Small. Easy setup. Capture feed is fast enough to play through without relying on HDMI pass-through.
While fast, capture stream is just a hint laggier than pass-through.
- Bottom Line
The Elgato Game Capture HD60 S lets you record gameplay to your computer or stream it to the internet and is fast enough to let you play right through your PC's capture software.
Elgato's latest game capture device, the HD60 S ($179.99), accepts any unencrypted HDMI video signal up to 1080p at 60 frames per second, letting you record it to your computer or stream it to the internet. It's designed for gamers who want to stream their gameplay on services like Twitch or upload Let's Play videos to sites like YouTube, and its USB 3.0 connection and video processing are fast enough to let you play through your capture software instead of relying on a pass-through video signal. It's remarkably functional and reliable, and earns our Editors' Choice for game capture devices.
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Why You Need a Capture Device
The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One both have game recording and streaming functions, but they're much more limited and less powerful than dedicated capture devices. Long gameplay sessions are out of the question for recording directly on consoles due to limits on recording times, while you can capture through the HD60 S for as long as your hard drive has space.
PS4 and Xbox streams are also limited, both in what services you can stream to and how you can configure your screen. Capture devices like the HD60 S can stream to any service or server as long as you have the address, and let you set up elaborate custom layouts and overlays. If you have serious interest in recording or streaming your gameplay and sharing it online to any sort of audience, this kind of device is vital.
The HD60 S is a tiny, rectangular pod, about the size of a wallet and nearly identical to its USB 2.0 predecessor, the HD60. The curved, matte black plastic shell measures 0.7 by 3.0 by 4.4 inches (HWD), with a glossy black stripe running down the length. An HDMI input, a USB-C port, and a 3.5mm audio input sit on one end of the device, and an HDMI output sits on the other end. That's all you get for any physical interaction with the HD60 S itself; the glossy strip lights up to indicate it's properly connected and recording, but besides plugging all of the necessary cables in, everything is managed through your connected PC.
Setting up the HD60 S goes through the same process as nearly any other PC-tethered capture device. Plug the HDMI input into your game console, plug the HDMI output into your TV, and plug the USB-C port into your PC. An HDMI cable and a USB-C-to-USB-A cable are included so you can patch the HD60 S into your current game setup without needing to pick up any additional cables. If you want to provide audio commentary over whatever you're capturing, you can plug a microphone or headset into the 3.5mm port.
Elgato offers its own Game Capture HD software for use with the HD60 S as a free download, and it's quite capable for both recording and streaming gameplay. You can record video locally or stream to Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, restream.io, Ustream, Dailymotion, or any rtmp-based streaming video service. Video capture is based around a single screen for recording, streaming, managing overlays, and adding audio commentary. The software places the video feed prominently in the upper-left corner of the window, with the direct recording and streaming controls arranged below and various capture settings sitting to the right. It lets you follow your current recording/streaming status, audio levels, overlays, and capture settings at a glance.
You can create custom scenes and overlays, or use one of 10 included in the software. The customization options are fairly powerful, letting you add your own graphics, text, webcam feeds, web pages, or even animations. It isn't quite as robust as XSplit's extensive scene, transition, and source options, but it's still very functional for free software, and much easier to set up and use than Open Broadcasting Software (OBS).
Capture and Streaming Performance
While you'll get the best gaming experience through the HDMI pass-through to your TV, the live capture feed in Elgato's software is surprisingly responsive. I played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on my Nintendo Switch through the feed on the connected PC. Both games were very playable, with only a tiny hint of noticeable lag compared with the HD60 S's HDMI output to a TV.
This is the biggest advantage over the HD60 and our previous Editors' Choice, the AVerMedia Live Gamer Extreme—those 1080p60-capable capture devices can record video just fine, but the capture feed lags far too long to comfortably play through it. With the HD60 S you can actually play through your monitor while you record or stream.
Gameplay capture looks excellent. I recorded Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe off of a Nintendo Switch and Rez Infinite off of a PlayStation 4. Recordings were captured at a steady 1080p60, with quality settings ranging from Good (approximately 19.8Mbps for 140MB per one minute of video) to Best (approximately 29.2Mbps for 212MB per one minute of video).
The lowest 1080p video quality setting produced some minor compression artifacts compared with the highest quality setting. Fine details like the string on Link's bow in Breath of the Wild were markedly sharper using the higher bitrate preset, which we would generally recommend when capturing video. Compression artifacts are less noticeable in retro-style games, but anything with modern graphics really demands the Best setting.
Streaming performance is also very strong. We've been using the HD60 S for live game streams on Geek.com, and the captured video quality has remained consistently high. The outgoing stream occasionally suffers from screen tearing, but this has been due to the processing of the video as it streams out more than the capture device itself, and vertical sync settings can help alleviate this problem.
The Elgato Game Capture HD60 S is a small, capable game capture device that's simple to set up and use to both stream and record your games. It can handle 1080p60 video with ease, and both its pass-through video to your TV and live video on your PC are responsive enough to comfortably play through. Its only real weakness is a lack of legacy or analog video options, but that's become a fairly standard aspect of HDMI capture devices. If you're looking to record or stream your games with far more flexibility and power than your consoles' streaming options allow, you should give the HD60 S some serious attention. It's a valuable streaming and recording tool for gamers, and our Editors' Choice.
By Will Greenwald Senior Analyst, Consumer Electronics
Will Greenwald has been covering consumer technology for a decade, and has served on the editorial staffs of CNET.com, Sound & Vision, and Maximum PC. His work and analysis has been seen in GamePro, Tested.com, Geek.com, and several other publications. He currently covers consumer electronics in the PC Labs as the in-house home entertainment expert, reviewing TVs, media hubs, speakers, headphones, and gaming accessories. Will is also an ISF Level II-certified TV calibrator, which ensures the thoroughness and accuracy of all PCMag TV reviews…. More »
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