In my last article, I wrote about the software needed for recording and capturing gameplay from PC games. But a good gaming streamer also needs other equipment in addition to the software and the computer or console they play the games on. These people often make “Let’s Plays” of various games, or stream their game play and voice communication of their team to various channels such as Twitch.tv. In this article, I will show you what additional hardware is needed to become a gaming broadcaster – capture devices and headphones with built-in mics will be detailed.
Best Hardware to Capture Console Gameplay
In the last article I mentioned that a capture card or capture device is often unnecessary if you play on PC. But if you are a console gamer (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 or One) who wants to record their gaming, having a capture device and a PC capable of storing, editing or streaming the footage is a must-have for the most part. Sure, the newest generation of consoles (Xbox One and PS4) have built-in streaming and recording capabilities, but if you want more sophisticated options and possibilities with your videos, a PC will be required.
Capture devices are responsible for capturing and recording game play from your gaming console to your PC, where you will be able to stream or store the footage. Most capture cards are connected to your console via a HDMI output. These devices also come in two varieties: internal, which has to be slotted in a desktop PC, and external, which can also be used with a laptop. Some of the external ones can be used without a computer, but may require external storage space, such as a hard drive or USB stick.
1. Elgato Game Capture HD / HD60/ HD60 Pro
Elgato is one of the most well-known brands among console recorders. Their devices are intended to be easy and hassle-free to use, and they don’t require any additional equipment to work properly, other than what is included in the box. Elgato usually includes their own proprietary capture software, USB, component adapter, PS3 and HDMI cables.
Out of these three capture devices, the HD60 Pro is the most advanced. Also unlike the other two, this version is an interior capture card which needs to be slotted into a PCI-E slot in your desktop PC. The HD60 Pro also has some features unique to it, these are the following:
- Master Copy technology: Enables you to both record and stream at 1080p, 60 FPS at the same time.
- Stream management: most functions that streamers look for are built-in: live commentary via a microphone, adding a live webcam footage, and managing overlays.
- Flashback recording: if you make a crazy move in your game, but forget to record it, you can slide back in the software on your PC and start recording the moments you want saved.
The Elgato HD and HD60, the “lesser” versions of their console recorders are external recorders, but these still do require a PC or a laptop to function. These devices lack the Master Copy capability of the most advanced one, but they are still good for streaming or recording gameplay. These two devices have sleek and elegant, black-colored designs, and come with the same accessories and software and the same flashback capability that is bundled with the HD60 Pro. However, these devices lack the more sophisticated stream management features.
2. AVermedia AVerCapture HD
AverCapture is an external recorder geared for ease of use. It powers itself via the USB connection to your PC or laptop, so there is one less cord to worry about. This recorder is compatible with all common consoles and also can be used to record PC games. However, the software that is bundled with the AverCapture (AverCapture HD and RECentral) lack a lot of editing tools that would make them more useful for YouTubers; the software is geared toward streaming, but even so, advanced streamers will still find the options to be lacking. Fortunately AVermedia includes a 3-month subscription to XSplit, which is a far more advanced recording and streaming software.
The AVerCapture HD has a minimal impact both on performance and on storage space, thanks to the built-in H.264 hardware encoder, which, similarly to how NVidia’s ShadowPlay software works, can take off the conversion task from the PC.
3. AVerMedia Game Capture HD 2 – stand-alone console recorder
AVerMedia’s Game Capture HD 2 is what you need if you want to record, commentate, upload and edit directly to YouTube without using any kind of PC. In theory, this device is very useful for people without PCs, but it has several issues which make it a bit hard to recommend in certain cases; but if these don’t apply to you, the device is a quite good choice – just research these issues before you decide to buy one.
First, it can be a bit hard to get to work with a PlayStation 4 – you have to disable the HDCP encryption in the console’s settings to make it work; second, it needs a 2.5-inch hard drive, which is not included, so you have to buy one in addition to the device. Also, the device can only record at 1080p 30 FPS, or 720p 60 FPS – for better performance, you need to buy a more advanced device that connects to a PC. Also, you cannot stream games on services such as Twitch.tv using it.
The AVerMedia Game Capture HD 2 comes with a small remote that can be used to control basic recording, taking screenshots and operating it’s on-screen menus. It also lacks Wi-Fi capability, so it has to be plugged directly into a router to make it able to upload videos to YouTube or use the GameMate Android/iOS application to connect with it.
The Game Capture HD 2 has several additional ports for microphone and webcam input, so you can plug in these devices and provide live commentary as you play and record your game.
Having a good headset might be very important for several reasons. First, if you are playing a game where sound positioning is very important (shooters, for example), then you need to hear them well to pinpoint possible threats. Style might also be important if you are planning to use a webcam while streaming or recording. Before you buy a headphone, you should try it on in a retail shop to see whether it is comfortable for you. Also, if you commentate your game play, microphone quality is very important so that your viewers clearly hear and understand you.
1. The headset included with your console
The first and most obvious choice could be the headset that is bundled with your PS or Xbox console – but these often don’t provide good enough mic quality for more advanced streamers. If you are just starting out or are tight on budget, you can use these until you can get your hands on something better.
2. SteelSeries H Wireless
Considered the ultimate gaming headset, the SteelSeries H Wireless has a ton of features and a very good sound quality for gaming. While the sound balancing of this headset is not ideal for movies or music, the over-tuned bass is very useful for shooters and similar games where you precisely have to hear footsteps and gunfire. Naturally, the headset also has an inbuilt microphone – while its quality is nothing really spectacular, it is more than enough for voice chat and basic commentaries. If you are looking for a great wireless headset with an USB center that can be used to plug in additional headsets and mics (for example if you want to do a stream where two people do a commentary on your gaming), an additional battery and charger pad for minimal downtime, and an EQ software to setup how exactly your headset should sound.
3. Razer Kraken series
The Kraken series by Razer is known mostly for its high quality and colorful gaming headsets. Their main color is the bright green, but there is also a black edition with some dark greenish sprinkled in. The Kraken is a middle-ranged, affordable headset intended for gaming, as it doesn’t produce some of the higher pitched sounds that well. Its bass can be overwhelming for some people, but it is quite helpful in pinpointing enemy locations.
As a mid-range headset, the Krakens lack some of the bells and whistles of the more expensive devices, but they still do a fairly good job both in sound and microphone quality. Your viewers also won’t have any problem with understanding you if you use the Kraken’s microphone.