Quick Look: Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro
Historically, video capture cards have been a piece of hardware needed primarily by video professionals, either in broadcast tv, video archival, or in our case for editorial content surrounding technology.
However, with the advent of services like Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Mixer, there's a much bigger audience of consumers looking for solutions that enable them to cheaply and quickly capture gameplay video from PCs and game consoles. Over the past few years, Elgato has seen this niche appear and fully embraced it.
Starting in 2002 with the Mac-only EyeTV line of TV tuning and capture products (which has since been sold to another company), Elgato is now one of the most popular options for streamers looking for capture solutions, and for good reasons. Elgato capture products are generally known for being easy to use and are quite inexpensive compared to other broadcast-grade solutions on the market. They even launched a collapsible green screen aimed at amateur streamers earlier this year!
We were extremely interested to see Elgato announce the Game Capture 4K60 Pro capture card earlier this month. With promises to enable capture the full 4K 60Hz signal from HDMI 2.0, we had to pick one up and check it out.
Even from the packaging, it's clear that Elgato is targeting a more consumer market than traditional video capture gear. Instead of coming in an unlabeled box like broadcast-level capture equipment, the Game Capture 4K60 Pro comes in a clearly labeled, and well-organized package that wouldn't be out of place on a store shelf.
The design of the card itself is also a departure from typical capture equipment. Instead of just a bare PCB, the Game Capture 4K 60 has a full shroud and backplate on the card, making it blend in better with modern PC components like GPUs. Also, for better or worse, the Elgato on the side logo on the side of the card (facing where a case window would be) illuminates with a white LED that cannot be disabled in software. Personally, I think it's a nice touch, but I could see if being aggravating if you carefully curated your PC's color scheme.
Additionally, the Game Capture 4K60 provides a passthrough HDMI port, so you don't need to get any splitters involved to play games on an external display while also capturing it.
Passthrough works as long as the card had power (even in BIOS screens), and I didn't notice any latency or image quality degradation while using the passthrough. This means that you could keep your PC or console hooked up all the time, without having to switch cables when you wanted to start streaming or capturing.
However, the Elgato Game Capture 4K60 cannot capture nor passthrough HDR-enabled content, so if you're looking to game on an HDR display, going through the capture card would prevent you from using HDR at all, which is disappointing.
To go along with the Game Capture 4K60, Elgato has launched a new piece of capture software. Aptly named the 4K Capture Utility for Windows, this utility provides a straightforward way to record 4K video streams. While the Game Capture 4K60 will work with the latest releases of the existing Elgato Game Capture software, it will be limited to 1080p60.
Overall, I've been impressed with the 4K Capture Utility. While we traditionally use Virtual Dub or other low-level DirectShow capture utilities for things like our Frame Rating captures, the Elgato utility has been a solid solution in my testing.
The adjustable settings in the 4K Capture Utility might be quite sparse, but I was able to change all of the necessary options. Both the bitrate and output resolution of the recording can be adjusted to allow you to downsample the video if you want to save some space, or crank the bitrate all the way up to preserve the best possible copy as we did.
Since 4K video encoding is difficult, Elgato integrates GPU-accelerated encoders from Intel, NVIDIA, and AMD. Intel QuickSync on our 6700K wasn't quite able to keep up with 4K60 video encoding; it was however adequate for lower resolutions and frame rates such as 1080p60.
While pure CPU-based software encoding is an option, it's quite CPU intensive for full 60Hz footage at 4K. If you are looking for 4K60 hardware encoding, you can use either a GTX 900 or 1000 series or an AMD RX Vega GPU installed in their system. We found that both a GTX 1070 Ti and an RX Vega 56 card provided great experiences for video capture with the Elgato application allowing us to capture 4K video at 60Hz with no dropped frames.
Additionally, if you are looking to stream gameplay, or just don't want to use the Elgato application, you will be happy to hear that the Game Capture 4K60 uses DirectShow, and works with all of the normal streaming and recording applications such as OBS and Xsplit. We tested this functionality, and it worked great.
In our time with the Elgato Game Capture 4K60, we noticed that the card was getting a bit hot when installed directly next to other add-in cards. Since we are a curious bunch, and interested in hardware, we decided to take the card apart to see if the shroud was acting as a heatsink or if it was just purely decorative.
Taking apart the Game Capture 4K60 is very easy, with just four screws to remove. Even better, there were no signs of a warranty tamper seal evident, meaning that you could disconnect the connector for the LED if you were so inclined without violating your warranty.
After taking the card apart, it's evident that the shroud is merely acting as a protective and decorative measure rather than being used for heat dissipation.
In the grand scheme of things, we didn't have any problems with overheating while using the Game Capture 4K60.
However, if you are using this card, I would make sure that there is airflow across the PCI Express expansion cards in your computer. In this respect, it would have been nice to see Elgato put some cutouts in the leading edge of the shroud to allow more efficient cooling from front intake fans, which are common in most PC cases.
Since we have the card apart, let's look at some of the more unique components.
The large IC on the board is an HDMI 2.0 controller from Silicon Image (which is now Lattice Semiconductor) which allows the processing of the incoming HDMI signal. Flanking the HDMI controller are two FPGAs, also from Lattice Semiconductor, which seems to be responsible for the main logic of the device.
Overall, I am very impressed with the Elgato Game Capture 4K60. While the $400 price tag might seem steep to a lot of readers, it's essentially the only option out there currently for 4K60 HDMI capture on a PC.
While standalone broadcast-grade devices like the Atomos Ninja Inferno will do it, that's a $1000 device meant for field recording that records to external media rather than a PC and is purely for video capture instead of capture and streaming like the Elgato.
Currently, I don't see a whole lot of reason for general consumers to be doing 4K streaming, I think the day will come, and I'm glad Elgato has launched an affordable option with the Game Capture 4K60. Now, let's just hope they give us an updated version that supports HDR!