The one factor that distinguishes just “gamers” from streamers is the process of recording gameplay in a high-quality format. The component that’s directly responsible for doing that is the capture card. You definitely need one if you want to show off your legendary gaming moments and make them live on in history.

Of course, there’s a wide range of streamers out there, and they all have varying requirements. Some prefer to stream in 1080p and others in 4K; some in 30 FPS and others in 60 FPS. No matter which niche you fall into, I’m confident that you’ll find the right capture card for yourself on this list.

What Exactly is a Capture Card?

Unless you’ve been a part of the live streaming industry, it’s safe to say that you probably don’t know a whole lot about capture cards. It’s simply not a component that the average PC gamer considers. So, let’s talk about what a capture card is, what it’s good at, and why it’s necessary for a high-quality and professional stream.

At its core, a capture card is responsible for “capturing” the audio and video source from a PC or console and converting it into digital data to either be streamed live online or to be recorded and stored on an HDD or SSD.

Capture cards come in two forms: internal and external. Internal ones connect directly into the PC’s motherboard PCIe slot whereas external ones use a combination of HDMI and USB cables.

Of course, this is only the technical aspect of capture cards. Aesthetics, software, and case compatibility matter just as much as any other component. We’ll discuss those points further in each review. So, now that you know some facts about capture cards, let’s dive into our list of the top 5 best ones for streamers in 2022…

Top 5 Best Capture Cards for Streamers in 2022:

1. Elgato HD60 S+ – Best All Round

SPECS:

  • Max Quality (Capture): 1080p
  • Max Quality (Passthrough): 4K
  • Max Framerate: 60 FPS
  • Connectivity: USB

Elgato, owned by Corsair, has pretty much dominated the capture card market. The Elgato HD60 S+ stands at the forefront of their product line and is their most popular and highly-rated offering. It’s the right pick for anyone who wants to get going with a decent stream quality without much hassle in terms of opening up their PC and messing around with software.

Let’s talk about the most important feature of all: capturing. The HD60 S+ can easily record gameplay at 1080p 60 FPS; you can push it to 4K, but then your framerate would be bottlenecked down to 30 FPS. In terms of compatibility, it works with PC, consoles, and Mac.

When it comes down to it, the Elgato HD60 S+ is your best bet if you’re new to the streaming niche and want to get your channel off the ground as fast as possible.

Pros

  • HDR10 capability
  • Includes an editing suite for trimming your videos
  • Useful Flashback Recording feature for the moments where you forget to hit “Record”

Cons

  • Requires a mid-range PC to function properly

2. AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus – Best on a Budget

SPECS:

  • Max Quality (Capture): 1080p
  • Max Quality (Passthrough): 4K
  • Max Framerate: 60 FPS
  • Connectivity: USB

If you’re on a budget but still want the convenience and benefits of a capture card AVerMedia has you covered with their Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus. Despite the lower price tag compared to other options like the Razer Ripsaw HD and the Elgato HD60 S+, it doesn’t skimp on any technical capabilities.

First of all, it can easily stream at 1080p 60 FPS and also offers 4K passthrough. This means that even if you’re not recording in 4K, you can still enjoy your game at that resolution nonetheless.

Being an external card, there’s also the option of PC-free recording, opening up the possibility of console-based streaming too. Moreover, this capture card also allows you to store your recorded content on a Micro SD card, which is definitely convenient. Besides that, it also sports a gamer-friendly aesthetic, a portable form-factor, and plug-and-play functionality.

Pros

  • 4K60 passthrough
  • Vibrant RGB lights
  • Extra features like headset commentary and console party chat

Cons

  • Not yet updated to support the Apple M1 chip

3. Razer Ripsaw HD – Best Value for Money

SPECS:

  • Max Quality (Capture): 1080p
  • Max Quality (Passthrough): 4K
  • Max Framerate: 60 FPS
  • Connectivity: USB

Razer makes some killer peripherals, like keyboards, mice, and headphones, but the Ripsaw HD proves that they’re not far behind with capture cards either. Sporting a stealthy and elegant design, this capture card excels strikes a balance between performance and price.

The only downside to this capture card is that it lacks any proprietary software: you can only use OBS or XSplit. This shouldn’t be a problem for most streamers, as they use those by default in the first place. Since it doesn’t include any software, it comes with physical mic and headphone jacks, which definitely adds a level of convenience and professionality.

Everything considered, the Ripsaw HD might not be the cheapest capture card on this list, but it definitely provides the best value for your money.

Pros

  • Optimized for XBOX
  • 1080p60 streaming and 4K60 passthrough
  • Great build quality and design

Cons

  • Lacks any proprietary software

4. EVGA XR1 – Best for Audio Mixing

SPECS:

  • Max Quality (Capture): 1080p
  • Max Quality (Passthrough): 4K
  • Max Framerate: 60 FPS
  • Connectivity: USB

Although EVGA is mostly known for their graphics cards and AIO coolers, with the XR1 they’ve also offered a solid capture card. Besides offering the general features that other capture cards offer, like 1080p 60 FPS recording and 4K passthrough, it also has an extra premium feature in the form of an audio mixer.

Placed prominently on top of the device, it not only has a big control dial to adjust mic input and game volume, but also shows sound levels with a series of LEDs. Besides that, it has USB 3.0 for the lowest latency possible on an external capture card and also allows you to use a DSLR camera as your webcam. If you’re going that route, be sure to check out my post on the Best DSLR Cameras for Streamers.

