How to Choose The Best Capture Card for Streaming

When it comes to streaming, the most important part of your setup is your capture card. This piece of hardware is responsible for capturing your gameplay and delivering it to your viewers. A capture card is a small, dedicated device that helps you record or stream video from your computer to a TV.

This guide will help you choose the best capture card for streaming without overwhelming you with too much information. If you’re going to stream gaming footage, a gaming capture card is likely the best option. However, if you plan on streaming videos from your camera or phone, a general-purpose card will be more appropriate.

What is a capture card, and what are its uses?

A capture card is a device that captures incoming video and audio data, processes it, and passes it on as output. Capturing an image and turning it into data is called digitizing. Capturing audio and turning it into data is the same thing.

What’s important to note here is that for a capture card to work, it needs something to capture. In terms of streaming, this means your computer isn’t powerful enough on its own to process games and send a signal. You need to connect a video capture device, such as a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One to your computer and capture card. That way, you can stream your gameplay and send it to your viewers.

How to choose the best capture card for your needs

Before you choose the perfect capture card for you, it’s important to come up with a list of priorities. Here are some things to consider:

In most cases, you’ll want to have an idea of what capture card you’d like before you begin shopping. For example, if you’re a streamer of PlayStation 4 and PC games, then chances are you’ll want to use the Elgato game capture card. That’s because it can support two platforms at once, which leaves you with more options and fewer limitations.

The different types of capture cards available on the market

Capture cards are available in different types, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. As you shop around for the best deal, keep the following types of capture cards in mind.

External vs. internal capture cards

There are two types of capture cards available for purchase: external and internal. External capture cards are external devices that connect to your computer’s USB port, which means you can use them with any computer. Unfortunately, external devices are limited by the length of the cable you use, not to mention that they need power.

Internal capture cards are connected directly to your PC’s PCI port. This means you can’t use them with every PC, but they don’t require external power, and you don’t have to worry about cables getting in the way.

Factors to consider when purchasing a capture card

1. Compatible platforms

The best capture card for you is one that can support the platforms you want to play on. For example, if you want to stream PC games and PlayStation 4, then your best bet is a device such as the Elgato HD60. This capture card is compatible with PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

2. Number of sources you want to capture

Some capture cards support only one source at a time, which means if you want to stream on two platforms at once, you’ll need one card for each. Others support many sources at a time, which means you can stream and capture whatever you want without interruption.

3. How much video lag do I need?

Video lag is the amount of time it takes for your video source to show up on the screen. This is especially important if you’re streaming competitive games that require split-second reflexes. Standard lag time is about 30 milliseconds, while anything below 15 ms is low enough for competitive gaming.

The pros and cons of using a capture card for streaming

Pros

The best part about using a capture card is that it captures audio and video in real-time, right off your computer screen (or wherever your content is coming from). This means that it gives you more options for streaming and allows you to stream more easily.

Cons

The biggest con of using a capture card is that you’ll need to have your computer on at all times. If you want to stream content from a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, then make sure you have a designated PC for streaming.

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Final Thoughts

Cards vary widely in price, and the difference between standard and advanced models isn’t always clear. A good rule of thumb is to opt for whatever gives you more flexibility because a capture card is a long-term investment.

Capture cards are available in different types, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. As you shop around for the best deal, keep the following types of capture cards in mind.

1. External vs. internal capture cards

2. Number of sources you want to capture

3. How much video lag do I need?

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the types of capture cards?

Capture cards are available in two different types: external and internal.

What do I need my capture card to do?

The best capture card for you is one that can support the platforms you want to play on.

What is the best capture card to buy?

The best capture card for you is one that can support the platforms you want to play on.

John Jeffries
John Jeffries is a tech writer who specializes in laptop and PC hardware. He has been writing about technology for over 3 years, and his work has been featured in major publications such as Thrive Global.