High quality game recording doesn't have to be a pipe dream. With the Live Gamer Ultra, 4K HDR recording is in your hands — but whether you really need it is a good question to ask.
AVerMedia's Live Gamer Ultra is able to record up to 4K / 30FPS or 120FPS at 1080p. It's designed primarily for capturing footage on consoles like the Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro but can be used with any console as long as you have a high-powered PC.
Here's what else you need to know about the Live Gamer Ultra.
Live Gamer Ultra Set-Up
The Live Gamer Ultra relies on a HDMI-to-HDMI loop set-up. Unlike the hybrid Portable 2 Plus which I reviewed earlier this year, the Live Gamer Ultra depends on connection to a PC. This means whatever set-up you use must have a robust PC in the chain that's capable of running video recording software smoothly.
AVerMedia recommends a PC with an i5 and GTX 1060 GPU as a baseline for recording footage. File sizes are large and if you're streaming, you'll need a machine capable of withstanding the load. My review unit was hooked up to a high spec Dell G3 and had no issues — but because the PlayStation 4 Pro I was recording from was plugged in across the room from my PC, I ended up with a mess of cables for my temporary set-up.
The cable provided with the Live Gamer Ultra is about 1.5 metres, but you may need a longer cord depending on how you've organised your recording/streaming system. Once you've sorted out your ideal configuration, setup is easy. To use the Live Gamer Ultra, simply loop it into the HDMI chain of your chosen console via the two HDMI sockets at the back and plug it into a PC for power.
While you can use any compatible streaming software with the Live Gamer Ultra, the device comes bundled with RECentral 4, AVerMedia's equivalent to OBS. While it doesn't look as fancy as OBS, it's a solid program and easy to use.
RECentral 4 is very simple and contains separate modes for streaming and recording — in both modes, you're able to build scenes using images and templates or run single source footage for basic recording. Importantly, the app supports Chroma Key so you'll be able to use a green screen to block out backgrounds for recording or streaming.
RECentral offers a variety of options for video quality including set bitrate, frame rate, video quality and audio controls. Before you start capturing footage, I recommend checking the settings tab for your video sources and choosing the best options for you.
When I started recording footage on the card, the program initially defaulted to the QSV codec rather than normal NVIDIA setting for my machine. This caused extreme footage lag until I realised the issue, so make sure you've optimised your set-up before you begin capturing.
Live Gamer Ultra Video Capture
To record footage on the Live Gamer Ultra, you'll need to hook the device up to a high-powered PC and hit the 'Record' button on RECentral 4 or equivalent software.
Footage can be recorded up to 4K capped at 30FPS or 1080p capped at 120FPS with HDR passthrough for consoles. While recording at 4K, the bitrate managed to hit over 100Mbps every time.
The Live Gamer Ultra was surprisingly quiet, only producing a barely noticeable whistle that couldn't even be heard over the wheezing of my old PlayStation 4 Pro. It also doesn't get hot at all, with the only heat I detected being the lukewarm bottom surface which didn't get hotter even after two hours straight of recording.
Footage recorded on the Live Gamer Ultra is smooth even at 4K/30FPS. Textures sparkle and shine, and movement does not noticeably lag or slow while recording at the capped frame rate. While the action recorded at 1080p / 120FPS is far more fluid, you're losing a bit of sharpness for a frame rate that neither Twitch or YouTube supports.
The difference between the two high range settings won't be overtly noticeable to most. So if you're recording footage, you'll have to decide if you want fluid motion or crisp, sparkling textures. It won't make an impact on your gameplay, but it will determine how manageable and pretty your footage is.
Below is unedited Final Fantasy VII Remake footage recorded at 4K / 30FPS from a PlayStation 4 Pro and uploaded directly to YouTube. While there will be quality differences due to YouTube's encoding, this is about representative of the recording quality you can expect.
An important consideration for recording videos is the epic file sizes that 4K footage brings. 5 minutes of 1080 / 60fps footage (the best setting for file size and great quality) amounts to just over 1GB of footage. 5 minutes of footage recorded at 4K / 30FPS was 3.49GB and took 45 minutes to upload to YouTube with processing taking much longer.
If you're planning on recording an hour of 4K footage, you're looking at a file size around 42GB. Depending on your storage capacity, this can become a massive burden.
Live Gamer Ultra Streaming
Setting up a stream with the Live Gamer Ultra is a breeze — once you've plugged in your streaming platform credentials, it's just a matter of setting up your scenes and hitting the big 'stream' button on the bottom right of the RECentral 4 software. If you need Chroma Key for use with a green screen or other coloured background, you can find an option for this in webcam settings.
The smoothness of your streams will likely depend on your internet. On an NBN 50 connection I personally had trouble getting a consistent stream going, but when the signal was strong, video footage came through smoothly and beautifully.
The highest quality setting I could select was 1080p / 60FPS with video bitrate coming through at 8 Mbps, which is more than the maximum bitrate supported by Twitch. YouTube streaming can take higher bitrates at 1080p, but for most people, somewhere between 4.5 MBps to 6 MBps is sufficient. (It's recommended that most new streamers stream at a maximum of 720p / 4.5 MBps when starting out, as non-approved Twitch accounts don't have access to on-the-fly transcoding that lets viewers choose lower resolutions.) And in theory, the Live Gamer Ultra is capable of streaming 4K video but I was not able to test this functionality.
With a robust PC set-up and reliable internet, streaming using the Live Gamer Ultra should be a breeze.
Live Gamer Ultra Video Portability
The Live Gamer Ultra has a very compact design, measuring 11x6x2cm (l/w/h) and weighing around 100g. It fit neatly into my palm, with the cabling adding some bulk but no extra weight. The device is extremely lightweight, easy to set up and very portable — but that comes with a caveat.
To use the Live Gamer Ultra, you will need to connect to a robust PC. This means that if you're looking at carrying the device, you'll also need to bring that PC along with it, making the set-up a bit more complicated.
If you're likely to move around a lot with this device, portability is key and the Live Gamer Ultra is only truly portable if you have a secondary PC waiting in your second location.
AVerMedia do offer more portable solutions if you need them, like the aforementioned Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus — but this device does not record at 4K quality. If recording at 4K is essential for your needs, then you'll likely have to sacrifice portability in the process.
For general home use, this won't be an issue, but it's something to consider for your set-up.
Should you buy it?
The Live Gamer Ultra is for content creators taking on serious jobs. At around $400-450, the Live Gamer Ultra is not cheap and if you don't need 4K quality passthrough recording, there are cheaper devices around. If 4K is a deciding factor, you'll find exactly what you need here.
Video recording and streaming through the Live Gamer Ultra is very reliable. It's also easy to set up and doesn't heat up after long hours of use.
My one major complaint about the device is that it needs a high-powered PC to record — and having transitioned from the far more portable MicroSD card-based Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus meant getting used to a more bulky set-up.
Despite these concerns, the Live Gamer Ultra remains a fantastic choice if you're looking for a robust and high quality capture card.
If you are looking at streaming or recording footage more casually, the Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus is another device to consider, and one that's around $100 cheaper.
Consoles are capable of recording and streaming their own footage, but if you want to have any control over the process, you'll need a capture card. In the past, some capture cards have been finicky, complicated and difficult for first-timers. AVerMedia's GC513 Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus, on the other hand, is a breeze to use.