If you’re a gamer or streamer who has been wondering what a capture card can do for you or why you would purchase one if your Xbox/PlayStation/PC has the ability to stream on its own, keep reading this article. We will explain why you probably need a capture card despite your device being already capable of streaming.
What is a video capture card?
Simply put, a video capture card is a device that receives video from one source via HDMI (typically a gaming console or PC) and sends the same video out to a monitor or TV (also via HDMI). So far, a video capture card seems redundant! But the unique thing that a capture card does is that it converts the video it receives to a format that a PC can read. This data can be sent either via a USB connection in the case of external capture cards or through a PCI-E connection for internal capture cards. This data is then encoded by the computer and turned into a video file that can be saved or streamed in real-time with almost zero latency.
But my console/PC can stream on its own!
Yes. Yes, it can! But there are caveats. First of all, let’s separate console and PC gaming in addressing this issue.
With Xbox and PlayStation, you can stream directly from the console, whereas on the Nintendo Switch, you need the console to be connected to the dock to be able to stream. The biggest caveat with streaming directly from a console is the lack of control. You can stream the gameplay, add some commentary and perhaps do the occasional typing if you have the keyboard accessory for your respective controller. And that’s about as much control as you have over your stream.
If you want to stream professionally, a certain level of quality, care, and character is expected. For that, you would need your gaming footage to be sent to a PC via a video capture card so that you can customize your stream, reply to chat, set up and customize a webcam, add a higher quality microphone, and a lot more to improve the quality of your stream. These are options that you just often won’t have in the streaming app on your console.
When it comes to PC, it is true that you might not need a video capture card, at least for the same reasons that were mentioned above. But there’s a reason why many professional streamers are using one PC for gaming and another PC just for the purpose of streaming. While we don’t recommend a dual setup if you’re just starting out, if you are sure that streaming is the way forward, then a dual streaming setup is the more ideal solution in the long run.
Perhaps the main reason why you would benefit from a dual setup is the distribution of workload between the two PCs. With a dual setup, you have a dedicated PC just for streaming, which prevents the stream from taking up valuable resources and purring more strain on your component, resulting in better game quality and fewer lags. Even if your game crashes or your gaming rig starts acting out, your stream will still be up and running as you talk to your audience and try to fix the issue.
Having a secondary setup to use for streaming becomes almost a no-brainer if you have an older setup lying around that you are no longer using. You don’t need a Core i9 to do some video encoding, your six- or seven-year-old mid-range CPU is most likely up to the task.
Other uses of video capture cards
While in today’s landscape, capture cards’ main target demographic is gamers, they have been around for a very long time for all sorts of different uses that still might be something you want to use them for, outside of streaming. One such use-case is converting old VCR tapes! It is true that capture cards (especially ones we recommend in this article) mainly come with HDMI inputs, but with a simple RCA to HDMI adapter, you can start to back up your VCR tapes from when you were a kid and have easy access to them later.
You can also use a video capture card to use camera footage in real time on your computer. While this is not ideal during gaming, as your capture card would be already busy, it is still a useful option that you can use to record footage from your DSLR directly onto the computer.
A rather obvious use-case that might fly under the radar is the ability to stream games on older consoles such as the PS3, original XBOX, or even Nintendo GameCube! Of course, if the sole purpose you want to buy a capture card is streaming older games on older consoles, you should look into buying capture cards with RCA inputs. But if you have a modern capture card lying around, you just need to get an adapter for your old console to be able to start streaming.
Types of capture cards
There are two main types of video capture cards: internal and external.
Depending on who you ask, an external capture card might be the more convenient option as there’s no need for you to open your computer case and fiddle around with the PCI-E port. But if you know what a PCI-E port is, you probably have a different opinion on which one is more convenient!
External capture cards are small boxes (maybe a tad bigger than an SSD) that connect to the computer via USB, whereas internal capture cards connect directly to the motherboard if you have an extra PCI-Express port. This means lower-end motherboards are not able to house a capture card as they typically only have a single PCI-E port, which is used up by the graphics card.
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 definitely more reliable. It also helps the internal capture card’s cooling as it enjoys the airflow that already exists inside the case. An internal capture card, of course, assumes that you have a desktop PC and not a laptop!
On the other hand, an external capture card is a way to go if you capture on a laptop, or at least your streaming rig is a laptop. If you also want to stream with a DSLR outdoors and having your desktop PC is not an option, an external capture card gives you the flexibility you need.
To wrap up this segment, if you have a desktop PC, are planning on using your game capture card on that one rig, and won’t benefit from portability, then go for an internal capture card (but make sure you have a spare PCI-E connection). In any other case, an external capture card is a way to go.
What model to buy?
