If you’ve recently gotten a Nintendo Switch and you love the games, you might be wondering how you can enhance this experience.
You use capture cards to film your footage while you play your game simultaneously. This is essential if you have a streaming channel on YouTube or just if you want to save your footage for later.
The best capture card for Switch is the Elgato HD60 S Capture Card. It has high resolution and bitrate settings for superior video quality. With instant streaming and recording features, it’s user-friendly. It also allows for many customizable streaming settings for professional users.
In this Switch capture card guide, we take a look at the best capture cards for Switch in 2021. We review the best options and also answer common questions about how to best use these cards. We also discuss the settings and software you can use for streaming gameplay.
So, let’s get started!
Best Overall: Elgato HD60 S Capture Card
The Elgato HD60 S is the overall best capture card for Nintendo Switch streaming. It supports multiple resolution options, all the way from 480p to 1080p60s. This allows you to optimize your streaming for your PC and video quality.
It is lightweight and affordable, with HDMI connectivity. The capture card is compatible with multiple consoles, including the Nintendo Switch, PS5, and Xbox One. Small but mighty, it has an affordable price tag to match.
The main disadvantage of the Elgato HD60 S is that you cannot record unless you are using the Elgato software at the same time. Therefore, you can’t capture your footage while playing and add it to your PC later.
It also has some issues if you try to use more than one device at a time. You might need to invest in an HDMI splitter if this is your intention.
Overall, it is a reliable capture card, but you will need to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the Elgato software.
We love the Instant Performance features of the HD60 S. This design is ideal for beginners because it takes a lot of the guesswork out of the streaming process.
You can stream directly from your console or instantly record the footage to edit and upload later. The capture card also has a handy Flashback Recording feature, which is useful if you forget to click the recording button. You can navigate back and record it from the start.
It is an excellent option for streamers who have subscriber channels, with multiple in-built features. These include a Live Commentary option, plus multiple customizable settings for the layout of your streaming.
If you’re looking to start a new streaming channel, we recommend the Elgato HD60 S Capture Card. It has a small learning curve for the software but provides many intuitive and customizable streaming features.
Runner-Up: AverMedia GC311 Game Capture Card
The Avermedia GC311 is a cheap capture card for Switch. It is relatively affordable without compromising on quality. Like other leading Nintendo Switch capture cards, it allows you a variety of resolutions up to 1080p60.
This capture card is tiny and portable, with simple installation. You just need to plug in the HDMI cables, and it is good to go, without the need for additional drivers. You can use it directly with OBS, which is a huge advantage.
One disadvantage of this capture card is that the in-built encoder does not always work with Macs. This won’t affect you if you use a Windows computer, but Apple fans should take note. You will need to use a program on your Mac to encode the signal from the card.
There are also some issues with capturing audio. There is generally no issue with video streaming, but at times the audio can drop out or stop functioning. If you want to highlight the audio of the games in your streams, this might not be the best option.
We like that the capture card uses a zero-latency pass-through system. This severely reduces lag, especially if you have a strong internet connection and a powerful computer. The H.264 encoder also functions well with most computers.
If you are a beginner to Switch streaming and looking for an affordable but reliable capture card, you should consider the AverMedia GC311. At a fraction of the size and cost of comparable models, it provides high-resolution options with minimal lag.
Alternative: AverMedia GC513 Game Capture Card
The Avermedia GC513 Game Capture Card is an excellent mid-range Nintendo Switch capture card. It has an advantage over other cards in that it has a 4K pass-through maximum and records at 1080p60. Therefore, it’s a great option if your priority is video quality.
It also has a straightforward plug and play design. You just need to connect the capture card to your PC, and it immediately sends through the streaming signal. It also uses RECentral software, which is reasonably straightforward.
The critical disadvantage of the GC513 is that it does not work well with lower resolutions than 4K or 1080p. If your game or screen uses a different resolution like 1440p, the capture card cannot detect the signal.
Furthermore, setup and changing settings can be confusing. The capture card does not include detailed instructions, so you will need to look online for any troubleshooting questions. If you are a novice to this kind of technology, this could be a turn-off.
This capture card can record directly to the SD card without being plugged into the computer. This direct recording makes it an excellent portable choice if you want to record on the go. Especially if you are traveling, the card and your Switch are lightweight and simple to transport.
We also like that the card supports integrated Voice Commentary. This feature could be beneficial for streamers who share videos with their subscribers. This capture card works with popular software like OBS and StreamLabs, further simplifying the process.
