Do you need a capture card for streaming? [2023]

If you're considering live streaming video games on Twitch or YouTube, you might be interested in learning whether you'll need a capture card and why. You will learn how a capture card functions in this article, along with tips on how to choose the best capture card for your purposes.

What is a "capture card" and how does it work?

A capture card is a device that "captures" the video signal from one end and encodes it so that the output device can process it.

For instance, say you want to record your gameplay from your PS5 to your PC. You will need a capture card that connects your PS5 and your PC, since neither your PS5 nor your computer can capture and record your screenplay on its own.

Capture cards come in two different types: external and internal. An external capture card is plugged into the PC via USB, meanwhile an internal capture card is directly installed into the PC's motherboard PCIe slot. We will explain more in the section below.   Many capture cards also have an additional audio input for an external microphone, allowing users to record both gameplay and commentary in one simple setting. 

Do you need a Capture Card?

Many people may have this question: If I’m not aiming for a professional, do I still need a capture card to record gameplay? If I just want to record games via my PC, do I still need a capture card?

First of all, if you want to record from another outsource device — camera, Xbox, Playstation — you will need to get a capture card to output the data onto your PC for live stream or record for later editing. This is because the PC can not process the video signal from the console. The capture card is necessary to convert the HDMI signal into USB signal for a computer to process.  

How about you want to record a PC game from your desktop? Do you still need a capture card?
The answer to this is yes and no. Since the source stream is coming from the PC itself, the capture card is not necessary.  

Yet, if doing so, you may encounter some major issue with the PC recording softwares. For instance, how can you play and see your recording quality at the same time? If you want to record or stream with high definition, which is crucial for producing professional-quality content, a capture card is still preferred. A capture card can also reduce the computer load, smoothing your gaming experience.

Besides, many capture cards allow you to record or stream from multiple devices at once, making it ideal for multi-camera setups. 

What to look for your Capture Card?

There are many options for capture cards, the price range from 20 USD to above 400 USD.   It’s always good to know what you want to output and choose the best device for yourself. 

There are few things to consider:

Resolution is a measurement of how many pixels that can be contained on screen. 
It describes the sharpness, or clarity, of an image or video frame. 

A higher resolution means the screen contains more pixels, which means it can output more visual information. As a result, a high-resolution video will be clearer than a low-resolution one.

Most of the popular streaming platforms such as Youtube and Twitch allow users to stream games in a lot of resolutions, and channels are choosing to stream in resolutions across the spectrum. 


Keep in mind that many capture cards on the market only support 1080p. If you want to record your game in 4K, remember to double check the capture resolution on the product specifications. Input resolution is very different from the capture resolution.

Frame rate: 
Frame rate is the frequency at which images are displayed or captured in a video. It’s usually expressed as “frames per second,” or FPS. If a video is captured and played back at 30fps, that means the video shows 30 distinct still images in every 1 second. To put it short,  a higher frame rate allows the motion to be smooth and crisp details.

Different FPS generates different results. Sometimes high frame rate will result in unnatural footage due to too much detail involved on screen. On the other hand, if the frame rate is too low, the video may appear to be choppy.

The chosen FPS is dependent on the style of your content. 

A low FPS will be mandated if you are producing a film or TV show. On the other hand, if there is a lot of motion in your content, a high FPS will be required to capture and display the activities smoothly. A high FPS will also give you more detail of the captured motions.


We’ve listed  some common use cases for different fps.  


Travel videos
Vlogs and TV Shows
Standard Movie
High-definition videos


Fast Pace Video with details
Vlogs and TV shows
Broadcasting News
Sports Action


Slow-motions capture
Video include many visual information 
High-quality footage

Internal vs external:
As mentioned, there are two different types of capture cards: internal and external. 

There is little to no difference in the functionality of the two types. It is recommended, however, that you opt for an internal capture card if you’re not planning on using it on multiple computers because a PCI-E connection is more reliable. Yet, an internal capture card, of course, required that you have a desktop PC and not a laptop! 

Internal capture card uses a PCI-e base in your motherboard

On the other hand, an external capture card is a way to go if you work with a laptop or need to move around your recording set frequently.  External capture cards with USB 3.0 are able to output 4K signals, which is pretty sufficient for most of the streamers. 

Read the extended article –  What’s the difference between USB 3.0 and 2.0. 

Console and support system:
Make sure that you have matched the specifications of your device with the capture card manufacturer's requirements. Your capture card must be able to support the recording device input type as well.

Most of the popular gaming consoles, such as Playstation and Xbox, accept HDMI transfers.Yet, if you are recording Nintendo Switch gameplay then you will need the Nintendo Dock base to connect the HDMI cable. 
If you are using Mac as your primary PC remember to check the support system and make sure that your capture software such as QuickTime Player, VLC or OBS supports your MacOS version.
For streamers who want to record their voice within gameplay, ensure your capture card has microphone input!

All in all, after this basic introduction, you may have more knowledge about capture cards now. However, there is always more to learn. Video capture technology is always evolving just as a streaming industry standard. [Check out our other articles] for more tech news. Keep up your knowledge like a pro! 

If you still hesitate to make your decision, you can also contact us for suggestions! 
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