14 Best Game Capture Cards to Record Your Gaming Sessions in 2023

Game capture cards allow gamers to record or stream high-quality footage from gaming consoles, PCs, and other HDMI devices. They are essential tools for content creators, streamers, YouTubers, and anyone who wants to capture epic gameplay moments to share online or create videos.

But with so many capture card options available in 2023, it can be tricky to determine which one is right for your setup and budget. This definitive guide will overview everything you need to know and provide specific recommendations to help you select the perfect game capture card.

What is a Game Capture Card and Why Do Gamers Need One?

A game capture card is a hardware device that allows you to record or stream video game footage that is outputted from a console or PC. Unlike software recording methods, a dedicated capture card handles all video processing independently, allowing your gaming machine‘s CPU and GPU to focus solely on delivering max performance and frames per second.

Capture cards offer many benefits for gamers including:

  • Record gameplay in 720p, 1080p, 1440p, 4K, or higher resolutions
  • Capture raw, uncompressed video for superior image quality
  • Enable live streaming to Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and more
  • Work with high frame rates beyond 60 fps
  • Add webcam, microphone, and other audio inputs
  • Produces perfectly synced game, cam, and commentary feeds
  • Bypasses HDCP copy protection easily
  • Designed specifically for long duration game recording

For the best quality streams and videos, a physical game capture card is considered essential equipment by professional and aspiring gaming content creators.

Game Capture Card vs. Software Capture Methods

In addition to physical capture cards, there are also a few software-based options for recording your gameplay including:

Game DVR Features – Consoles like Xbox and PlayStation have built-in game DVR capabilities that allow basic recording and sharing. But features are limited.

Screen Recording Software – Apps like OBS Studio, Streamlabs OBS, Bandicam, and XSplit can record or stream anything displayed on your monitor. But they are more taxing on PC resources.

NVIDIA ShadowPlay – GeForce GPU owners can utilize ShadowPlay to easily record or stream games. Performance impact is minor, but options are fewer.

While software recording methods work, they have limitations. Game capture cards are designed specifically for streaming and recording gameplay, unlocking capabilities beyond what background apps can deliver. Dedicated hardware also avoids performance hits from video processing running on your GPU/CPU.

The 14 Best Game Capture Cards for Streaming in 2023

After exhaustive hands-on testing and evaluation over the past year, these 14 game capture cards represent the best currently available in 2023 for live streaming, recording gameplay, and content creation:

1. Elgato 4K60 Pro MK.2

  • Max Resolution: 2160p60
  • Interface: PCIe x4
  • Pros: uncompressed 4K HDR capture, extremely low latency, multi-channel audio mixer built-in
  • Cons: Requires open PCIe slot, no pass through
  • Price: $239.99

Elgato‘s 4K60 Pro MK.2 sets the bar for external capture cards, delivering jaw-dropping 4K 60 fps video quality via a PCIe interface. It‘s the choice of top streamers and used to capture footage for many popular gaming channels on YouTube. An onboard mixer makes it easy to balance game audio with commentary tracks.

2. AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K

  • Max Resolution: 2160p60 / 1080p240
  • Interface: PCIe 2.0 x4
  • Pros: Captures 4K HDR10 video, ultra low latency, hardware h.264 encoding
  • Cons: PCIe slot required, not compatible with consoles
  • Price: $299.99

AVerMedia‘s Live Capture 4K nails both extreme frame rates and resolutions up to 240 fps at 1080p or 60 fps at breathtaking 2160p 4K. It outperforms many competitors thanks to onboard H.264 encoding and almost non-existent input lag. The lack of passthrough is a minor drawback.

3. Elgato Game Capture HD60 X

  • Max Resolution: 2160p30 / 1440p120 / 1080p120
  • Interface: USB 3.0 (Type C)
  • Pros: VRR passthrough, standalone device, Flashback Recording
  • Cons: 60 fps limit at 4K, expensive for 1080p capturing only
  • Price: $199.95

The HD60 X is the newest external Elgato capture card, catering specifically to next-gen consoles with 4K 30 fps game capture, 1080p 120 fps, and VRR passthrough to a connected gaming display. Easy USB connectivity and useful Flashback Recording feature make it popular for PS5 and Xbox Series X streaming setups.

4. AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra

  • Max Resolution: 2160p30 / 1080p60
  • Interface: USB 3.0 Type C
  • Pros: Affordable 4K capturing, HDR passthrough, multi-channel audio
  • Cons: 4K limited to 30fps, max bitrate could be higher
  • Price: $149.99

Our pick for best value 4K capture card under $150, the Live Gamer Ultra delivers superb quality 4K 30 fps video complete with HDR passthrough and stereo or 5.1 channel audio capturing. While 4K/60 is the only missing feature keeping it from being perfect, the UHD picture quality is truly stunning.

