It’s upgrade time! If you are anything like me, an opportunity to review the latest capture card by gaming hardware giants Elgato is enough to send you into a frenzy, and boy I have been in a frenzy of epic proportions! Back at the end of December 2014 I upgraded my streaming equipment to incorporate the very impressive HD60 which allows streaming and recording of game content at 1080p and 60 frames a second. This previous card is still in high demand and for good reason, it maintains a highly competitive position in the market of external capture cards. Here lies the biggest, and boldest new move from Elgato. The HD60 Pro is the first of the company’s internal capture cards, no longer shackled the your PC by USB, this card uses a lightning fast PCI-Express x1 connection to deliver top quality, latency free content. If that hasn’t hit you at full force, we are talking about a card that can capture, process and convert gameplay so quickly that you can play your game from the software preview rather than a separate screen, and that is where the HD60 Pro really impresses!
Let’s firstly consider the cards design. It is almost a shame that is lives inside the PC case because it is a very bold and stylish design. All black, including the IO Plate, it sports the Elgato Logo in 3 places, as well as helpful IN and OUT labels on the HDMI sockets, taking the guesswork out of use. On its top side in the case, there are two opposing sets of vents that look fantastic, giving the card a sporty and luxurious robustness whilst serving a practical function. Once connected via the PCI-Express x1 slot in your PC case, the card sits very flush. It will be as though it was always there. A nice touch is the inclusion of a metallic case badge so that admirers will know you are packing the serious piece of kit in your rig.
Now, installation should definitely not worry you with the card. You need very little experience to install the card. Of course, this being an internal card, you need a PC, with a spare PCI-Express x1 lane. The card comes with 2 IO shields, with the standard width installed. The second is a low profile version, perfect for a slim streaming tower. On opening the case and removing the blank IO shield from the free PCI-Express x1 and slot in the Elgato HD60 Pro until you hear a satisfying click. Replace any retaining screws and close the case back up. Observe some basic electrical safety as you do so but this task can take less than a minute depending on your case model. Reconnect your power and boot up your PC and the Elgato should automatically find and install the latest drivers, super simple!
The difference is incredible! At EGX I was amazed. I am now even more amazed to see my own PC performing at the same level! The on board nature of the card offers great stability even at high resolution and framerate settings. Practically speaking, the lagless content delivery allows a serious downsize in streaming equipment as the game can be played perfectly using the preview feature of any streaming software. Where previously it was necessary to have a separate play screen to your streaming machine’s monitor you can now achieve everyone in a single monitor solution. That’s simply incredible! The reduction in costs for the extra screen should pay for the Elgato itself from the off. The space reduction as well might offer greater consideration for stream set up positioning too. If you are tight for space, this model will definitely offer a great solution. I have been lucky enough to use a dual monitor and game screen set up previously but have now switched things up in testing, dropping one panel completely and now switching between dual monitors and 1 monitor, 1 game screen on the fly. Both of these experiences are solid and if available to you, I recommend you try both, see how your hardware handles and develop a preference. Having this level of choice is a welcome luxury!
Beyond the screen options, there are also other often fiddly delay settings that are solved by the HD60 Pro. Previous image delays could mean out of sync sound, webcam footage and voice overs. Whilst small these are noticeable when a streamer clebrates a kill a second before you see the footage. With everything instant and in sync from the word go, the experience is much more authentic.
Let’s now consider Elgato’s latest software, the Game Capture HD 3.0 beta which is currently encouraged by the manufacturer. Here again there have been leaps and bounds of progress offering a solid set of competitive functions and nifty exclusive features that are worth considering for use. Far too often I find that content creators are awkwardly negotiating the space that exists between the live stream and the pre-recorded video. I often debate the suitability of content captured for one purpose being suitable for the other as livestreams centre around presence, interaction and the ‘liveness’ of the performance whilst compromising the ability to edit and adjust. Videos are strengthened greatly by the use of editing to ensure that the footage fully captures the intention of the creator. Time being limited how then do you ensure a great livestream whilst also capturing high quality footage to edit and upload later? The answer is with this software. The Master Copy feature built into the Game Capture HD software is fantastic. It allows you to choose the quality you wish to stream at and separately the quality and format you wish to record in. The range of customisation is incredible as well as the number of services you can set up to stream to from within the software (including the ability to edit titles and games). The interface will adjust to tell you the resolution and framerate you will stream at as you increase the upload speed you wish to use. Not only that but independently you can crank up the quality of the separate recording with a staggering cap of 60mbps (increasing from 40 on the HD60). Beyond that the choice only gets better. You can choose exactly what should form part of your broadcast and what should form your recording, stripping away elements like webcams and voiceovers if you wish. This means that while you might livestream with a webcam and mic, interacting with your viewers, you can later take just the game footage alone and edit a video, voice it over or add a webcam to this separately, creating a great piece of content for a different audience. This is fantastic!
A recent addition to the suite of features in the software is the ability to add and adjust a webcam chroma key. This allows the use of green screens to strip unnecessary backgrounds and has only previously been available as a feature in competitor software. It will certainly offer further consideration for those using these features currently.
Another new feature is the ability to overlay websites into the stream, with browser alerts in particular mind. This experience is highly intuitive and works well with the service I use twitchalerts.com, after some short set up regarding text sizes.
64-bit support is also now available and is definitely recommended. Without going into unnecessary detail, if you have a 64 bit operating system then using the 64 bit software will maximise your use of the hardware you have allowing a more reliable experience.
Overall, this card is phenomenal.
The Elgato HD60 Pro is a serious step up for serious streamers and a welcome offering from this, one of the biggest names in capture cards. You should know whether your rig can make use of this card and, if it can, I highly recommend adding it to your set up! It’s the fastest and most reliable stream experience I’ve had so far!