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Share all your epic battles online with a video capture card.

What is a video capture card?

A video capture card can be an actual PCIe slotted card that installs in a PC. It can also be housed in an external box that connects to a PC or game console. Some capture cards include an integrated H.264 encoder, which takes the load of converting video to digital files from the host device. A capture card will include video input and output ports, with the most common configuration being an HDMI capture code. An external video capture card will also usually include a high speed port such as USB 3.1 to connect to a PC.

A game capture card will often include a microphone jack as well.

What does a video capture card do?

A video capture card is a specialized accessory with one purpose. It captures the video (and accompanying audio) playing onscreen on a PC or game console in real time, digitizing that footage. The capture card does this by having the video output from the computer or game console connected directly to the card’s input instead of a TV or monitor. The video capture card is then connected to a TV or monitor (making the device effectively a video pass-through). However, as that video signal passes through, it is recorded.

The video can then be saved as a video file for editing, or it can be streamed online to services like Twitch for a viewing audience. If the video capture device includes a microphone jack, commentary can be included as part of the stream.

What would you use a video capture card for?

Video capture cards can be used for any situation where you want to record the contents of your screen.

There are many applications, including educational and instructional purposes. However, by far the most popular use of video capture technology is with video games. While game consoles include basic footage capture support, a video capture card for Xbox or Playstation offers much more powerful capabilities. And a game capture card is the easiest way to record or stream games being played on a gaming PC.

The best capture card for your setup is the one that covers all your requirements. Before making a choice, decide whether you need features like 4K passthrough, onboard encoding, and an editing software package. Also watch for connectivity ports (for example, do you need USB-C?), frame rate and resolution of video capture, microphone input for commentary, and whether it can automatically stream to services such as Twitch or YouTube.