Half the size smaller than the Hauppauge DVR and flexible to boot, the Elgato Game Capture HD is a powerful and compact capture card that is worth every cent and possibly the best that is the on market to date.
Months ago, I decided to purchase the Elgato Game Capture HD to 1.) Be an amateur “Youtuber” (okay, well maybe not) and 2.) Capture my gameplay videos for future prosperity. Looking back a month later at my decision, I must say that I am very happy and could sing praises about the Elgato. What is the Elgato Game Capture HD? As aforementioned, it is a portable and compact capture card that allows you to stream and record your gameplay in real time. Supporting HD consoles like: Playstation 3, Xbox360, and Wii U as well as retro consoles like: Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis (just to name a few), what type of gameplay you can capture and/or stream is limitless. In this review, I will be breaking down the Elgato Game Capture in the categories of: Setup/Installation, Software, and some of the pros and cons that this capture card holds. Let’s get started! And, no, I am not being paided or put up to writing this review. Doubt the company knows this blog exist like some of you do…
The basic setup and installation for the Elgato Game Capture is dead simple. All you need to do is visit the Elgato Game Capture website, download the package, and install it. Coming straight out of the box, I admit, setting the up Elgato to the TV can be slightly confusing the first time around, but thanks to some video tutorials on the home site it is a snap. Everything you need is included. Simply connect the HDMI cord (it comes with one) to your TV and the other to the console. Then, connect the USB cable to the computer you will be using and the other end to the Elgato and you are set! With Elgato not only supporting HDMI capture (It is HDCP compliant, but can be easily bypassed) you can also use Composite, Component, and S-Video capture as well with one easy cable adjustment. Other than that, setup is something you will not find a hassle or worry about.
For the installation size, I am really impressed with how powerful and lightweight the Elgato software is. With the option for live-streaming to TWIT TV or just simple recording, it is pretty darn simple, too. To begin, you must have your computer on and the software running to be able to record. If you just to plain play your game system (like PS3 or Xbox360) without removing the Elgato cables or recording, just simply plug the USB cable into a computer (it has to be on, but not the software) and play.
With recording, the Elgato has two methods 1.) Flashback recording (which I will explain later in the pros and cons section) and 2.) Manual. For the manual record, just simply hit the red record button, play, and hit the button again to stop the recording. After that, you are free to edit your captured gameplay and/or upload to Youtube, Iphone, or just save it for later. Since the Elgato captures the gameplay while you play, no extra encoding is needed and nothing is saved on the card. The video output is in mp4 format with H.264 encoding on the fly, so you can upload your game footage in a matter of seconds. However, there are some issues with this that I will cover later on.
- Recording is simple (Just choose the game system are you using, input, profile (1080, 720, SD, etc), and video quality. You can also adjust the picture and audio, but is not needed.) This includes retro gaming, too!
- You can record your gameplay with commentary. Have a microphone? Good! Just hook it up, adjust the volume control, record, and say what you will. You can also add commentary later with outside software like Audacity or Camtasia (third party stuff. So if is not free, you have to pay).
- Flashback recording. Say for example, you have the software on and pull off a nice move you want to record. No problem. You just did, if flashback recording was enabled! With flashback recording, you can just rollback the recording marker on screen to the moment you want, hit the button, and the gameplay is ready for editing and uploading.
- Simple and easy editing. You can cut and edit gameplay footage with no headache. If you screw up, simply choose the video and tell it to restore the original to try again. If you capture a video that is too long you can also split it into a new video if you desire with no extra encoding needed.
- Improvements with every update. The Elgato always brings new improvements with updates. That is how retro gaming and commentary where added. Often or not, if available, you can update as soon as you open the software, so check it and the website often. In addition, their are also beta builds on the website, so use them if you like.
- Editing software lacks features. This maybe remedied in future updates, but the Elgato software lacks the power to join videos together or other features like this. This where you will maybe need third party sources. I found some reliable freeware that works for my editing purposes, but if you are going for something more extravagant, you might want to use something like Sony Vegas or other software that you will need to pay for. With that said, the quality controls on the Elgato need work as well. Even if you are capture video in SD or lowest quality, the video size still can be large, since Elgato captures the gameplay uncompressed. Using freeware, I was able to turn a 1.08GB 720p video (around 32 minutes) into one around 350MB with no quality loss. It can be done with programs like: Any Video Converter, Freemesware Studioz, Freemake, Format Factory, and more. If you are low on space and plan to save your videos, you might want to consider this.
- Livestreaming is hassle. I have not tried this for myself, but I have seen how convoluted the livestream process can be. You usually have to download something called “Xsplit” (which has a free version if I recall correctly) to start the whole procedure. Along with that, you also need to make sure your connection can handle livestreaming, but this dependent on you and your ISP and not the software itself. Nothing major, but also a grip if you are expecting this process to be smooth and simple.
- Small Delays. Whether it be on a retro console or recent, a five second delay might happen. Dependent on the game in question, frame rate, and your computer specs (make sure your computer can use it) what is actually on the TV will be slightly behind on the computer. Usually, turning off flashback recording helps, but not always. The latency problem only happens a few times and hardly ever affects the recording. A note of caution: When the Elgato ask you to update, do it! Don’t treat this like a Windows update or random program. If you do not, this will be a issue and possibly mess up recordings you may attempt.
- Small Retro problems. All consoles are not created equally and as far as retro gaming goes, old systems might be subjected to some odd issues without the proper cords. For example, I played Skies Of Arcadia Legends on my Gamecube without Elgato. It looked great! Colorful, vibrant, full of life! Tried on the Elgato and it did not look so hot. The colors actually were duller! I tried it on the Wii with all the proper cords and settings. What happened? Turned out great! Lesson is, if you can play the game on a newer system, do it! Elgato is updating the issue, but some older consoles just do not jive well with the Elgato at all.
- Extra cleanup is a no go until you are done. Every video you record is sent to a specific folder on the computer. Deleting it from the Elgato video editor query is not enough to get rid of it, so you might have to go delete yourself if you are done. If you delete a video from the video editor query, you CAN NOT get it back. It will still be in folder, but you can not edit it in the software. You going to have to use something else. Likewise for taking a video out of the folder or putting it back in. It will not restore it to the query. You have been warned.
All things considered and evaluated, the Elgato Game Capture HD is a must purchase if you want to capture gameplay easily and effortlessly. I have tried Hauppauge DVR and Roxio capture devices by way of friends, but they were not as I hoped they would be. If you want something easy to use, fits nearly anywhere, and marginally the same in price (depending on who you check), Elgato is the clear winner all around. If you desire something more bare-bones, cheaper, and not as refined – products like the standard Roxio Capture or other digital recorder might be more of a better choice.