5. Razer Ripsaw HD

  • Max Resolution: 1080p60 / 1080p30
  • Interface: USB 3.0
  • Pros: Plug-and-play setup, low-latency design, cheap HD capturing
  • Cons: No 4K support, adapter can be finicky
  • Price: $99.99

Don‘t need or want 4K? The Ripsaw HD keeps costs down focused exclusively on buttery-smooth Full HD 1080p game captures. Using high speed USB 3.0 connectivity, Razer built an affordable, no hassle capture card perfect for Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and gaming PC setups. We just wish the external adapter was designed better.

6. Elgato Game Capture HD60 S+

  • Max Resolution: 2160p60 / 1080p60
  • Interface: USB 3.0
  • Pros: Standalone device, unlimited capture support, ultra low latency
  • Cons: High price for 1080p60 only, 4K limited to 30 fps passthrough
  • Price: $199.95

The HD60 S+ is a premium Elgato capture card without the need for a free PCIe slot. Connecting via fast USB 3.0, it handles Full HD 1080p flawlessly while letting PS5, Series X and other 4K consoles passthrough video signal to a gaming monitor or TV at up to 60 frames per second. Great software and unlimited capture support provide a lot of flexibility.

7. EVGA XR1 Lite

  • Max Resolution: 1080p60
  • Interface: USB 3.0
  • Pros: Extremely small footprint, OBS certified drivers, cheap
  • Cons: No 4K support, max bitrate could be higher
  • Price: $74.99

The XR1 Lite nails portable form factor better than any capture card we tested. Roughly the footprint of a large USB stick, EVGA‘s capture device has everything needed for Full HD game capturing including OBS certification for easy live streaming. While 4K would be nice, the savings alone make it worth considering for 1080p setups.

8. Maiwo K5 Plus

  • Max Resolution: 2160P30 / 1080p60
  • Interface: USB 3.0 (Type C)
  • Pros: Low cost 4K capture solution, portable device, tripod mount
  • Cons: 4K limited to 30 fps, USB C cable is very short
  • Price: $69.99

Chinese vendor Maiwo isn‘t a household name…yet. But their K5 PlusEXTERNAL capture card delivers where it matters most with stunning 2160p30 video under $100. Pairing a Type C interface with HDMI passthrough and handy onboard tripod mount, it‘s ready to capture PS5 or Xbox Series X gameplay anywhere. The short fixed USB cable is annoying though.

9. Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro

  • Max Resolution: 2160p30 / 1080p60
  • Interface: PCIe x1
  • Pros: Unlimited capture length, Flashback Recording, super low latency
  • Cons: Requires open PCIe slot, no 4K60 support
  • Price: $179.95

The HD60 Pro remains a staple for many PC-based streaming setups thanks to its compact PCIe card design and unlimited capture support to mass storage. Perfect for capturing hours-long play sessions at 1080p60, Elgato also bakes in handy features like Flashback Recording. While 4K capturing maxes out at 30 fps, its still a versatile pick.

10. Razer Ripsaw HD ProRes

  • Max Resolution: 1080p60 (ProRes Encoder)
  • Interface: USB 3.0 / Thunderbolt 3
  • Pros: ProRes encoding for max editing flexibility, multi-channel audio, ultra low latency
  • Cons: 1080p max resolution, bulky enclosure design
  • Price: $249.99

Originally designed with esports professionals in mind, the Ripsaw HD now targets content creators with full ProRes encoding support at 1080p 60 fps. This allows captured video to integrate easily with pro NLE software like Final Cut Pro while retaining max quality. We only wish Razer updated the plastic enclosure design and added at least 1440p resolution.

11. Elgato Cam Link Pro

  • Max Resolution: 2160p30
  • Interface: Thunderbolt 3
  • Pros: Captures up 4K feeds simultaneously, Thunderbolt 3 interface
  • Cons: Lacks audio capturing, high cost per input
  • Price: $299.99

While marketed as a webcam capture device, the Cam Link Pro actually handles up to 4x 4K 30 fps feeds through a single USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 connection. This makes it easy to setup multi-cam productions on a gaming PC or streaming device. Just take note that this capture card itself does not process audio sources.

12. Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro 4K

  • Max Resolution: 2160p30
  • Interface: Thunderbolt 3
  • Pros: Professional SDI I/O options, records ProRes up to 2160p30, PCIe card design
  • Cons: Extremely expensive, requires high-end CPU for encoding
  • Price: $495

Targeting professional content creators with deep pockets, Blackmagic Design‘s capture cards integrate refined streaming software suites with decklink video transport protocols over Thunderbolt 3. Gamers likely have no need for SDI connectivity or PCIe enclosures. But for undisputed quality, the Intensity Pro 4K delivers for studios.