Okay, you have decided that you need a video capture card. The only thing left to do now is to pick the one that suits your needs best. Here are a few of the best video capture cards by j5Create, designed with different needs in mind.
j5Create JVA02 Live Capture Adapter with Power Delivery: Great for entry-level streamers
The JVA02 is the perfect entry level device for live streaming among j5Create video capture cards. It offers the basics with one HDMI input and output, a mic in and speaker out, a power input, a USB to host output capable of PD 3.0 power delivery to the computer and an audio mixer to switch the audio between HDMI only, mic only, and, as the cherry on top, mixed.
Designed with portability in mind
The j5Create JVA02 is very small, lightweight, and super portable. It works great if you want to capture audio and video with your camera and external microphone with the ability to preview the footage on your (Android) phone instead of having to look at the small dim display on your camera. It has a cold shoe adapter on the bottom so it can easily attach to the top of your camera.
All the basics in a compact package
The JVA02 j5Create video capture card is small enough for you to take wherever you want. You can use it to record video with your camera and microphone and watch it on your phone or bring it along with you for some on-the-go streaming. The j5Create JVA02 also comes with an appropriate, entry-level price tag with support for uncompressed Full-HD 60hz support and we think it is a great option if you want to dip your toes into streaming for the first time.
j5Create JVA04 Game Capture Station: The best video capture card for gamers with top-notch gear
If you have top of the line gaming gear––meaning you have a high-end PC setup, a PS5 or an Xbox Series X, and a 2K or 4K monitor––the JVA04 is the video capture card for you. It offers 4K 60hz passthrough so that you get to play your games with maximum quality while recording it at 1090p 60fps for your stream.
The j5Create JVA04 features USB 3.1 connectivity for virtually zero-latency delivery of the recorded footage to the computer and a light indicator, which shows what state the conversion of the recorded footage is in: a blue light means the footage is being recorded in an uncompressed format, purple is MJPEG, and orange is an indicator that you are connected to a slower USB 2.0 port.
It also has a built-in audio capture/mixer for you to manage your sound input using hardware and not have to fiddle around in some software to get your microphone to work. The JVA04 j5Create video capture card offers 4K passthrough and an LED indicator for the state of the recording which are improvements on the JVA02. However, it drops the cold shoe adapter and the power input port as it is clearly designed as a desktop solution not meant to be carried around, even if it’s light and just portable enough for you to do so.
j5Create JVA06 Dual HDMI Video Capture: Capture your game and your camera footage simultaneously
The JVA06 is so packed with features that it almost makes it redundant to fiddle around with streaming software (like OBS) before uploading it to the streaming platform. With something like OBS, you mostly use it to adjust and position the video input frames and manage the audio if there are multiple streams of audio. The j5Create JVA06 does all of that with the buttons on the body of the capture card!
Most streamers typically switch between their face cam and the gameplay footage + facecam at the bottom right of the display. They do that with a keyboard shortcut that they have assigned to different “scenes”. The JVA06, however, saves you that trouble since there are six scenes that you can choose from just by using the buttons on the device! The scenes are different frame positions for the two inputs. There is also a built-in Chroma Key function assigned to one of the buttons.
Yes! Unlike most video capture cards on the market that come with a single HDMI input to record your gameplay footage, the JVA06 j5Create video capture card comes equipped with two; one for the gameplay and one for direct camera input. This is in line with this device’s mission to remove all the hassle of working with stream preparation software. Pretty much everything is analog and can be manipulated physically with no shortcut buttons to get used to or remember.
Even more control
There is, of course, a microphone input and a speaker/monitoring output. For even more hands-on control over the audio, you not only can monitor the decibel level of all three inputs but also mute each one you want with a dedicated toggle for each audio input.
Not just for gaming
You can take the j5Create JVA06 out on the field if you are shooting a film and need to work with a camera and a microphone and view your footage on your phone for a better preview (since most phones nowadays have much better/bigger displays than the one on your camera).
The way you do that is by connecting the camera and the microphone to the JVA06 and then connecting the USB-C to host output to your phone and downloading an app that can read webcam input. The top and bottom mounting options on the JVA06 make this process a lot easier. The only catch is that this trick only works on Android phones. On iPhones, you only get a wireless preview on some camera makers’ proprietary software, which has a bit of latency and isn’t as sharp as a wired connection.
One very versatile capture card
The JVA06 is packed to the brim with features that would put most basic video capture cards to shame. If not for the 1080p recording limitation, we might have even been able to say that the JVA06 is the best video capture card on the market, bar none! If you don’t care about 4K though, you would be hard-pressed to find an option more versatile than the j5Create JVA06.
Interested in learning more about j5Create products?
As an official j5Create distributor within the Middle East and North African region, Newcom offers a wide range of j5Create products, including the j5Create video capture cards mentioned in this article.
If you are interested in any of the products discussed in this article, please make sure to check out our products page. For further information or any inquiries, make sure to directly call us or reach out through our contact us page.
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