Elgato Game Capture HD review
January 7th 2013 – We have added an update to our review to reflect the features and improvements to the software since our original review. You can read it here.
We touched on the subject of video game capturing last year with our review of the entry level device, the Roxio Game Capture. Entry level devices can get the job done if you don’t mind lower resolution captures, but if you want something high-end then the Elgato Game Capture HD may just be the perfect solution.
The Elgato Game Capture HD is a USB device which connects between your console and television to capture the video which is recorded on your PC or Mac. Xbox 360 owners can choose between HDMI and Component connections, the PlayStation 3 can use only the A/V Multi Out port due to HDCP. Breakout cables are supplied for each of these methods of connection, so whichever console you have you are ready to go. The Game Capture HD unit itself is piano black, around the size of a pack of playing cards and is powered via USB, negating the need for a separate power source.
Installation is a breeze and you can be up and capturing your latest epic kill within 10 minutes. The video inputs and outputs are at either end of the unit and it is a simple matter of connecting one end to your console and the other end into the television’s HDMI port. Finally you need to plug the USB cable from your PC or Mac to the unit. You can leave the unit out of sight, for example behind your television, as no further interaction is required. The unit acts as a passthrough device, so you do not need to run the software at all times when playing, but you do need to have the unit plugged in to a USB. The software set up is a straightforward installation and I ran into no problems on the hardware or software side of the install.
The Game Capture HD software is an all-in-one program which allows you to capture and edit video, after which you can share it with the world. The capture area is plainly laid out and feels intuitive to use without reading a manual or guide. A slightly delayed video of the console video feed is shown in the main area and on the side are a few options such as the configuration, video metadata (title, description and tags) and an unmissable big red button to start and stop the recording. Configuring the software is an easy task, you can set the resolution of the recorded video, allowing you to view up to 1080p on your television and record the video at 480i/p, 576p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p. The video bitrate (quality) can be set via a slider which gives you lower quality (3Mbps/sec) videos with a smaller file size or best quality (30Mbps/sec) with larger file sizes.
The reason why the video capture footage is delayed by a second or two is that the software uses a video timeshift system called Flashback Recording, much like a PVR such as Sky+ in UK. This means that as long as the software is running it will keep the last 30 minutes of video on a temporary file on your PC. If you forget to hit the record button and then do something amazing in a game; you can rewind the video, choose the start and end of the clip and then save it. It is a great feature that works very well and I have already used it a few times.
Easily capture every kill, if you missed one then simply press rewind and save the clip. Please remember to change the video quality to HD.
The built-in editor allows you to perform some quick basic editing such as making a clip from longer recordings. It is useful if you want to simply show a short clip and not spend time exporting it to a video editing package to make a montage, add text overlays, voiceover etc. You can of course save a video and import it into a video editor if you wish to do so, it saves it in a standard MP4 format for easy editing. The original source videos can be found neatly organised by game name in their respective folders, you can re-edit videos without worrying about accidentally deleting them.
Once you have recorded a clip you can easily share it with the world with the click of a button. The main social media sites Youtube, Facebook, Twitter are fully supported and you can upload your video directly from the software to Youtube or Facebook video and share via Twitter and Email. Support for uploading to Apple TV, iPad and iPhone are also included for ease of use. You rarely need to leave the software to do other tasks such as renaming files, uploading etc. which is great!
I have included some videos that I have captured throughout this review and after, below is a montage of a few games to show the quality over different genres and graphic styles. The Elgato Game Capture HD handled everything thrown at it with ease with no drops in framerate or loss of quality. I did notice however there is a slight drop in quality on Youtube videos compared to the original source video, they are slightly softer in appearance which may be due to post processing on Youtube’s behalf.
A montage of game clips from different genres. Please remember to change the video quality to HD.
This paragraph is out of date since our original review, please see our updated review below. There were a couple of omissions from the software at the time of writing this review. The lack of a built-in screenshot capture is an oversight which I hope will be implemented in a future update. (UPDATE) Screenshot support is now added to the software. Something I would like to see added is support for live streaming to websites such as Twitch.tv and Ustream. Considering that the Game Capture HD launches this week (at the time of writing) the software works very well so I hope to see new features added in the future to expand on the already robust software.
I found it very hard to find any faults with the Game Capture HD. From installation to capturing and editing, everything worked seamlessly well. All this wonderful technology does come at a price, though it is competitive with other capture devices currently available in this price range, you can expect to pay $199 (£179). Comparing it with other cards; the size of the unit, features such as Flashback Recording, the captured video quality, the relatively low spec machine required and the easy and useful capture, edit and share software, it comes out on top of others in this price range.
I can honestly say that you will not be disappointed, it really is a great bit of kit that blows the others out of the water!
We reviewed the Elgato Game Capture HD seven months ago and the support for the device has not stopped. We thought it was the right time to catch up with the progress of the software and see what improvements and features were made since we last wrote about it. Our review came soon after the release of the Elgato and normally you would expect quite buggy software but this was far from the case. Some minor bug fixes were made since then as well as a slightly more streamlined user interface, the software was reliable from the start. The main changes came as new features and improved support when capturing.
The largest feature is support for live streaming to Twitch.tv. While not the first capture software to do this, pipped to the post by the Roxio Game Capture HD PRO, the Elgato certainly provides a much user friendly experience. Once set up with your Twitch.tv account details, it is simply a click of the button and you are live to the world. There are a few options to choose from such as the resolution and upload bandwidth you wish to use. You can if you wish to, enable your PC microphone to add commentary as you stream. Options for volumes and to automatically reduce the game volume when speaking are very useful. I have streamed regularly over the past few months and never had any issues, it just works. The ease of use and reliability is great, it makes the Roxio software look very basic.
Other features include support for more consoles, notably the Wii U. Older Standard Definition consoles can now be captured by using the component adaptor to a composite cable. You can now create screenshots from captured video, something that was missing when we originally reviewed the Elgato.
We reviewed the cheaper Roxio Game Capture HD PRO a few months after the Elgato, it had the main draw of built-in live streaming and we was using that as our main capture device because of it. Since the Elgato has supported streaming we immediately came back to it and have never looked back. Out of the two, the Elgato wins hands down, it may be a more expensive device but the reliability and no fuss capturing, streaming and basic editing makes it stand out from the rest.
- Interface: USB 2.0
- Input: Xbox 360 (unencrypted HDMI), PlayStation 3 (A/V In)
- Output: HDMI (pass-through)
- Supported resolutions: 480ip, 576p, 720p, 1080i
- Dimensions: 73 × 24 × 109 mm / 2.9 × 1.0 × 4.3 in
- Weight: 142g / 5 oz
- Mac: Mac OS X 10.7, 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU
- PC: Windows 7, 2.0 GHz dual core CPU, sound card
- 4 GB RAM, built-in USB 2.0 port
A Forza 4 video, skip to 2:35 for replay camera. Please remember to change the video quality to HD.
Our Xbox Indie Game Round Up preview video (no voiceover). Please remember to change the video quality to HD.