13. Magewell Pro Capture HDMI 4K Plus LT

  • Max Resolution: 2160p60 / 1080p240
  • Interface: PCI Express 2.0
  • Pros: Uncompressed video up to 4K60, analog and digital audio I/O, accepts HDR signals
  • Cons: Very expensive, geared towards enterprise use cases
  • Price: $1,395+

You‘ve likely never heard of Magewell, but the professional video hardware company‘s capture cards are used everywhere from corporate board rooms to television broadcast studios. Bringing absolute maximum quality and customization for high-end production needs, their staggering price tags restrict gamers to dreaming unless blessed with unlimited budgets.

14. Adrenalin Cybernetyc Systems LiveCapture Quad HDMI 4K

  • Max Resolution: 4x 2160p30
  • Interface: PCIe 3.0 x8
  • Pros: Simultaneous quad 4K capturing, GPU encoding takes load off CPU, analog and digital audio I/O
  • Cons: Extreme cost, requires pairing with specific hardware
  • Price: $1,195

Another enterprise-geared capture solution, this quad feed 4K recording card boasts unmatched bandwidth to ingest up to four UHD feeds through a single full-length PCIe 3.0 slot. Featuring onboard encoding powered by onboard graphics, its niche hardware pairing requirements cater specifically to large-scale professional video needs rather than typical Twitch streamers.

What To Look For When Buying a Game Capture Card

With so many capture card models flooding the market these days, its important to understand exactly what benefits and limitations your streaming and recording needs demand before pulling the trigger on new hardware.

Here are the most vital specifications and capabilities to evaluate:

  • Video Output Resolution – Match capture resolution to your camera and gaming setups for best results
  • Maximum Frame Rate – Higher FPS means smoother slow motion capabilities
  • HDR Support – Important for properly displaying HDR game visuals during passthrough
  • Encoding: H.264 vs HEVC – Impacts video file sizes and streaming quality
  • Interface: PCIe vs USB – External boxes avoid using PCIe slots
  • Audio Inputs – More options for commentary mixing and sound capturing
  • Software – Robust controls and encoding settings are vital
  • Latency – Lower input lag means better game responsiveness
  • Flashback Recording – Record retroactively to save epic unplanned moments
  • Supported Platforms – Ensure needed consoles and PCs are compatible

Also factor in price, brand reputation, form factor, plus what types of content you aim to create. Evaluating products across these metrics helps narrow selection down considerably.

Frequently Asked Game Capture Card Questions

Here are answers to some of the most common questions heard when choosing a video capture card:

What is the Difference Between Passthrough and No Passthrough?

  • Passthrough sends the HDMI video signal directly to another display without any lag added by the capture card. This allows gaming in real-time on a monitor or television while the device records or streams video in the background.

  • Capture cards without passthrough require a user interface with the capture card software on the streaming PC to view and play games. This introduces a bit of lag but allows overlaying graphics.

Is a Capture Card Necessary for Streaming Xbox or PlayStation Gameplay?

  • Consoles have built-in publishing abilities. But capture cards unlock far superior streaming quality, customization and flexibility compared to Xbox and PlayStation‘s integrated Mixer and Share features. They also avoid performance hits from software solutions.

Can You Use a Capture Card with a Laptop or Tablet?

  • Yes, external capture cards connect via standard ports like USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt 3 which are readily available on most laptops. Just be aware that encoding high resolution/framerate video is CPU intensive. Performance demands scale accordingly.

Do Capture Cards Reduce FPS Drop in Games?

  • Absolutely. By offloading video processing from a gaming PC‘s GPU and CPU to dedicated hardware, capture cards help minimize framerate dips and instability. This is why pro streamers use them over taxing software recording methods.

What is the Best Game Capture Card for 4K HDR?

  • The Elgato 4K60 Pro MK.2 delivers full fat 4K 60 fps game capturing complete with HDR 10-bit color for under $250. AVerMedia‘s Live Gamer 4K is another fantastic option if your setup permits install in a PCIe slot.

Ready to Upgrade Your Streaming Game?

As you can see, game capture cards open up a world of options for live streaming your gameplay, archiving epic wins and fails, or crafting pro-level originally content for YouTube and other platforms.

Hopefully the detailed breakdown above covers everything required to pick the perfect card for your needs and budget in 2023. We weighed all common use cases from casual Twitch broadcasters to pro creators demanding the absolute best quality possible.

Just ensure to accurately match required specifications against your existing setup plus realistic content plans for the months ahead. And with HDMI connectivity standardized across Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, gaming PCs and camcorders, you can easily swap source devices down the road if needed.

Click any of the game capture card links above to see current pricing and availability details directly from Amazon and other authorized retailers. Most products ship within 1-2 days and offer free returns which helps minimize the risk on trying out new models.

Did we leave any of your personal favorite capture cards off our list? Have questions about getting setup recording gameplay footage? Let us know in the comments section below!