AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra and Live Gamer 4K Review: 4K HDR Capture for the Masses
It's no secret that streaming video games on the internet is immensely popular now due to the rise of services dedicated to game streaming like Twitch and Mixer. A combination of commodity capture cards and software capture solutions have made it easier than ever to start streaming.
As internet speeds increase (at least in some parts of the world) combined with newly available capture hardware, it's only a matter of time before we start to see more of a push towards 4K streaming in the coming years.
However, until now, one of the biggest emerging trends in both console and PC gaming, HDR, has been ignored by capture gear.
Today, we're taking a look at two 4K HDR products from Avermedia, the Live Gamer 4K, and Live Gamers Ultra.
There are a couple of main differences between the Live Gamer 4K, and the Live Gamer Ultra, the first being form factor.
The Live Gamer 4K is a PCI Express X4 based internal capture card, and the higher-end option of the two. Under the styled shroud, we find a large, passively cooled heatsink.
Additionally, RGB LEDs illuminate both the Avermedia logo on the top of the card and a portion that shines through the shroud.
On the other hand, we have the USB-based Live Gamer Ultra. Powered by a USB 3.1 Gen 1 interface, with a Type-C connector, the Live Game Ultra is meant to be a plug-and-play solution. Out of the box, the Live Gamer Ultra provides UVC functionality, allowing Windows to use it with no additional drivers needed. If an application can support a webcam, it will be able to see and use the Live Gamer Ultra device. However, if you're looking for more control, the Ultra still supports Avermedia's RECentral software (more on this later).
The other differentiating feature between these two new Avermedia products is their given recording capabilities. While the Live Gamer 4K supports all resolutions up to 4K 60Hz (even 2560x1440 144Hz) and supports HDR capture, the Live Gamer Ultra is a bit more limited.
With the Ultra, you can record up to 4K 30Hz non-HDR, with the ability to pass through a native 4K 60Hz HDR signal to your TV. This means that you can record and stream without having to sacrifice image settings on the display you are using for gameplay. While we would have liked to see the ability to record HDR at 30 Hz, it doesn't seem to exist on this current device.
Avermedia's RECentral software utilizes the video encoding capabilities of GPUs from both AMD and NVIDIA. However, for 4K 60HZ capture, Avermedia recommends the use of an NVIDIA card, particularly a GTX 1060 or better.
While I wasn't much impressed years ago when I last tried Avermedia's RECentral software, I was eager to dive into the newest version to see what changes they've made.
Overall, RECentral seems to be a well thought out, and fairly easy to use application for capturing gameplay footage. In addition to just recording gameplay to disk, RECentral also supports directly live streaming to Twitch, YouTube, Mixer, and a few other services.
While the video encoding settings are a bit basic for a power user, they provide most of the aspects that anyone will likely ever need to tweak including codec, bitrate, frame rate, and key frame intervals.
RECentral offers an impressive amount of flexibility including features like the ability to overlay another video device (in this case a webcam), over your gameplay footage. For users who are looking for the basics, this means they could easily use RECentral over an application like XSplit or OBS
Playback of recorded HDR files can be a bit challenging due to software support, with Avermedia recommending using PotPlayer with the madVR renderer installed. While it was a bit tricky to configure, we tried this out, and it worked great on several HDR-enabled PCs.
While in theory, the video exported directly out of Avermedia's software should be able to be uploaded straight to YouTube, maintaining the HDR metadata, we ran into a bit of an issue with this. Due to an NVENC issue outside of Avermedia's hands to fix, the video outputted with HDR mode enabled was being reported as having a resolution of 3840x2176, despite the source being a full 3840x2160.
Sample footage of 4K 60HZ HDR capture from the Avermedia Live Gamer 4K. HDR options will only appear on HDR-enabled YouTube clients.
However, we were able to fix this by importing the video into Adobe Premiere and exporting the video with a proper resolution and encoder settings to enable HDR.
Despite this hiccup, the 4K HDR capture from the Avermedia Live Gamer 4K looks amazing and maintains a full 60Hz frame rate without any drops.
All in all, I'm impressed with both of these capture products from Avermedia. If you're looking for 4K capture options, and specifically ones that support HDR, give them a look!
|Review Terms and Disclosure
All Information as of the Date of Publication
|How product was obtained:||The product is on loan from Avermedia for the purpose of this review.|
|What happens to the product after review:||The product remains the property of Avermedia but is on extended loan for future testing and product comparisons.|
|Company involvement:||Avermedia had no control over the content of the review and was not consulted prior to publication.|
|PC Perspective Compensation:||Neither PC Perspective nor any of its staff were paid or compensated in any way by Avermedia for this review.|
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