ELGATO Game Capture HD: The Retro Review
Hello fellow retro collectors and enthusiasts, I’m back with a very special hardware review. A review that I specifically wanted to focus on all things retro and old. What we got in-house is nothing short of amazing. It’s the incredible and very affordable high definition video capturing device….the ELGATO Game Capture HD external USB device for Windows and/or MAC.
Now let’s get a few things out of the way before I get into the sweet ELGATO details. I’ve used many USB capture devices in the recent past. I’ve used the basic Pinnacle Studio Movie Box Ultimate which I don’t know why it was labeled as an HD product because it only supported a composite input/output connection.
I them moved up to the AverMedia HD DVR which was a great and capable device but with very limited software and features beyond capturing up to 1080i with no editing tools it was also only analog and didn’t support full HDMI input.
There are many options on the net for capturing your game play from consoles but none offered me the full feature set out of the box like the ELGATO has. In this review I will focus on only the old and retro side of capturing. There are a million videos on the web that cover all of the modern consoles like the PS3 and Xbox and can’t forget the Wii U as well.
Here at OSJ we pride ourselves in delivering game play videos from real hardware and use emulation as a very last resort. As I’ve mentioned before in many other video posts, unless the game in very expensive, only available via import or is a title that never made it to retail shelves, our videos will always be actual captures from the OSJ archives of consoles.
That being said, the ELGATO Game Capture HD is the only way we’ll be capturing all of our future retro game play videos. The quality of the image, software and functionality have proven to be unmatched for “our” needs.
The first and very important feature is that the ELGATO can be used by the most humble of computers. I mean it can run on a minimum spec “laptop” of at least a 2GHz Dual Core CPU with 4GB ram (which RAM is dirt cheap) and the old 2.0 USB standard. That’s it..! Almost and basic PC bought within that last five years can most likely run this bad boy.
The samples that you’ll see below where all captured using the ELGATO and running on a simple 4GB, Core2Duo at 2.4GHz and Windows 8 64-Bit OS. Nothing fancy and far from a modern rig.
Now mind you that all of the content we captured was of low resolution game play but that’s not the point here. What we’ve noticed on other external PVR units or USB capture devices was a the crazy fact that they didn’t detect signals of 240p which was the actual output resolutions on many of the retro consoles back in the day.
SNES, Genesis and other 8-Bit consoles didn’t output video at a modern 480i, so most (not all) external capture cards couldn’t grab the screen image from many of our classic gaming consoles. Yes they might of bragged about capturing full 1080i/p but forget about the old consoles.
Let me make one point very clear outside of retro capturing. The ELGATO can capture video up to 1080p @ 30fps and allow for full 1080p @ 60fps when not capturing and just use the pass through when gaming. Oh! you also can connect your devices to the ELGATO directly via full HDMI in and out.
This little beast of a capture device is at the top of the heap when we’re recommending an all in one out of the box and connect and go product.
Before we get to the details of our tests we have to mention that FULL Twitch.TV integration is near perfect. No fancy hoops to jump through or extra software needed. The included software does all of the grunt work for you so you can get to live streaming in no time. To live stream just enter your Twitch credentials enter a few details of your stream like title and game your playing hit the go live button and your on.!
To top that amazing feat off, adding voice commentary has never been easier. All you need is a microphone and right within the software it will automatically adjust the game play and microphone volumes. What I mean is that the software will lower the game audio when your speaking into the mic and will raise the game audio back to what it was set to after you stop talking into the mic.
All automatically without you having to fiddle with software or hardware sound mixers. This is one of my most favorite functions of the hardware/software found on the ELGATO.
Now if there is anything not so positive but is no way a deal breaker, it’s the lack of editing software. You can upload, encode , take a screenshot and cut your video captures but don’t expect to fully edit them. What I mean is that you’ll need your own editing software if you want to get fancy with watermarks or adding your own audio and special effects.
What you get with the ELGATO is very basic but this is what most users want. If you just want to capture game play, do commentaries and upload them to YouTube or just encoding it to a format that you can upload to then view them on other online services or devices, then the software has you covered. On a side note, you can check out our recent uploads that have been captured using the ELGATO but have been edited by me for the site on our YouTube channel here.
Now let’s get to the test captures for your viewing pleasure.
Atari Jaguar via S-Video:
Other retro (older) consoles tested and verified working with the ELGATO but not displayed in this post are:
NES – Nintendo Entertainment System
N64 – Nintendo 64
SMS – Sega Master System
Atari 800 XL
All of the captures shown here were done using the official composite dongle from ELGATO and not the component dongle work around found throughout YouTube. The cable was supplied to us alongside our review unit but didn’t verify if the composite cable will be included in current or future ELGATO units along with the currently included proprietary Playstation analog cable, HDMI and Component cables.
In closing the ELGATO is the best value in our opinion for capturing and sharing high quality game play videos on both retro and modern consoles. With the low computer requirements, a cost of only “as of today” as low as $160 and extremely easy to understand software for helping the noob producer get into the game play sharing craze…..you can’t go wrong with the elegant and powerful ELGATO Game Capture HD.
Keep It Retro….!