Elgato Game Capture HD Review
Product: Elgato Game Capture HD
The idea of capturing game footage for public consumption has grown exponentially over the last decade. No longer exclusive to the realm of the video gaming press, capture cards have become affordable and easier to use. Combine that with the success of YouTube and now, more and more gamers are showing the world their skills, creating informative video guides or simply playing through their games for Let’s Play! videos; some lucky folks are even making money from their user-generated content.
The likes of Roxio and Hauppauge have had the capture market cornered for years, but their reign comes under challenge from Elgato, with their Game Capture HD unit. Consisting of a small black box, no bigger than a soft drink can, the Game Capture HD promises up to 1080p capture at 30 frames per second, depending on the source device and capturing at a resolution of 720p can be performed at 60 frames per second.
However, before we can capture footage from anything, we need to connect everything up. As a newbie to capture cards I am happy to say that the Game Capture HD is an incredibly easy piece of hardware to setup. Simply connect the supplied USB cable between the unit and your PC/Mac, connect a supplied HDMI cable from the unit to your television, and finally a cable from the unit to your source console. The device is powered by the USB cable, so no external power source is required. It’s a simple and elegant capture solution.
One thing that needs to be said about setting up your capture device is that depending on what console you want to capture, there are a few things to note about connecting the unit up. If you’re using an Xbox 360 then it’s a simple matter of connecting a supplied HDMI cable between the system and the Game Capture HD, however the PlayStation 3 requires a different method. Due to the fact that the PlayStation 3 encrypts the output from the console to thwart people capturing HD content from the system (Blu-Rays, digital downloads, etc) then you must purchase a PlayStation 3 component cable and connect it to the Game Capture HD unit via a supplied breakout component cable (ADDENDUM – Elgato kindly inform me that the Game Capture HD package comes with a single cable that links the PS3 to the Elgato, negating the need for a Component cable). It’s worth mentioning that the Xbox 360 also encrypts it’s output when playing certain videos (such as those from Netflix), so don’t forget to plug your 360 directly into the television when you have finished capturing if you use these services.
The Game Capture HD isn’t limited to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It is also possible to capture Wii and PlayStation 2 footage via component and even Apple devices if you have an Apple Digital AV Adapter.
Now that everything is connected, actually using the unit is as easy as the initial setup. Just download the latest version of the Elgato Game Capture HD software from the official website, install it and run the application. Provided everything has been setup correctly, you should see the normal display on your television, and a similar display on your computer. The USB 2.0 connection is a little too slow to play your console in real time, so you will need to play the game on your television while the computer captures everything.
Options within the software will allow you to change things like capture output resolution and aspect ratios for standard definition captures (480p). You are also able to adjust basic picture settings such as brightness, colour, etc. It’s all very intuitive which is fantastic.
As soon as the software is loaded, and it detects the capture unit, it begins to “record” up to an hour of footage automatically. The idea behind this is to facilitate the Elgato’s standout feature; Flashback Recording.
Say you are playing your game as normal and you perform an insanely awesome gaming feat that is just begging to be recorded and shared with the world. Thanks to Flashback Recording, the Elgato won’t have missed that perfect moment and you can simply rewind the video to any point within the past hour, press the big red Record button and the software will properly save footage from that point. If you change your mind and want to carry on recording live footage, just press the “Live” button and the program will take you back to the present, ready to record your next skilful moment.
The software also allows you to tag your videos with titles, game information and descriptions and even take screenshots in a couple of clicks. Your recorded videos are saved to the application’s Edit section, where you can view captured footage and perform basic editing functions such as cutting and deleting unwanted sections.
However, what really impresses me are the Game Capture HD’s extensive options for sharing footage. You can share recorded content straight to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and email, or physical devices such as Apple TV, iPads and iPhones. If you want to edit your captures you can export them as video files or directly to popular video editing suites such as iMovie and Final Cut Pro.
In terms of video quality, everything I have captured so far looks barely indistinguishable from the source device, with practically no stuttering. Any stuttering or slowdown I experienced was due to the games themselves. Please note that the minimum PC/Mac specs for the Elgato Game Capture HD are a 2GHz Dual Core CPU and 4GB of RAM. The MacBook Pro I conducted the review on has a 2.3GHz i7 Quad Core CPU with 16GB of RAM.
Unfortunately, the unit doesn’t output 1080p footage at 60 frames per second, but that isn’t so much of a problem, as very few games natively run at a resolution of 1080p, let alone at more than 30fps. In the footage that accompanies this review, I used 720p captures and, as you can see, they look fantastic.
VERDICT: The Elgato Game Capture HD is an amazing piece of kit that is incredibly easy to use in every single way. If you are looking into capturing footage from your consoles, then you absolutely need this little black box of tricks, whether you are a Mac or PC user.
Buy it. Plug it in. Record and relive your gameplay moments forever more.