If you’re looking for a portable and high-quality capture card for professional-level streaming, you can’t go wrong with the AverMedia GC513.
Alternative: Mirabox USB3.0 HDMI Video Capture Card
The Mirabox USB3.0 HDMI Video Capture Card is the best cheap capture card for Nintendo Switch. You get the same resolution of 1080p60 for a fraction of the price of leading capture cards.
It has high compatibility, and you can use the device with multiple consoles, including the Switch, Wii, Xbox One, and more. It also has a simple plug and play design, which allows you to record and stream directly without the need for extra software.
One of the disadvantages of this capture card is its exterior design. It has minimal ventilation, so it could overheat if you use it for long periods. Take care to keep the card on a cool, non-flammable surface.
There are also occasional issues with synchronization and connectivity. At times, your computer may not recognize that the capture card is connected. Therefore, you will need to restart the card and possibly your PC to make it work.
Lastly, the capture card compresses video in M-JPEG format. While this is still high-quality, it’s not as efficient as the newer H.264 technology that other cards use.
We like the zero-latency feature, which severely reduces lag. Unless you are on a weak internet connection, you can experience smooth and unbroken streaming with this budget capture card.
It is compatible with all computer types and operating systems. Because of its simple nature, it is an ideal choice for beginners. However, you will need to ensure that your USB 3.0 is plugged in for proper connectivity.
Overall, this capture card gives you much of the same streaming quality as the more expensive options, without the high price. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly and reliable capture card for Switch, you should consider the Mirabox USD3.0.
Best PC Capture Card: Elgato HD60 Pro Capture Card
The Elgato HD60 Pro Capture Card is the best PC capture card and an excellent premium option. If you have the money to spend, it’s well worth it for this sophisticated model.
It supports resolutions from 480p to the industry standard 1080p60. Paired with a high bitrate of 60Mbps, it can capture and broadcast high-quality footage with vibrant colors and piercing detail.
This footage is also free from lag due to its low-latency design and superior H.264 compressor. Viewers will be able to see your videos exactly how you do, which is a great way to grab more subscribers.
One of the main drawbacks of this capture card is the compatibility of the Elgato software. It functions a lot better on Windows computers than Macs, with the latter having limited functionality. If you own a Mac, it might not be your best option.
Furthermore, there are some issues with computers recognizing the capture card. It can also take a bit of time to launch. These are fixable issues but could be frustrating if you’re not experienced with troubleshooting.
We love the Master Copy function, which allows you to stream and record simultaneously. This means that you can edit the footage later and increase the resolution for YouTube uploads. This feature is essential if you have a strong subscriber base.
It includes other streamer-friendly features like Live Commentary and many adjustable stream settings. The Flashback Recording feature is also useful if you forget to record from the start of your game, as it allows you to record from the beginning again.
Overall, if you want to personalize your streams and have full control over the videos, the HD60 Pro accommodates those needs.
If you’re looking to take your Nintendo Switch streaming channel to the next level, you should take a closer look at the Elgato HD60 Pro.
Switch Capture Card FAQ
How do capture cards work?
Capture cards allow you to film your game as you play it. They connect your gaming console, which produces the graphics of your game, and your computer.
This connection is necessary because most gaming consoles cannot record footage directly. The card takes the captured footage and encodes it. The resulting file is usually in H.264, which is a standard video format.
If you stream live through an app like Twitch or YouTube, you can set up the card to automatically send the footage through the app. That way, you don’t need to edit it any further. Otherwise, you have the option to edit the footage and upload it later.
Because the capture card is separate from your game, it does not put extra strain on your console or gaming PC.
Therefore, there is less lag and delay when using a capture card than screen recording software. This is especially true if the capture card has an in-built compressor that converts the file type independent of your computer.
What settings do I need for capturing good footage?
External capture cards allow you to control the resolution and file format of your footage. These factors determine how clear the videos are and what you can do with the encoded file. You can also adjust bitrate and framerate settings.
Resolution is one of the most critical factors. It is the number of pixels that your screen can show. With a higher resolution, the image has more detail and color, making it more visually striking.
If you want the highest quality footage, you should choose the highest resolution setting on your capture card. This could be 1080p or even 4K. Especially if you are a streamer, selecting the highest setting can vastly improve your footage.
You can also choose the file format of your recorded footage. Many external capture cards allow you to select between MPEG-4 and H.264.
