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Capture card

What is a capture card?

A capture card is a hardware device that allows you to record and stream video signals from different sources. They’re widely used in gaming, streaming, and video production to capture video content from one device and send it to another, usually a computer, for recording or streaming. Capture cards are often used to live stream gameplay from a console, like a PS5, to a computer.

Types of capture cards

There are two types of capture cards: internal and external.

  • Internal: Installed inside a computer and tends to have lower latency and higher-quality recording.
  • External: Connected to a computer via USB or another type of connection and is easier to install than an internal capture card.

What capture cards are used for

Capture cards have three primary functions: gaming, content creation and video production.

  1. Gaming: If you want to capture gameplay from a gaming console like a PS5 or Xbox, and stream it using your computer, then you need a capture card.
  2. High-quality content creation: You can use a capture card to capture high-quality footage from other sources like DSLR cameras or camcorders. It’s also useful for capturing video from another computer.
  3. Event video production: For live virtual events with multiple cameras, you need a capture card to capture the video feeds from all of your camera sources.

What to look for in a good capture card

When you want to purchase a capture card, keep these four things in mind:

  1. Resolution and frame rate: Not all capture cards have the same recording ability; some only go up to 1080p or 30fps.
  2. Bundled software: To use the capture card with your computer, you’ll need to install the software that comes with it (or use a third-party option). Look for easy-to-use software that has all the features and capabilities you want.
  3. Input type: Capture cards usually have ports for HDMI, but some cards have other types of ports. Check the compatibility with the streaming source you want to use.
  4. Connection type: Check how the capture card connects to your computer. For most cards it’s via USB, but some also use PCIe.

New and improved capture cards come out every year, but there are a few brands that consistently make high-quality capture cards. These brands include:

  • Elgato
  • AVerMedia
  • Blackmagic Design
  • Razer

For a full list and reviews of the best capture cards for live streaming, check out our guide to the best capture cards.

Is a capture card better than OBS?

OBS Studio is a live streaming software that can be used to capture gameplay or anything else on your computer, but it’s not helpful if you want to record from another device, like a gaming console or a camcorder. A capture card also typically has higher-quality and lower-latency video capture than OBS.

The best choice for your streaming setup depends on what kind of streams you’re doing. If you’re doing gameplay or running a virtual event, a capture card might be a worthwhile investment. If your live streams don’t require capturing footage from another source, you can just use OBS Studio.

Do capture cards affect FPS?

Some capture cards are limited to capturing video at a certain frame rate, such as 30fps or 60fps. Be sure to check the specs on a capture card before you purchase it. Using a capture card shouldn’t slow down your frame rate, however.