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 HD60 S Capture Card, 1080p 60 Capture, Zero-Lag Passthrough, Ultra-Low Latency, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, USB 3.0
Stunning 1080p quality with 60 fps State-of-the-art USB 3.0 Type C connection; State-of-the-art USB 3.0 Type C connection
Bestseller No. 2
Elgato Game Capture HD - Xbox and PlayStation High Definition Game Recorder for Mac and PC, Full HD 1080p
Record your Xbox, PlayStation or Wii U gameplay to a Mac or PC; Built-in live streaming to YouTube and Twitch
Bestseller No. 3
Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro - 4K 60fps capture card with ultra-low latency technology for recording PS4 Pro and Xbox One X gameplay, PCIe x4
Ultra quality: capture your gameplay in immaculate 4K resolution at 60 fps; Instant Gameview: power your workflow with superior low latency technology

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.

Can capture card capture audio?

Another common question about capture cards is whether they can record audio. If you’re going to be streaming your action through to another device, then you’ll want the sound to go through with it.

The good news is that most capture cards will have everything you need to be able to record and stream both your video and audio content. When you plug your capture card in, you may need to check your microphone settings. Allowing your capture card to access your microphone is necessary if you want to record audio.

If you’re having problems with the audio in your capture card, then something that can help is updating your drivers. A common issue faced with the Avermedia Live Gamer Extreme capture card is a lack of audio, and the most common solution is a quick driver update.

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.

Capture cards are still a great way for you to get your streaming career started. 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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