Elgato’s Latest USB Capture Card Is Great, But There’s A Catch

The capture card market isn’t a particularly flashy segment when it comes to consumer tech. Once you’ve bought a capture card, you don’t need to upgrade for years. They don’t cost a great deal of money compared to high-end graphics cards or VR headsets, and advancements in GPUs have meant many PC gamers record and stream without a capture card at all.

So how do you stand out? Elgato’s answer is to offer all the same functionality, but faster. USB 3.0 faster, to be precise.

I was sent an Elgato Game Capture HD60 S for review and was intrigued to see how it’d cope following a fortnight of testing with Razer’s inaugural capture card offering, the Razer Ripsaw. The Elgato HD60 is also Mark’s current capture card of choice, and I was curious to see what improvements Elgato would make to justify an upgrade.

The big improvement is the jump to USB 3.0. Unlike some of Elgato’s previous external capture devices, the HD60 S can support full 1080p, 60fps recording and low latency streaming thanks to the new connection. The port on the HD60 S is actually USB Type-C, and it plugs into your PC via the blue USB 3.0 port. Presumably this means Elgato’s new device will have no qualms when USB Type-C and its reversible plugs are the norm, although I didn’t have any ports or cables on hand to test.

Jumping to USB 3.0 also means you can play with near zero-latency. One of the big issues with external devices, including Elgato’s HD60, was the inherent delay. The speedier connection means that the HD60 S, like Elgato’s internal PCIe HD60 Pro capture card, can use the Instant Gameview function. It basically means you can view the game through Elgato’s recording software and play at the same time — and if you’re not playing a twitch shooter or something relying on precise inputs, chances are you’ll never notice the delay.

You can record PC footage with the HD60 S as well

There are some tradeoffs for portability, however. The HD60 S is exactly the same size and weight as the HD60, which means there’s no extra room for squeezing in component or additional analog inputs. The only accepted input is HDMI, so if you’re after a capture card that will work with retro consoles then the HD60 S isn’t for you.

Furthermore, you’re still dealing with the same recording constraints as before. The HD60 S will only record up to 40 mbps per second, less than the 60 mbps the HD60 Pro is capable of. It’s also not as impressive as the uncompressed footage that the Razer Ripsaw or the AverMedia Live Gamer Extreme can process. But the master files are still nice and crisp, and only the pickiest of users will be bothered.

Being portable also means you don’t get the Master Copy feature. Master Copy allows you to stream at one quality while recording a second copy of the footage for archival purposes. It’s great if you have limited bandwidth but want to upload a higher quality video to YouTube after a livestream. But that’s only with Elgato’s HD60 Pro, which is an internal capture card that works over PCIe. USB 3.0 is fast, but not plugged-into-the-motherboard fast, so if you want to stream and record you’ll have to pick one standard and live with it.

But for a lot of Australians who want to stream, the 40 mbps limitation isn’t a dealbreaker. It certainly won’t make any difference to people upgrading from the HD60. Those recording for YouTube content and other video work can also mitigate the reduced quality by encoding at a higher bitrate during the editing process, although you’ll need to spend a few extra hours uploading as a result.

The software behaves in some strange ways. For whatever reason, the Game Capture software made itself the default audio device in Windows for playback and recording. That’s fine if you want to use the software, but I couldn’t get my other devices to function as normal without forcibly killing the Elgato process. It’s a bit of a control freak: I set CAPS LOCK as my hot key for recording, and CAPS LOCK refused to operate throughout the rest of Windows while the Game Capture software was open. Weird.

It’s not compatible with Mac’s either. Mac support isn’t a priority for a lot of gamers, but a lot of gamers do have Mac laptops that they use for work or study. Razer’s software for the Ripsaw doesn’t support Macs at the time of writing, and Avermedia doesn’t have OSX drivers for Live Gamer Extreme yet either. Elgato has promised to release Mac support soon, but there isn’t a specific ETA.

Like the HD60, there’s an analog input so you can mix in a second audio stream. You don’t get a second analog input on the card so you can have separate microphone/auxiliary inputs. That’s generally not a dealbreaker though: most people will be playing on a console and then recording on a PC, and if you have a USB microphone the Game Capture suite is happy to work with that.

The software is pretty easy to use. It’s the same as what’s available with the HD60, including the ability to add custom overlays, edit clips, add commentary, adjust volumes and so on. You can also use the HD60 S with other recording software, such as XSplit or Open Broadcaster Software — although there are some stuttering issues with OBS that require some unusual workarounds. I found it less of a hassle and just used the Game Capture suite in the end, and you’ll probably do the same.

The full-screen feed from Elgato’s Game Capture software

The pricing is surprisingly uncompetitive, though. The HD60 S is available through JB Hi-Fi for $269 locally, although you can get it shipped from Kogan for a somewhat more reasonable $251.26. That pales in comparison to the Razer Ripsaw, however, which retailers have discounted from the originally absurd $329.95 to just under $240.

The Avermedia Live Gamer Extreme has more capable hardware than the Elgato HD60 S as well, and MWAVE are still selling that for $159 — even though the special price was only supposed to last until the end of April.

Given that both the Avermedia and Razer units are capable of near zero-latency like Elgato’s software, it’s difficult to suggest paying more nothing in return. If you’re not particularly tech savvy and you prefer the ease of use that bundled software provides, the Avermedia is a solid choice. If you don’t like bundled software and would prefer your capture card to be as minimalist as possible, you won’t be unhappy with the quality from the Razer Ripsaw. And both accept more inputs than just HDMI, which is a dealbreaker for some.

The main reason anyone would want to buy the HD60 S is familiarity — you’ve owned an Elgato product before, you’re familiar with the software and you like it because it works. If you’re upgrading from the HD or the HD60 in particular, you’ll be supremely happy with your purchase.

But you can get the better performance and the same ease of use elsewhere for cheaper. And that’s a tough argument for the HD60 S to beat.

Kotaku Australia was supplied with a review unit of the Elgato Game Capture HD60 S for this article.

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