The Best Capture Card (2020): Streaming On Twitch And YouTube

Streaming on Twitch and YouTube can be a lot of fun, but if you want to get started on your channel, then you’re going to need a good capture card. A capture card helps you capture, record, and stream gameplay from a variety of platforms, including the PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Among the companies that make capture cards are Elgato and Razer, two of the best makers of streaming accessories. The Elgato Game Capture HD cards are some of the most popular capture cards out there, but there are a number of other great options that are worth considering.

What to look for in a capture card

The first thing you’ll need to 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 needs.

Thankfully, if you’re strictly a console gamer, then you’re covered on all fronts. 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 2020

  • Elgato 4K60 S+ — $400
  • Elgato HD60 S+ — $200
  • Razer Ripsaw HD — $160
  • Elgato 4K60 Pro — $250
  • Elgato HD60 Pro — $180

The best high-end capture card

Elgato 4K60 S+ | $400

The Good:

  • Capture up to 4K and 60 FPS gameplay
  • 4K HDR and 60 FPS passthrough
  • High-end encoder makes recording beautiful footage a breeze
  • Record footage to a PC or straight to an SD card, including flashback recording
  • Connects to PC via USB-C
  • Single-button device makes recording easy

The Bad:

  • Does not support 1080p240 and 1440p144 passthrough
  • High price tag

Elgato’s new 4K60 S+ is the most exciting capture card on this list, thanks to its onboard video encoder and the ability to capture footage directly to an SD card. All you have to do is plug in your console via HDMI, press the capacitive touch button, and you’re recording–no PC needed. And considering its portable form factor, the Elgato 4K60 S+ makes for a great option when going to events like PAX, where you might be able to capture game footage of games before they release. It features 4K HDR and 60 frames per second passthrough (with the right HDMI cable), as well as no noticeable lag, making it something you can leave plugged in at all times. Unfortunately, unlike Elgato’s internal 4K60 Pro card, it does not support passthrough for 1080p and 240Hz or 1440p and 144Hz.

The price can also be a deterrent for casual content creators. There’s no doubt that the portability, SD card recording, and video-encoding capabilities are attractive features for game capture, but they come at a price–one that’s actually quite high. If you don’t absolutely need everything the 4K60 S+ has to offer, then you may not want to shell out the extra cash required to pick this high-end external capture card up.

The best 1080p60 capture card

Elgato HD60 S+ | $200

The Good:

  • Capture up to 1080p and 60 FPS gameplay
  • 4K HDR and 60 FPS passthrough
  • Connects to PC via USB-C
  • Easy to set up

The Bad:

  • Requires a PC

If you’re looking for a cheaper portable capture card, then Elgato’s HD60 S+ is a great option. A successor to the Game Capture HD60 S, the S+ capable of capturing up to 1080p and 60 FPS and passthrough of 4K HDR and 60 FPS. This makes it a great capture card that you can keep plugged in at all times, though you will need a PC to record your gameplay–the HD60 S+ does not have an SD card slot. The accompanying software also supports flashback recording. The Game Capture HD60 S+ is perfect for Twitch, YouTube, Mixer, and any other streaming or video platform you want to create for, and is the best capture card for getting started quickly.

An excellent 1080p60 capture card for a cheaper price

Razer Ripsaw HD | $160

The Good:

  • Captures up to 1080p and 60 FPS gameplay
  • Supports 4K and 60 FPS passthrough
  • 3.5mm ports are perfect for gaming headset

The Bad:

  • Doesn’t support HDR passthrough
  • Requires a PC

Razer, known for its excellent gaming keyboards and mice, also makes a great game capture card. Slick and discrete, the Ripsaw HD easy to place anywhere on your desk and keep a low profile, while capturing up to 1080p and 60 FPS with passthrough for 4K and 60 FPS. It unfortunately does not support HDR passthrough. This capture device’s unique feature allows you to plug in a 3.5mm microphone and headphones to record your voice and monitor your audio respectively–this is perfect if you plan on streaming with a gaming headset. For the budget-minded gamer, this, along with decent streaming software, is all you need to start streaming your game footage and build your Twitch channel.

The best internal capture card

Elgato 4K60 Pro | $250

The Good:

  • Perfect for nearly every platform out there
  • Captures up to 4K and 60 FPS as well as HDR
  • Supports up to 1080p240Hz and 1440p144Hz passthrough
  • Internal PCIe card lets you set it and forget it

The Bad:

  • Requires a PC

The Elgato 4K60 Pro is the best internal PCIe capture card out there. It’s capable of capturing gameplay up to 4K and 60 frames per second directly from your gaming PC, and it’s easy to set up, too: All you have to do is plug it into your motherboard and download the drivers to get it working–no USB cable required. It can capture HDR and passthrough up to 1080p at 240Hz and 1440p at 144Hz. These passthrough capabilities are particularly useful if you’re going to use this card to capture your own PC’s gameplay, as you won’t have to sacrifice your own experience while recording or streaming. It also works seamlessly with the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. With some third-party accessories, I was even able to capture retro platforms like the Nintendo GameCube and Wii without the need for an external capture box.

A great capture card for 1080p60 gamers

Elgato HD60 Pro | $180

The Good:

  • Captures up to 1080p and 60 FPS
  • Supports 1080p and 60 FPS passthrough
  • Internal PCIe card lets you set it and forget it

The Bad:

  • Isn’t suitable for PS4 Pro or Xbox One X
  • Requires a PC

The HD60 Pro is a version of Elgato’s internal PCIe capture card that supports capture and passthrough up to 1080p and 60 frames per second. It has fewer features and capabilities than the 4K60 Pro, but it also comes at a much cheaper price. If capturing in 4K HDR isn’t something that interests you, then the HD60 Pro video capture card is more than enough to handle your streaming and recording needs, especially if you’re an aspiring streamer or YouTuber.

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