If you want the highest quality of the video, you should opt for H.264. It creates a smaller file size so you can capture more video and take up less space. It also has better video quality and potentially less lag during live streaming. Overall, it is a more efficient file type.
If you want to improve your footage quality further, you can adjust the bitrate settings. If your bitrate is too low, you will lose some of the video quality, like color and detail. However, increasing the bitrate does increase the file size. A bitrate of 10bps is usually a good compromise between quality and file size.
Frame rate is another setting that you can adjust. The best option for you is 60fps, especially if that is the frame rate of your game. There are other options like 30fps, but you will likely lose some of the quality.
Overall, you should evaluate what your PC can handle and choose the highest settings that it can support. Maximizing these settings can lead to much higher quality footage for your streaming videos.
Do I need a 4K capture card if the Switch only outputs 1080px60?
4K is the highest video quality that is available on the market. It produces the most colorful and detailed videos that you can imagine. However, the Nintendo Switch only uses a resolution of 1080p, with a frame rate of 60fps.
Using a 4K capture card isn’t going to make the resolution higher than what exists in the game. Furthermore, it also depends on your TV. If you hook up your Switch to the TV to play and record, the capture card can only show the maximum resolution of the screen.
Therefore, if you are only going to use your capture card for a Nintendo Switch, at this point, it’s not necessary to get a 4K capture card. However, if you play with multiple consoles like PS5 or Xbox, it could be worth your investment.
Can I hook up a capture card to my Nintendo Switch Lite?
The Nintendo Switch Lite is a more compact version of the console. It has a design to use directly in your hands and doesn’t include external controllers or any visual output options. Therefore, you cannot use a capture card with a Nintendo Switch Lite.
You have alternative options if you want to film footage on a Lite. You will need to use a physical camera system, including a camera, proper lighting, and a rig. In this way, you can capture high-quality video from the screen of the Lite.
A camera rig setup is more expensive than a capture card, but unfortunately, it’s the only option for the Lite. If you are serious about streaming your gameplay, we recommend choosing the regular Nintendo Switch instead.
What do I need to stream from my capture card to OBS or other software?
OBS is a broadcasting program that allows you to live-stream your gaming. Grab your computer, Switch console, capture card, microphone, webcam, and lighting. Then, you can follow the following steps to connect your capture card:
1. Attach your HDMI cable to the HDMI OUT port on your Switch Dock.
2. The opposite end of the cable needs to attach to the HDMI IN port of your capture card.
3. Grab your second HDMI cable and connect it to the HDMI OUT port of the capture card.
4. The opposite end of the second cable needs to attach to the HDMI IN port of your computer monitor or TV.
5. Put your Switch inside its dock.
6. Plug the USB of your capture card into your computer and connect the two. You may need to download software to use the capture card with the computer.
If you need further visual guidance, this video walks you through the process.
Starting a Stream:
Once you have everything connected, you can start your stream by following these steps:
- In OBS, create a new scene.
- Add source inputs for your microphone and camera if you want to be visible and audible during your broadcast. Adjust your volume levels as needed.
- Launch the capture card software (e.g., Elgato Game Capture HD).
- Change the resolution and bitrate settings to match your console settings.
- In the OBS software, link the capture card as a video capture source.
- Go into OBS video settings and choose your frame rate. 140 is the best option but might slow down your computer a lot. If there are lag problems, you can opt for 30.
- You can also adjust settings for presets, bitrate, and encoder. Experiment to see what works for you.
- To connect the stream, select Stream, and enter your stream key. You can find it in your settings for your platform (e.g., Twitch).
- Check that everything is set up correctly before you start your stream.
10. Click on the start button to begin your live stream.
Settings will differ if you are using an alternative broadcasting program.
However, many of the principles will stay the same. If in doubt, there are many excellent troubleshooting guides for synchronizing your capture card to streaming software.
In conclusion, a capture card is a great accessory that allows you to record your Nintendo Switch gaming sessions.
Whether you have a popular streaming channel or just want to rewatch your greatest hits, a capture card is invaluable.
The overall best capture card for Switch is the Elgato HD60 S Capture Card. It is the preferred capture card of gamers because of its high resolution, customizable options, and user-friendly features. It is also reasonably affordable and worth the investment.
When choosing a Switch capture card, consider the resolution, bitrate, and compression abilities. You need to balance video quality with the speed and capabilities of your computer so that it doesn’t lag.
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