Elgato Game Capture HD Review

The recently released Game Capture HD by Elgato has been making quite the scene lately in the YouTube gaming community, mainly because it’s the first real competition the Hauppauge HD PVR 2 has ever had.

The real attraction though is quality.  The Game Capture HD is currently the highest-quality-by-the-numbers external capture device on the market under $200.  At 30Mbps, it’s recording quality is essentially double that of the HD PVR 2.  While visually, that might not mean a whole lot aside from slightly improved clarity and color depth, in editing it proves invaluable.  Essentially speaking, the higher the bitrate, the more video you have to work with, which means you have more latitude for color correction.  Add to that the Game Capture’s ability to record in true 1080p (30fps max) via HDMI, and you’re left with a remarkably high quality HDMI recorder.

Drift0r’s review

I mistakenly mention that he does a side by side comparison with the newer HD PVR 2 when it’s actually just the original HD PVR.  However, the difference in recording quality between the two PVRs is roughly 2Mbps, which isn’t really all that great of a difference.  Being able to record via HDMI does improve the image quality quite a bit, but at such a low bitrate, the HD PVR 2′s quality is still inferior to the Game Capture HD’s in my opinion.

What makes the Game Capture HD really stand out though, for me at least, is the software behind it. Elgato really spent some time and money developing their software whereas everyone else seems to just throw together the simplest recording software they can before release.  In addition to recording, the Game Capture HD software functions as a simple editor and is eventually going to support live commentary (recording your voice and gameplay simultaneously) and livestreaming (via twitch.tv) straight from within the software itself, rather than having to rely on software like Xsplit to capture the preview window.  It’s obvious that Elgato knows what they’re doing when it comes to software and they’re good at making it look good and work well.

Some minor issues I have with the software/device are that you can’t turn off the Flashback Recording, which hogs CPU cycles and storage, bogging down other programs trying to access the drive being used for storage and impact system performance overall.  To the best of my knowledge and experience, the software needs to be opened and the capture card needs to be plugged into the computer running the software for it to display the pass-through signal.  Once the pass-through starts working you can close the software, but it’s still an annoyance.  Power via USB is also required for it to function, even just as a pass-through device.  Lastly, the way the card/software handles audio is somewhat finicky.  All games are mastered a little differently, some are louder than others, some are quieter than others.  The Game Capture software has no auto-adjust feature that senses your audio is too low or too high and changes the gain accordingly.  My experience with the original HD PVR was that it seemed to normalize all the audio running through it (think sound check in iTunes or on your iPod) so that it was always the right volume.  Hopefully, Elgato addresses these issues in future updates.

In summary, the Game Capture HD is easily the highest quality, sub-$200 HDMI recorder on the market today.  With a robust package of simple yet functional software behind it, the Game Capture HD stands out as the new standard of gameplay capture quality.  Despite some minor software and hardware annoyances, it is the device to beat this year for gameplay capture.

  • http://twitter.com/DDaron Tom

    I bought the Elgato to capture PC footage. Works great.

    • overwatch

      Tom,

      Can you go into your process for PC capture? Are you using two PCs, with a display mirrored over HDMI to the elgato? Do you run into HDCP issues? I’m considering picking many of these up for my organization and can’t find many people using them in this way, so I need workflow tips / to know if the device will work!

  • Component?

    Already have an HD capture card, and not planning on changing, but as a PS3 user it would have been nice to hear about using the Elgato through component.

    • BOSS jediZOHAN

      PS3 users are stuck recording 1080i footage with all the major capture devices. What sets the Elgato apart is that it records at a much higher bitrate. This means that despite recording via component and at 1080i, side by side comparison will still show a significant improvement in visual quality in the Elgato’s footage over other capture devices.

      Otherwise, recording PS3 footage with the Elgato is the same as with most other capture devices.

      • thanks

        Cheers, just what I needed :)

      • RyGuy

        So considering that 720p is figuratively ‘higher’ than 1080i, as long as I keep my recordings in 720p I shouldn’t notice any real difference correct?

        • BOSS jediZOHAN

          Sort of. 1080i is basically the same image quality as 720p but it takes up a large dimensional area. Both will yield similar results visually, but 1080i can be downscaled to 720p. 720p on the other hand, can’t be upscaled to 1080i without a loss of quality.

