Review: Elgato Game Capture HD60

elgato-game-cap-hd60-review-banner

Product: Elgato Game Capture HD60
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Manufacturer: Elgato
Original MSRP: $159.99

As a longtime user of the Elgato Game Capture HD, I really hoped for a newer model that would support 60 frames per second (FPS). When I emailed Elgato specifically about that, they said that my prayers would be answered. A week later a nondescript box arrived at my door and what I saw was a sleeker looking device and a manual resting on top of it. I’ve been using it for months now, including streaming with it during our 24-hour Extra Life Marathon, and it’s finally time to post a review for it.

Early on I only used devices from Blackmagic Design. The quality was amazing, especially since all of the recordings were completely uncompressed. But the devices themselves (Intensity Pro internal card, and a Shuttle Thunderbolt external device) were finicky and only supported 30FPS. If your device wasn’t outputting EXACTLY the correct resolution with the EXACT supported framerate, the Blackmagic merely goes to a black screen. Plus, with the new consoles outputting at 60FPS by default, neither would work on the Intensity Shuttle (the newer of the two I own, which was usually more forgiving.) Then I came up with the idea that I wanted to stream some classic consoles like the SNES and TurboDuo. Even though the Intensity Shuttle had the correct inputs for my needs, none of my classic consoles would work, so I started looking for alternatives. Enter Elgato.

Elgato-Game-Capture-HD60-1

The original Game Capture HD included a dongle with both Composite and S-Video plugs and when I booted the SNES up, it came up instantly! Since then I’ve been a pretty heavy user of Elgato’s devices even though they don’t record in any uncompressed formats. The HD60 loses the opportunity to input anything other than HDMI, but since both devices use the same software on both Windows and Mac, swapping between the two is incredibly easy. What did worry me though is the fact that the HD60 still uses USB 2.0, which until I started using it, befuddled me. Also available on the device is a standard 3.5mm jack for analog audio input and an HDMI output, which passes the signal through to a display without lag.

… pretty elegant in its simplicity …
With the release of this new device, Elgato also released Version 2.0 of their Game Capture software, with some nice updates across the board. Unfortunately though, Mac users don’t get a key feature that those on Windows do – the ability to include your webcam when streaming via Elgato’s software. With the continued rise of YouTube and streamers showing their mugs while playing their games, it’s an odd omission on the Mac side, and honestly I expected that to be remedied by now. Let’s take a step back though. Elgato’s software is pretty elegant in its simplicity with a very pleasing layout and easy to use interface. On the recording side, you can set individual profiles for specific resolutions and/or picture settings, whether you’re going to use analog audio (the 3.5mm jack on the device), and, if you plan on recording live commentary, if you want that audio recorded to a separate file (so you can process the audio separately.) Speaking of live commentary, you’ll be able to specify a discrete input for your microphone, be it a built-in laptop mic or USB mixer. It’s one of the best additions they’ve made to the available options. Just make sure that you actually press the “Live Commentary” button toward the bottom of the screen or you won’t even see the level meters move let alone actually record any of the audio.

 

Live streaming is also supported and thankfully they’ve improved the quality by leaps and bounds. There’s built-in support for services like YouTube, Ustream, and Twitch. Or you can specify your own Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) server if you so choose. Like most, I primarily use Twitch, but Elgato hasn’t done a great job of updating the Twitch server list. As a result, some that you may know about won’t automatically be on the presented list. The biggest problem that I usually run into is if I keep my Twitch settings to “Automatic” for which server to use. The stream might bounce to a couple of servers before it actually starts, which delays the stream actually starting on the site. I was quite happy to see that the YouTube option includes support for events that you’ve pre-scheduled. Simply log-in with your YouTube account, and any event that you’ve set up will appear in the list. I really experienced no issues streaming on YouTube at all. Ustream… well, it’s Ustream. Elgato’s software works great, with the only limits being on Ustream’s side of things.

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon Canada
Streaming quality, overall, is quite good. I’d say that (if you have the hardware to drive it) the Avermedia Extremecap U3 results in a better image for streaming and recording, but the difference is pretty negligible alongside the better hardware and software design from Elgato. You also have to remember that the quality of your stream is affected greatly by how good your PC/Mac hardware is. From my Macbook Pro, I can consistently broadcast at 48FPS in 1080p, which isn’t bad for a laptop. The device actually does a lot of the MPEG transcoding internally, then sends the data to your machine (hence only the need for USB 2.0 connectivity). The included software gives you control over game audio levels, commentary volume level, resolution, and overall quality settings. I think that the only quirk with the way the software is setup though is that some more experienced streamers/recorders may want a bit less in terms of “friendly” controls and instead want something more technical. For example, instead of setting a target bitrate for video quality, you have a little slide bar that you can adjust – but there’s nothing to tell you what that equates to. Also, there doesn’t seem to be a way to set audio quality separately. Obviously, you can do some of this in post-processing but some people really want to go directly from streaming/recording to YouTube without having to deal with processing after the fact.

Recording quality is quite good and scales well depending on where your Quality slider lands. I record at the highest setting on everything and even going straight to the hard drive in my laptop I have no hiccups at all recording at 1080p/60FPS. It really is impressive when I remember back to needing three drives in a RAID configuration to record 1080p/30FPS uncompressed with my Blackmagic, or when it was on my laptop recording to an external USB 3.0 SSD drive. The HD60 does a great job processing your videos as colors, audio, and motion are captured in excellent detail. Even taking the finished data into Final Cut X then out to Compressor results in some great quality, even though the source material is compressed from the start. Furthermore, I’ve never had any issues with corruption, hiccups, or anything else that may reduce my faith in the device’s capabilities.

 

One of my only complaints with the Elgato software, and it’s been a complaint for a very long time, is that there’s no way to direct screenshots for a project into a specific folder. Instead, if you hit the screenshot button it merely saves it to your desktop. In a review situation though, your desktop can fill-up pretty quickly. On the plus side though you can set a hotkey to take screenshots, and even better, I can set it so that I can merely tap my Stinkyboard with my foot to do so. Since the interface is USB 2.0, the software display isn’t real-time like the Avermedia (which uses DirectDraw over USB 3.0), so it will be a few seconds behind your external display. In some cases though, that can be a good thing if you want to capture something that just happened. Also, if you plan to stream using Open Broadcast Software (OBS), they still haven’t figured out how to make it work with either Elgato device, so keep that in mind.

… quality is excellent in both recording and streaming …

Compared to the Game Capture HD you won’t have any analog sources available any more so you’re restricted to using HDMI. Unless you have a way to “get around” HDCP encryption you won’t be able to capture gameplay from the PS3 at all on this device. Luckily though, the Xbox One and PS4 both offer options to turn the HDCP encryption off for gaming so you’re good to go without any weird hardware setups.

 

Honestly, this has been my go to capture device for a few months. The quality is excellent in both recording and streaming, and it’s really the simplicity that it affords me that keeps it in my backpack at all times. We’re also making it a point at PS Nation to use an Elgato device for all of the videos we produce for our site and YouTube channel, with the only exception being videos recorded using Share on the PS4. It’s a fantastic update to an already great device.

Score:
9.0

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook
  • embelievable

    I’m totally going to scoop this up and become the next PewDiePie. I’ll buy it using the PS Nation Amazon link of course.