Game-related video is a huge business online, and that is creating significant demand for tools that enable almost anyone to make high-quality content for YouTube, Twitch, Mixer, and more. This space is growing crowded as more companies try to cater to a generation of broadcasters who are all aiming to turn into the next Ninja, but AVerMedia has more experience building capture equipment for video games than most of its competitors, and the company is beginning to use that expertise to attention to its latest product launches: the Live Gamer Ultra and the Live Gamer 4K.
AVerMedia’s Live Gamer product line is a series of well-known and well-regarded capture cards. While companies like Elgato have had a lot of success by providing exactly what most content creators want from this kind of device (which for the last several years was 1080p60 performance), AVerMedia has matched that tech side but has not penetrated with the same level of marketing. But now, the Taiwanese audio-video company is leapfrogging its competition in terms of technology and pricing as it jumps into the bold new world of 2160p60 HDR capture.
The Live Gamer 4K is a $300 PCIe capture card that is capable of recording video over HDMI at a 2160p resolution at 60 frames per second. That is similar to the $400 Elgato 4K60 Pro, and like that competing device, the Live Gamer 4K requires a beefy PC with a recent graphics card to work. But unlike the Elgato, the Live Gamer 4K can also record content in HDR. AVerMedia has also introduced ultra high framerate options so you can do 1440p at 144 FPS or 1080p at 240 FPS.
The Live Gamer Ultra, meanwhile, is AVermedia’s $250 external USB capture card. It uses a USB 3.1 type-C port to capture up to 2160p30, 1440p60, or 1080p120 without having to install anything inside of your desktop. It does not support HDR, but it also doesn’t require the best graphics cards to work since it processes much of the video itself before sending it to your CPU.
Both devices stand out for their impressive video quality and ultra-low latency. One of the biggest headaches from recording or broadcasting video comes from the lag that some capture cards introduce into the processing pipeline. This requires content creators to adjust audio to avoid sync issues and it means that playing most games without an external monitor is not an option. But AVerMedia’s Live Gamer cards introduce almost no perceptible lag. When I compared the live feed to the recording in AVerMedia’s RECentral software, OBS Studio, and XSplit, the two videos almost always looked totally in sync — only when I was looking for it and would pause the screen would I see a frame or two of lag.
As for the videos, here’s some samples that I’ve uploaded to YouTube:
Live Gamer 4K clips
God of War in Resolution Mode on PS4 Pro with HDR
God of War in Resolution Mode on PS4 Pro without HDR
Far Cry 5 4K on PS4 Pro with HDR
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered on PS4 Pro without HDR
Live Gamer Ultra
Mario Tennis Aces on Switch at 1080p60
Impressions so far
Before installing the Live Gamer 4K, I had spent months with the Elgato 4K60 Pro. I found that device was capable, but Elgato was still working hard to make it perform better in a variety of situations. For capturing 4K60 video at a high bitrate, however, the 4K60 Pro did its job well. I’ll want to spend more time with the Live Gamer 4K as well, but I think it at least matches what Elgato is doing with the added option for HDR.
If you are deciding between the Elgato or the AVermedia 4K60 options, I think the Live Gamer 4K is your best bet because it’s $100 less and gives you that HDR option if you need it. I do think I prefer the Elgato 4K capture software over RECentral 4, but neither are great. I also think that at high bitrates, the Elgato might play nicer with OBS and XSplit, but that’s one of the areas where I think more testing is necessary.
If you are trying to figure out if HDR is something you need at all, you probably don’t. Most people are not watching HDR content on YouTube and it isn’t supported on Twitch yet. But the Elgato 4K60 Pro does not even passthrough an HDR signal, so you don’t get to enjoy that benefit yourself if you are recording or broadcasting content. That alone is a huge benefit. But 2160p60 HDR game footage probably makes the most sense for professional videographers who work directly with developers and publishers — or perhaps people who want to make documentary films about video games.
That might sound niche, but if you want to futureproof your videos as more people get HDR-capable displays and more platforms support the standard, recording in HDR now might make sense — especially if you are already planning to do 4K.
I’m going to do some head-to-head comparisons of the 4K60 Pro and Live Gamer 4K soon at their maximum bitrates, and I’ll upload those to Vimeo so we can avoid YouTube’s oppressive compression algorithm. I’m also going to stick with both of these devices for a while to see how Elgato and AVerMedia improve them on the software and firmware side of things. For now, though, it’s obvious that the demanding gaming market is encouraging a lot of innovation and competition among video-tech companies, and everyone is benefitting from that.