts, he’s reviewing all sorts of gaming hardware from laptops with the latest mobile GPUs to gaming chairs with built-in back massagers. He’s been covering games and tech for nearly ten years and has written for Dualshockers, WCCFtech, and Tom’s Guide.