        • BOSS jediZOHAN

          The main difference is that 1080i needs to be deinterlaced to be displayed properly. That process degrades image quality, but because 1080i still has more detail than 720p, the end result is basically the same except 1080i looks better at 1080p than 720p upscaled to 1080p. If you need 1080p, record in 1080i, if you need 720p, either one is fine (I’d still go with 1080i unless your computer isn’t kind of beefy on processing power).

  • sgt_mofo

    Maybe I should watch the whole vid before I ask this, but did you export that video direct from the Elgato software? Or did you export to your hard drive, define the bitrate, and upload a different way?

    EDIT: And not that they need the plug, but Amazon has this for $160 + a $10 off coupon you can clip, bringing it to $150 + tax.

    • BOSS jediZOHAN

      I edited the raw file in Premiere Pro and exported at YT’s max encoding bit rate of 10Mbps. Essentially, the only transcoding done to the file was done on my export of it from Premiere Pro. That transcoding exports a file that YT doesn’t need to do any transcoding to. Essentially, if you download the file from YT it will be nearly identical in quality to the file I uploaded.

  • http://twitter.com/Ha1frican Christoffer Dixon

    Blackmagic Intensity Extreme has the best quality that i have seen for a cc that supports HDMI

    • BOSS jediZOHAN

      It is higher quality, but it’s also a lot more expensive and not as universally useable do to it’s hardware requirements.

  • jimmylara

    My PC supports Black Magic, should I get that one? No price issue

    • BOSS jediZOHAN

      A lot of people seem to prefer the Avermedia products over the Black Magic. I’ll say that Black Magic probably makes the best products as far as capture quality is concerned, but Avermedia has them beat in software support and functionality.

      That said, I think we’re about to hit the next generation of capture devices very soon, so I would hold off on internal devices for the moment. The Black Magic to me is the best of the current hardware generation, but it feels due for an update.

      What it boils down to is what you’re capturing. If it’s console footage, the Elgato is more than adequate Considering the current-gen consoles are basically upscaling everything to 1080p, you’re really not going to get a whole lot better quality bumping your bitrate above 30-50Mbps.

      Capturing PC footage is a whole other arena which I’m kind of out of my depth with. I hear great things about the Avermedia products in this regard. Beyond that, I can’t be of much help.

    • sgt_mofo

      Keep in mind the raw files aren’t encoded at all on the Black Magic. It allows for more flexibility in post-production, but the file size is absolutely humongous. If you plan on recording in 1080p, I hope you have a 2TB HDD on hand.

  • boop

    dont forget it does h.264 ecoding

  • AAAAA

    what is the game playing in the background? It’s nice to see something other than COD.

    • Hammad Khan

      Crysis 2

  • RyGuy

    I’ve been looking at this for a couple days now. Actually considering selling my HD-PVR to a friend to help pay for this. Anyone here have any personal feedback on it?

    • BOSS jediZOHAN

      Go for it, it’s a much better device than the HD PVR1

    • http://www.facebook.com/LoGiCs.So.SiC Luke David Torres

      Just bought mine a week ago and haven’t looked back since. I now have had two live-stream sessions with the device and I posted up raw 720p multiplayer video of Halo 4 and it’s amazing! check it out here if you would like the see the quality. http://youtu.be/iNCa0XWdnP8

  • Your Grandma

    What game

  • Gamer678

    Does anyone know how to record your own voice with this device? I have turtle beach X12s and I bought the audio adapter but it still doesn’t work. Can anyone offer assistance?

  • i need help

    so i have the older ps3 the one thats like 6 years old and i wanted to know if the elgato still works on this version of the ps3 before buying it.

  • fucface jr

    Hdpvr2 does constant bitrate 14mb/s recording at any resolution up to 1080p 30fps. This is superior to the Elgatos less efficient 30 mb/s variable bitrate implementation of h264. The Hdpvr2 also encodes in main profile 4.2 with 3 reference frames and 4 b frames. Realistically 14 mb/s is more than enough and any difference is unnoticeable. The elgato also only encodes at 30 mb/s for 1080 resolution captures.

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