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Desktops & Components

Best Video Capture Card

A video capture card is a computer component which facilitates the capture of video and audio for playback/editing and saves it to a hard drive or SD card. These cards are frequently used to stream and record data while PC gaming, or from a console game through a computer, but they can also be used for digitizing analog video. There are also external video capture devices that can be used to input and record video and audio either from a secondary source or from the computer itself, but this list focuses on internal components.

These best video capture cards were chosen because they give you the best picture quality thanks to support for up to 1080i HD video, so you can easily control the resolution and size of your video. They support at least HDMI and DVI connections, though included adapters may be necessary for certain video types with these cards. All of these models also include pass through performance that lets you play a game or use other software in real time while also recording what you are doing without creating any delay or lag.

AVerMedia C985 Live Gamer HD 1080 Capture Card

If you're looking for an easy solution to capturing HD video up to 1080p from your computer and recording it for later use, then this is as good as it gets. This component installs easily using just a PCIe slot on a motherboard and works with whatever additional hardware you have (such as a dedicated video card and audio card). Once connected, AVerMedia provides intuitive video recording software with various settings you can select for capturing and streaming what you do.

Honestly, this is one of the easiest cards to use because it includes a button that connects to the card and sits outside of your computer to easily stop and start your recording at will, eliminating the need for a hotkey. While the card itself only has a pair of HDMI connections for video, a DVI to HDMI adapter is included so you can use it with DVI connections. A pair of 3.5mm audio ports is included with this card as well.

Hauppauge Colossus PCI Express Internal HD-PVR

This card from Hauppauge lives up to its name pretty well since it's quite a large component that offers you a lot of choices for video streaming and capture. You get options for a few different recording formats with this card, including up to 1080i from an external component and both NTSC and PAL for recording from your computer. This card has an HDMI input for high-definition component video but keep in mind it only works with un-encrypted HDMI sources.

One of the best features of this card is it includes a ton of adapters for AV cable input and output, which gives you a lot of video recording options. This card even includes IR technology to work as a remote control for your TV system or cable box, changing the channel or input to work more efficiently with your other hardware. This internal card is easy to use and set up but requires a system with a Windows OS and a PCIe slot. And while the included software is decent enough for recording and sharing video, there are better options to be had out there.

Elgato Systems Game Capture HD High 1080p Definition Game Recorder

This is probably your best overall option if you primarily want a video capture card for streaming or recording video games on your PC or via a console. It offers the absolute best video performance possible since it can capture HD video up to 1080p at 60 fps, which is as good as or better than any other card out there. The specs are a bit of overkill if you’re looking to just do some casual video capture, but the quality can make you stand out among other streamers and gamers posting videos.

This card features Flashback Recording which lets you go back on your computer to a previous spot in your gaming and start recording, even if you weren’t already recording. You can easily stream your video along with some neat features to add custom overlays (such as a webcam) during recording for editing and later use. The included software is also very intuitive, making it easy to stream, record, and edit your video. Although you can buy adapters for other input types, this video capture card works best ideal with an HDMI input or just working right off your computer.

AVerMedia DarkCrystal HD Capture Pro

This video capture solution installs into a PCIe slot on your motherboard, and the software that AVerMedia includes with this card is easy to use and gives you all the options you need. You get up to 1080i HD video with this card which is great for casual use but it lacks some of the picture quality and clarity of 1080p. While this card only has an HDMI input, it includes an adapter that gives you S-Video, composite, and component connections for more  functionality than other capture cards. You’ll have to set up your own hotkey to indicate when the card should start and stop recording which makes it a little less convenient than having a dedicated start/stop button. While this isn't a huge issue, it's something to consider if you're concerned with overall ease of use.

StarTech High-definition PCIe Capture Card

This is a good video capture card from StarTech which has excellent  support for up to 1080p HD video at 60 fps, both from within a computer and from external components. Despite the impressive level of performance, this card lacks a physical HDMI port but there is a DVI connector and HDMI adapter provided. This is not a major issue but something to consider if you primarily use HDMI cables since the adapter adds an unnecessary element.

This video card offers support for a wide range of standards, such as NTSC, PAL, and MPEG4, plus it works with many multiple versions of Windows.  While the high frame rate is impressive, the biggest issue with this card is it's rather high price point. However, this is an excellent option if you find it on sale below the suggested retail price.

Greg Wiesen
With an AA in Computer Animation, I have spent years building computers and playing video games. I learned early on that the best way to figure out a new software program was to just start pushing buttons and see what happens (saving often, of course), and that is still my philosophy. From hard drives and motherboards to graphics cards and "holographic" keyboards, I enjoy checking out and playing with all the tech I can get my hands on. I have written hundreds of informative computer and technology articles in the past, and I believe that anyone can understand and use a computer. I'll worry about research and trying out different hardware, you just enjoy the results.
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