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The Best Capture Card For 2021: Streaming On Twitch And YouTube
From Elgato to Razer, here are the best capture cards for streaming on PS4, Switch, Xbox One, and PC.
If you're looking to stream on Twitch or YouTube, then one of the most important things you could add to your toolbox is a capture card. These little devices let you connect your console to your PC, allowing you to capture your gameplay feed and push it live to people all around the world. Whether you're gaming on the PS5 and Xbox Series X or older consoles like the PS4, Xbox One, or Nintendo Switch, it's important that you give your viewers the best possible image you can get--capture cards can help with this. Even if you game on a PC, the quality you get from an internal capture card is unbeatable.
What to look for in a capture card
The first thing you should consider when picking out a capture card is how you're going to use it. If you plan on doing a lot of streaming at home and want to keep things relatively clutter-free, then an internal capture card that you insert into your PC's motherboard, such as the Elgato 4K60 Pro, is a great choice that offers excellent quality as well. Portable capture cards, like the Elgato HD60 S+, are great for those who want the flexibility of being able to take it wherever they need to go--though in most cases, you will need a laptop nearby if you plan on travelling away from home and using your capture card. Once you've figured out what suits your needs best, choosing the right capture card is much easier.
From this point, you need to consider the platforms you're going to be recording. Capture cards have a variety of features that can either take advantage of your platforms' features or restrict them entirely if you don't buy the right device for your setup.
Refresh rate is actually quite simple. A screen with a 60Hz refresh rate is capable of showing you 60 images per second--or 60 frames per second. The vast majority of capture cards can only capture up to 60 FPS, so you don't need to worry too much about this--though if you're playing on a PC, you may still want to enjoy your ultra-high refresh rates while recording. This is where passthrough comes in.
You'll notice that each capture device has a different range of passthrough, including 4K passthrough. This refers to the signal that the capture card is able to "pass through" itself and on to your own screen while recording. In some cases, a gaming capture card is capable of capturing certain resolutions and refresh rates while passing through higher resolutions and refresh rates--for example, capturing 1080p and 60Hz but passing through 1440p and 144Hz. The passthrough capabilities of each device are different, so be sure to think of your setup and what device can accommodate your gameplay footage and 4K passthrough needs.
Thankfully, if you're strictly a console gamer, then you're covered on all fronts for now. The PS4 Pro and Xbox One X are capable of resolutions up to 4K with 60 frames per second, something multiple capture cards are capable of recording directly from the game console. Several consoles also feature HDR support, and while you may want to record everything you're able to see from your console, HDR capture isn't necessarily something you should worry about. HDR stands for high-dynamic range, which refers to the range of colours a device and game are able to display. TVs and content that support HDR often have beautiful bright colours, making a huge impact on the overall image quality. Capturing HDR footage from your gaming console is an appealing prospect, but it requires expensive equipment and only people with HDR-capable screens will be able to enjoy it. If you still want to experience your console's HDR for yourself, then you'll want to keep an eye out for devices capable of HDR passthrough.
There are quite a few professional-grade capture cards out there that are made for filmmaking and cameras. These can work with consoles and your PC, but they're very expensive and totally gratuitous for the content most YouTubers and Twitch streamers make. We've left these types of products out and focused on the best capture cards that will be most useful for video game content creators.
The best capture cards we've tested
As we try out more capture cards, we'll be sure to update this list with any we find exceptional. In the meantime, be sure to check out the best capture cards we've already tested and vouch for below.
If you're looking for more tech guides see our full guide to the best streaming accessories, best gaming headset, best gaming keyboard, best gaming mice, best Nintendo Switch controllers, best Xbox One controllers, best PS4 controllers, best VR headsets, best budget gaming chairs, the best capture cards for streaming, and the best budget monitors.
Note: The prices shown below indicate a product's standard list price and may not reflect any current discounts or other fluctuations.
Quick look: Best capture card for 2021
- The best high-end capture card: Elgato 4K60 S+
- The best 1080p60 capture card: Elgato HD60 S+
- An excellent 1080p60 capture card: Razer Ripsaw HD
- The best internal capture card: Elgato 4K60 Pro
- The best internal capture card for 1080p60: Elgato HD60 Pro
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