Streaming devices review: 10 capture cards tested

The best way to stream or record

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Test

For starters we recorded a lossless video of Tom Clancy's The Division, at a resolution of 1920x1080 on Ultra settings (with AA disabled) and 60 fps. After this we played this video back and made a recording of it using all capture cards using bit rates of 10 Mbps and 60 Mbps (if possible). Unfortunately the devices turned out to not be frame-accurate, which means that we weren't able to use objective criteria such as PSNR or SSIM to judge the quality of our recordings. Instead we judged the files subjectively, also by looking at individual frames. In addition to the image quality we also measured the amount of processing power and memory required when the products are recording, as we mentioned before.

We've tested ten capture cards: two from Elgato, Hauppauge, Avermedia and Startech, and one from Razer and Terratec. We will discuss them by brand on the following pages. All of the devices are external USB devices, except for the Startech PEXHDCAP60L, a PCI-Express plug-in card. In general the devices are meant to be used with a second PC, however three of them can record independently on a USB stick or SD card. Nearly all cards use an HDMI 'pass-through': they have to be installed in between the graphics card and the monitor of the primary display, after which a USB cable containing the image signal goes to the second system.

Most consoles are compatible with capture cards, as long as you disable HDCP (which does mean that you won't be able to playback Blu-rays or DVDs). The only exception to this is the Playstation 3, as its HDMI output is hard to use with an external capture device due to its HDCP settings. For this reason many of the devices have a special AV input meant for this console. We refer you to the specifications of the devices to find out whether a device has such an input or not.


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