Written by StreamYard
Best Capture Cards For Live Streaming
With the live streaming industry being stronger than ever, streamers need the right equipment to win the attention of their audience. One such tool that's a must-have for every live streamer is a capture card. Whether you want to stream using a console, or you want to use a DSLR as a webcam, you'll need a capture card.
But with so many capture cards available, which one to buy?
This guide brings you a list of the 13 best capture cards for streaming.
Let's get started!
What is a Capture Card?
A capture card is an input device that captures footage and streams it online. It works by converting video signals into digital data and uploading it to the web. Often seen as a necessity for content creators who use a camera that outputs HDMI, HD-SDI, etc., a capture card recognizes the camera and records video to be replayed on various devices.
How does a capture card work?
When you use a capture card, it takes the live feed and translates it into a language that the platform (YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitch, etc.) can decipher.
One key point to note here is that capture cards don't do data encoding. They simply facilitate data transmission from one device (a computer or phone) to another (a video player or platform).
Do I need a capture card for live streaming?
Out of the box, you don't really need a capture card for live streaming. You can live stream without a capture card, provided your camera has a compatible output port that can be connected to the device you use for streaming.
However, when you use some of the best capture cards for streaming, it can sharply elevate your live streaming experience. It also becomes essential if you are using a DSLR/mirrorless camera or using a gaming console to live stream.
Using a capture card gives you better control over your live stream's video quality.
If you are looking to live stream games using a console like PS5 or Xbox One, then your console may already have a built-in streaming capability. So why use a capture card to live stream? It helps reduce the load on your computer and stream at a high quality!
In a nutshell, a capture card offers it all – cleaner image quality, smoother live streams, and the ability to stream from multiple consoles or PC setups.
How to pick one of the best capture cards for streaming?
The answer to this question depends on various factors:
Interface: The first thing you need to consider is your capture card's interface. Put simply, it's the type of connection you need to use the capture card with your computer for live streaming. The easiest and most popular capture card interface is USB, thanks to its easy setup and use. Others include USB-C, PCIe, and Thunderbolt 4, etc.
Image Quality: Another important factor is image quality. Along with a high resolution, you also need a high frame rate for a powerful live streaming performance. You can pick 1080p at 30 fps if you're testing the waters, or 1080p at 60 fps if you have the bandwidth and want to upgrade with high-end quality. But if you seek the ultimate, go for a capture card that can handle 4K recording at 60 fps. Remember, as with most capture cards, you can adjust the resolution from a higher quality, such as 4K, to 1080p, and so on.
System Compatibility: Before you pick one of the best capture cards for streaming, check its compatibility with the system you're using it on. Read your device's user manual to understand its compatibility requirements. Live streamers usually seek compatibility with various platforms, including Windows, Mac, PS4, PS5, Xbox, etc. If you plan to live stream from different devices, ensure your capture card offers enough flexibility to use with multiple platforms.
Latency: While all capture cards have some latency, live streamers need a capture card with low latency for quick real-time engagement with their audience. If there is too much latency, you'll see delays in your audio and video transmission, so check your preferred card's latency and ensure it isn't too high to make the live video seem out of sync.
13 Best Capture Cards for Live Streaming
Elgato has been treading a fine line between power and compactness with its capture cards. The HD60 X is a prime example. With the perfect combination of functionality and design, it’s a terrific pick for live streamers. While it connects seamlessly to any console, you get rear HDMI ports for a well-organized setup and audio in the front for hassle-free access.
If you are a live streamer, you’ll love how this capture card sends raw video to your gaming screen and PC. It also offers up to 4K60 HDR10 passthrough and can integrate Stream Deck seamlessly with 4KCU.
Although Elgato seems to be constantly refreshing its capture card lineup, this capture card at $199.99 is a device you should consider for your live streaming rig.
The Elgato HD60 S delivers pretty much everything a live streamer needs from a capture card. Clean and chic aesthetics, LED status strip, 1080p60 quality, and a reversible USB-C connector – you'll find it loaded with thoughtful touches.
Pick it for its superior low latency technology or advanced GPU acceleration. You'll be impressed with its high performance. Besides, it also lets you power up your streams with customized overlays, alerts, and more. You can also add your voice using its built-in Live Commentary feature. At a price point of $159.99 USD, it's one of the best capture cards for streaming.
The AVerMedia ExtremeCap UVC is a fine choice if you are looking for a capture card with an HDMI to USB 3.0 converter. This compact and durable device offers excellent image clarity and color accuracy, thanks to its unaltered 1080p60 resolution.
Plus, using it is a cinch. This plug-and-play device doesn't require any driver installation. And it is compatible with a host of platforms, including Windows, Mac, and Linux, which makes it easy to set up and equally easy to use. Perhaps most useful for on-the-go live streamers, it lets you quickly connect a DSLR to your smartphone using a streaming app. At $129.99 USD, it's an incredible capture card to enable hassle-free live streaming.
Its sturdy looks may make it appear a bit retro, but the Hauppauge HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition is a modern capture card that lets you level up your streaming game with some excellent features.
From SPDIF optical audio input that lets you record terrific sound to 'no delay passthrough' at up to 1080p, a personal logo inserter, and a built-in record button – you get it all with this impressive product, priced at $139.90.
The VMKLY audio video capture card sets the standard for a high-quality capture card with a reasonable price tag. Designed with a quality smart chip and exquisite aluminum alloy shell, this stylish and compact capture card doesn't require driver installation.
