What is a Capture Card?

If you’re watching a lot of streamers online, then you’ll probably notice that a lot of them manage to stream their console gaming devices, like a Playstation, onto their computer. But if you go ahead and try to do this yourself by connecting your console to your laptop, then you won’t actually get any video on your screen.

This is because a laptop is actually only designed to be able to output – if you connect it to a TV or an external monitor, then you can easily stream whatever is on your laptop screen onto that monitor, right? Well, the external device has input video capabilities which allow it to do this. But, your laptop doesn’t have this, so you can’t show another devices screen on your laptop (like connecting your phone to your laptop, for example).

One way that you can do this is with a capture card. This can give your laptop or PC the ability to receive video data, and it’s relatively easy to set up too. So, let’s find out a little bit more about capture cards.

What is a capture card?

Essentially, a capture card is just a device that you can use to stream from your Playstation, Xbox or Nintendo Switch onto your PC. This isn’t usually possible without the use of a capture card, as a PC or laptop doesn’t typically allow video input.

A lot of people wonder how they can project whatever they’re playing on their consoles onto their laptop, so they can stream online. Think Twitch – how do console gamers manage to get their gaming activity to stream online, even though it isn’t typically possible with a regular HDMI cable and no additional device? Well, the answer is a capture card.

How does a capture card work?

A capture card works by essentially just adding those input data receiver capabilities to your laptop. So, your laptop or computer will then be able to receive data from external devices, like your phone or a camera. If you’re trying to connect two computers together, then it follows a pattern like this;

GPU from PC #1 > Capture Card to receive data > Display on PC #2

Capture card are increasing in popularity in recent years, with so many new streamers out there that need to be able to do this. Obviously, if you’re streaming directly from your PC or laptop, then you’ll have no need for a capture card. But if you want to stream onto a computer from a console or even a camera, a capture card is the way to do this.

Which capture card should I buy?

SaleBestseller No. 1
Elgato Game Capture HD60 S - Stream and Record in 1080p60, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One & Xbox 360
State-of-the-art USB 3.0 Type C connection; Built-in live streaming to Twitch, YouTube & more
SaleBestseller No. 2
Elgato HD60 S+ 1080p60 HDR10 Game Capture Capture with 4K60 HDR10 Zero-Lag Passthrough, Ultra-Low Technology, Black
Capture your gameplay in good 1080 pixel 60 HDR10 quality (HDR capture only on Windows); Power your workflow with ultra-low-latency instant Gameview technology
SaleBestseller No. 3
Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro - Stream and Record in 1080p60, Superior Low Latency Technology, H.264 Hardware Encoding, PCIe
Stream and record your Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii U gameplay; Stunning 1080p quality with 60 fps

If you’re going to purchase a capture card, then I’d advise that you stay with the higher quality ones made by brands like Elgato. Why? Well, because ith cheaper capture cards you’re going to have a significant delay in the amount of time between your device and the PC/laptop you’re streaming on to.

With an Elgato capture card, you can stream in almost real time, and you can stream in high resolutions like 1080p or even 4K if you want to. So whilst it might be tempting to spend as little as possible on a capture card, it’s one area where you can’t buy cheap and save money, as often the cheaper capture cards aren’t made to the same standard.

Is it worth getting a capture card?

If you’re a console gamer looking to stream on Twitch, then it’s definitely worth getting a capture card, which can give you the ability to stream from cosnole to computer.

But if you’re a PC gamer, then it’s not worth getting a capture card, as there are other ways that you can stream directly from your PC or laptop. You can use a software like Xsplit to do this, and it will allow you to stream directly from your device.

It’s also not worth getting a capture card if you have a certain variation of Alienware laptop (M15-M19), which have a HDMI input port. These laptops are perfect for gamers (and they make good laptops for web developers too), and they’re designed with steaming in mind.

Conclusion

All in all, a capture card is the best way for you to capture the action on your console and stream it through to your computer. They’re an essential piece of kit for any aspiring streamer, and they’re much higher in quality now than they have been in recent years. So, if you want the ability to stream to your PC/laptop, then you’ll need to pick up a good capture card.

About Jon

Hey, I'm Jon. I'm an engineer by trade, so it makes sense that I'm obsessed with anything technology related! On the weekends, you can find me playing around with my computers or fixing something around the house. Feel free to leave a comment if you want to get in touch.

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