Overall, the EVGA XR1 is an impressive standalone external capture card, but it also offers good aesthetics and an audio mixer to add to that. So, it’s a perfect pick for streamers who have a knack for audio mixing.

Pros

  • Certified for OBS
  • Built-in audio mixer
  • Compatible with a DSLR webcam

Cons

  • Expensive

5. Elgato 4K60 Pro MK.2 – Best for 4K Streaming

SPECS:

  • Max Quality (Capture): 4K
  • Max Quality (Passthrough): 4K
  • Max Framerate: 60 FPS
  • Connectivity: PCIe x4

If you’re a high-end streamer who just wants the best quality possible and has a big budget, no need to look further than the Elgato 4K60 Pro MK.2. Although you’ll need a beast of a PC to fully utilize it, with a max bitrate 140 MBPS, it’s your best option if you want to provide the highest resolution and framerate for your stream viewers.

Being an internal capture card, the Elgato 4K60 Pro MK.2 is likely to experience a lot of heat inside your PC case as well. Fortunately, armored with a black electrogalvanized-steel casing along with multiple grills, it also has solid build quality to protect itself and last long term without any issues.

The Elgato 4K60 Pro MK.2 is meant for a small niche market in terms of the price level and feature set, but it satisfies that specific purpose very well. So, if you fall into the category of a high-end streamer, definitely give this one a try!

Pros

  • Makes 4K60 streaming possible
  • No setup is required aside from installation; plug and play
  • Stealthy design

Cons

  • Expensive; only viable for professional streamers

Frequently Asked Questions

Internal or External Capture Card: Which is Better?

As you might’ve noticed, this list includes both external and internal capture cards. So, you might be wondering, which one is better for live streaming? The answer is that it depends on your budget level and use case.

There are several differences between the two, but the primary one is that internal capture cards connect directly to your PC’s motherboard via a PCIe slot, whereas external capture cards use an HDMI and USB connection.

Although internal capture cards offer the lowest latency possible, they generally sell at a premium and can only be used on a desktop PC. On the other hand, external capture cards aren’t as fast but are budget-friendly and portable too. So, it just comes down to your specific requirements.

From the above list, when it comes to external capture cards, some of the best options are the Elgato HD60 S+ and the Razer Ripsaw HD; for internal ones, the Elgato 4K60 Pro MK.2 is a great option.

Why Not Just Use OBS Instead?

Throughout this article, you might be asking yourself, “Why buy a dedicated capture card when I can just use OBS or some other third-party capture software instead?” The truth is, that might work for some streamers, but overall if you want to have a high-quality stream, a capture card is essential. Here’s why.

With software like that, you are putting a lot of extra load on your PC. Beside running the game you’re playing and doing other minor tasks in the background, it also has to capture and encode your gameplay live. This can lower your framerate significantly, especially if you want to stream at a high bit-rate.

Of course, 5th Gen Ryzen CPUs as well as 11th Gen Intel Alder Lake CPUs have gotten pretty good at multitasking performance. However, there’s really nothing like a dedicated capture card. It will not only give you a smooth and high-quality stream but also make your PC run smoothly.

Which is the Best Capture Card for Console Streaming?

There is also a small niche of live streamers who don’t use a PC; only a console like a PS5 or Xbox One X. If you’re one of those, fear not! This list still has you covered. 

As a console streamer, you have many options at hand if you want to stream. If you’re on XBOX, you can get Facebook Gaming or the official Twitch app. To add to that, PlayStation also offers competitive options. In fact, Nintendo Switch is the only one that doesn’t have any kind of in-built streaming tools.

However, the same issue with PCs comes into light here. Because these consoles don’t really have the processing power necessary to run games, capture them, and stream them at the same time, the result can often be stuttery and glitchy. An external capture card can help carry the extra load so to say, and make for an error-free and smooth stream.

In terms of that, the three best options on this list are the Razer Ripsaw HD, the EVGA XR1, and the Elgato HD60 S+. If you’re a console gamer — XBOX, PlayStation, or Switch — you can’t go wrong with any of these. They mostly serve the same function with slight variations in price and features.

Wrap Up

These are the top five best capture cards you can buy in 2022. Not only do they have impressive overall technical capabilities but each of them also has some unique features which make them especially suitable for niche users.

For example, the EVGA XR1 has an in-built audio mixer, which makes it perfect for streamers who consider sound just as important as video for their content. On the other hand, the Elgato 4K60 Pro MK.2 has a PCIe connection, which makes data transfer speeds blazingly fast. With that being said, here’s a quick round-up of all the capture cards we discussed in this article:

  • Elgato HD60 S+ is Best All Round
  • AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus is Best on a Budget
  • Razer Ripsaw HD is Best Value for Money
  • EVGA XR1 is Best for Audio Mixing
  • Elgato 4K60 Pro MK.2 is Best for 4K Streaming
Author

Devansh is a writer and blogger who is just as passionate about PC hardware as he is about literature. He often spends his free time wading through the latest releases, industry news, and hardware benchmarks just for fun. His goal is to help fellow hardware enthusiasts and gamers make better and more informed choices regarding their PCs and battlestations.