With max 4K@30fps input and passthrough, and an additional 3.5MM microphone in and audio out ports, it offers more than expected in this range. For its excellent performance and power at $29.99 USD, the VMKLY audio video capture card is hard to beat.
If you want to use your DSLR as a webcam, the Elgato Cam Link 4K is your best friend. This versatile device offers 1080p60 quality, and can even go up to 4K at 30 fps, coupled with an ultra-low-latency technology for those impactful, smooth live streams.
Your recordings with the Cam Link 4K are stored directly on your hard drive. And you can make your broadcasts look professional with real-time, full-screen feedback. For $129.99 USD, this one is a seriously capable tool for live streamers.
The IPXOZO Video Capture Card is a gem in the budget capture card category with up to 4K@60Hz High-Definition input and an output max resolution of 1920×1080@30Hz. And apart from being compatible with Windows, Mac OS, and Linux systems, its USB3.0 high-speed transmission port makes it easier to live stream on consoles like Xbox One and Switch. It also features real-time preview and records videos directly to the hard disk without any lag.
Pick this portable plug & play video capture card for just $15.99 USD, and you'll love how it offers a seamless experience throughout your broadcasts.
The Razer Ripsaw HD ups the live streaming ante by adding a 4K passthrough to its already outstanding performance. Full HD 1080p resolution at 60 fps and complete customization and control of the streaming setup will definitely please beginners.
Besides being an easy-to-use device, it delivers high-quality footage, rich audio, and effortless compatibility with PC or console setup. On the whole, for $159.99 USD, this capture card offers great value.
Here's another remarkable capture card from Elgato with some amazing features for live streamers! The 4K60 Pro supports 4K resolution at 60 fps and comes with HDR10 imaging and ultra-low latency technology. It also lets you capture video simultaneously in multiple apps, and its compatibility with streaming software like OBS Studio, Streamlabs OBS, and XSplit is a great addition. It also has cool looks such as a black electro-galvanized steel casing with attractive geometric edges and slick grilles. To use this capture card, you'll need to be using a desktop.
If you know your way around a capture card and have the bandwidth to handle 4K streaming, this one is a great pick for $249.99 USD.
10. EVGA XR1
If plug-and-play functionality and unmatched value are the determining factors for your capture card, then the EVGA XR1 could be the right choice. Featuring a 4K passthrough and a built-in audio mixer to take control of your live streams, this capture card is far superior to most of its competitors.
It also comes with customizable ARGB LEDs that show your audio levels, change colors and do a lot more at the touch of a button. Go for it if you are looking for premium performance at a price tag of just $189.99 USD.
Here's another plug-and-play capture card that's exceptionally affordable, yet powerful. The AVERYN Upgraded Audio Video Capture Card offers up to 3840x2160@60HZ High Definition input and 1920×1080@60Hz output max resolution. In addition to making your live streams look and sound better, it comes equipped with many incredible features. HDMI signal loop out, real-time preview, and superior low latency technology, to name a few.
Like its other low-cost rival mentioned earlier, this one is compatible with most devices and operating systems. From Windows, Mac, and Linux, to PS4 and Xbox One – it seamlessly works with all of them. Reasonably priced at $18.99 USD, this is one of the best capture cards for streaming on a budget.
12. Atomos Ninja V
Let's take a look at a high-end capture card now. This one from Atomos is most definitely a capture card designed with the pro live streamer in mind. It comes loaded with capabilities like a 5.2" 10-bit HDR monitor with 1000 nits of output, ProRes RAW recording, and Modular Expansion.
While it weighs just 360g and measures only 25mm thick, you can expect high durability from its sleek aluminum body. The Atomos Ninja V does come at a higher price than most of its rivals, but if you're looking for nothing but the best capture cards for streaming, it's undoubtedly a fantastic deal at $594.99 USD.
The AverMedia Live Gamer BOLT is the perfect combination of looks and performance when it comes to the best capture cards for streaming. While it can easily capture amazing 4Kp60 HDR video content, it can record up to 240 fps in full HD. What's not to like?
Powered by Intel Thunderbolt 3, this one works with both Windows 10 and macOS 10.15 or greater. And its ultra-low latency (less than 50ms) ensures no lag streams. For $449.99 USD, it may seem expensive, but its High Refresh Rate passthrough makes it worth the price!
Bonus Device: Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini
We know, we know. You must be thinking – "What's a video switcher doing in this best capture card buying guide?". But trust us when we say it's a must-have device for every live streamer.
For starters, you don't really need a capture card with the ATEM Mini. And that's because it converts your video feed like magic.
A host of professional live streams use the ATEM from Blackmagic Design. Just connect it, and you can effortlessly switch live up to 4 high-quality video camera inputs. You can even connect a computer for PowerPoint slides, a smartphone, tablet, or your favorite gaming consoles. Loaded with a built-in DVE for some stunning picture-in-picture effects and a USB output that works with any streaming software, it does much more than just switching – starting at $295.00 USD!
Given the features, you might be hard-pressed to buy this terrific device. We had to include the ATEM Mini in this list of best capture cards for live streaming.
You need the best streaming setup to deliver superb broadcasts. We hope this guide helped you get familiar with the best capture cards for streaming. Buy one of these cards to achieve fantastic image quality, low latency, and recording options that you're looking for.
If you're interested in the next live streaming trends, here's a guide that can help: Top Live Streaming Trends For 2021.