Looking for a capture card? Our guide has the top picks

Looking for a capture card? Our guide has the top picks

Whether you’re streaming games for an audience or you want to record some casual gameplay footage from your PC, PS5, Xbox Series X, or Nintendo Switch, you might need a capture card. It’s an essential accessory that can process your console’s uncompressed video signal, either sending it to a PC for livestreaming or converting it into a file that you can edit later to share online.

There are several models out there, and you might get lucky finding the right one without putting in the research. Then again, you may not get so lucky. Our guide includes reliable, feature-packed capture cards, covering a range of pricey and inexpensive options. To complete the streaming setup, we’ve also included some recommendations for camera capture cards, in case you want to turn your DSLR into a webcam. We’ll keep this post updated as more models become available.

Best capture card

Elgato HD 60 X

A stock photo of the Elgato HD60 X Image: Elgato

The best capture card for most people is the $159 Elgato HD60 X. When we polled the Polygon video team for their input, the HD60 X was the unanimous winner. It was chosen because they think it offers the best performance and features compared to other capture cards in its price range.

The HD60 X connects to PCs via USB (it includes a USB-C to USB-A cable), and it has a maximum capture resolution of 4K at 30 frames per second. It can handle 4K passthrough at up to 60 fps. These specs are more than sufficient for capturing footage from any current-gen console. If you’re recording in 1440p or 1080p resolutions, it can capture at a faster 120 fps.

Adding to its impressive list of specs, the HD60 X grants buyers access to Elgato’s 4K Capture Utility software. This application isn’t totally necessary, but it’s easier to learn for streaming newcomers than OBS Studio. The 4K Capture Utility also allows you to record commentary over your video clip, if you’d like, and take high quality screenshots from the captured video.

Outside of a sale, the HD60 X is typically priced at $199.99, but it often sells for less. As an alternative that’s significantly less expensive, the $64.99 UCEC GAM Live capture card supports the same passthrough/capture resolutions and frame rates as the HD60 X, but it may not be as reliable as the HD60 X.

Best budget capture card

AVerMedia Live Gamer Mini

A stock photo of the AVerMedia Live Gamer Mini Image: AVerMedia

If you’re just testing the waters with capturing and editing gameplay footage, there are some good capture card options that cost well under $100. The AVerMedia Live Gamer Mini has a list price of $99.99, but is regularly available for around $80. This pocket-size capture card is capable of recording 1080p footage at up to 60 fps and has a matching passthrough resolution, making it the perfect choice for capturing footage from the Nintendo Switch. The Live Gamer Mini is compatible with other consoles as well, but this model won’t make PS5 and Xbox games look their best.

A stock photo of the AVerMedia Live Gamer Mini Image: AVerMedia

A less expensive (and even smaller) option is the $50 Genki ShadowCast. The ShadowCast is effectively an HDMI to USB-C dongle that allows you to cast the video signal of your source console to a desktop or laptop with the aid of the free Genki Arcade app. You can also stream that footage directly into PC tools like OBS Studio. While the ShadowCast is compatible with all current-generation consoles, it can only process 1080p footage at 30 fps, and the footage quality is acceptable, not exceptional.

Best 4K capture card

AVerMedia 4K60 HDR10

A stock photo of the AVerMedia 4K60 HDR10 Image: AVerMedia

Due to the current limits of how much data you can funnel through a USB connection, PCIe capture cards are your best option if you want to capture gameplay at 4K, 60 fps. The best choice we’ve found for doing that is the AVerMedia 4K60 HDR10, which is usually available for around $200.

A stock photo of the AVerMedia 4K60 HDR10 installed in a desktop PC Image: AVerMedia

As its name suggests, the 4K60 is capable of a maximum capture and passthrough resolution of 4K at 60 fps, even with HDR enabled. The card can also record at higher frame rates with lower resolutions than 4K, maxing out at 144 fps for 1440p, or 240 fps at 1080p. It’s important to note, however, that while the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are both capable of outputting 4K resolutions at 120 fps, this capture card’s HDMI 2.0 ports mean you’ll only be able to capture 120 fps footage by knocking down your console’s output resolution to 1440p. We’re keeping our eyes out for capture cards that use HDMI 2.1, which will allow for capturing 4K footage at up to 120 fps on consoles.

Some alternatives to AVerMedia’s 4K60 include Elgato’s PCIe card, the 4K60 Pro MK.2, which is equipped with similar specifications, but costs $249.99. The biggest difference (aside from the brand name) is that AVerMedia’s option doesn’t include video editing software. That’s no big deal, as long as you’re eager to learn how to use OBS Studio.

There are PCIe card options available on Amazon for as little as $100, but given the potential for an unvetted PCIe card to do some actual harm to your desktop (or just not work as advertised), we wouldn’t recommend taking this route.

Best capture card that doesn’t require a PC

AVerMedia GC513 Portable 2 Plus

A stock photo of the AVermedia GC513 Portable 2 Plus Image: AVerMedia

Stand-alone capture cards can capture footage without being tethered to a PC. Instead, they feature a microSD or full-size SD card slot that will store your gameplay until you can deposit the files onto your PC. This feature alone makes this kind of capture card the most versatile option, even though they currently support a lower capture resolution than the alternatives. But look no further for one that’s ideal for bringing to tournaments, or other situations where a laptop or desktop won’t be available to you.

A close-up of a microSD card inserted into the AVerMedia GC513 Portable 2 Plus Image: AVerMedia

Until Elgato makes a more competitive option than its discontinued 4K60 S+, your best option for a stand-alone card is the AVerMedia GC513 Portable 2 Plus, which supports 4K passthrough at 60 fps, but is limited to recording 1080p at 60 fps. While recording to remote storage is a key selling point for the GC513, it can also be used while connected directly to a PC, like other capture card models.

Currently, stand-alone capture cards are a rarity in this product category, so there isn’t an abundance of alternatives. However, if you’re looking for something that costs less, the Hauppauge HD PVR Pro is available on Amazon for around $130. The HD PVR Pro offers many of the same specs as its AVerMedia counterpart, but is compatible with standard-size SD cards in addition to microSD cards, unlike the GC513, which can only use microSD cards for storage.

A stock photo of the AVerMedia 4K60 HDR10 installed in a desktop PC Image: AVerMedia

Best camera capture card

Elgato Cam Link 4K

A stock photo of the Elgato Cam Link 4K Image: Elgato

Camera capture cards are more of a niche product, allowing you to turn most DSLR cameras into a webcam. Some newer DSLR cameras support this feature out of the box with native USB connections, but other cameras will need to rely on a camera capture card to translate what your camera sees into a video signal that’s usable by your PC.

Your best option for this is the Elgato Cam Link 4K, which allows for 4K video capture at up to 30 fps and is fully compatible with a variety of DSLR cameras from popular manufacturers like Nikon, Canon, and GoPro.

AVerMedia offers a slightly less expensive camera capture card that features similar specs for about the same price. The AVerMedia BU113 can technically record 4K footage at 30 fps, but its shorter list of fully compatible cameras means only a handful of devices can support this feature.