A video capture card is a type of external peripheral for a computer that allows you to record or stream videos from various devices onto your computer. You would use a video capture card if you wanted to do things like play console games on PC, record console gameplay footage, and so on. If you wanted to do things such as live-stream or upload videos from various sources such as consoles, cameras, etc., then it would be in your best interests to get yourself one of these cards.
A video capture device, such as a camera, may be used to record or capture an audio and visual output signal to a linked computer. To link a video capture device to a computer system, use USB, ExpressCard, or PCI Express technology. Video capture devices from StarTech.com can gather audio and video signals from sources such as HDMI, DVI, VGA, S-Video, component/composite input. The captured signals are generally stored on the device in software that comes with it. Streamed recordings of the captured signals might also be available using certain software. Software is typically included with the video capture device to save the recorded data.

Where Can You Use a Video Capture Card?

You may want to use a video capture card if you have something specific that you want to record or stream footage from. For example, there are certain consoles such as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 that can only be played on PC using special software which allows you to play games from those consoles on your computer screen instead of a TV screen. In this case, you would need a video capture card to record or stream footage from said console onto your computer. It is also possible for people with cameras to use these cards to upload their videos onto social media sites such as YouTube or Facebook more easily.

Do I Need a Capture Card?

If you don't have a console or camera, then you likely won't need a video capture card. There may be other options out there that could serve the same function without having to buy an external device. For example, if all you wanted to do was upload videos from your iPhone onto YouTube or Facebook.
Live Streaming and Recording for Gamers

If you're a gamer and you enjoy life streaming your gameplay or creating gaming videos to upload onto social media or your website, then a video capture card will be in your best interest. Not only can this allow you to record/upload footage from consoles such as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but it will also let you record footage from other sources such as cameras and cell phones (with an appropriate cable and adapter).

Choosing the Right Card for You

Before buying, make sure that you know what type of system that you have. External/USB cards are generally recommended for people who don't have an available PCI Express slot on their computer. If you already have one of these slots open on your computer, then PCI Express cards are the better choice. If you still have doubts about what card to invest in, then read our article on how to choose the right capture card for your needs
Now that you know what a video capture card is and why you might need one, it's time to look at some of the best options out there for this type of product.
Requirements to use a capture card
There are some basic requirements that one would need to use a capture card - these are largely the same regardless of the make or model of the card.
- A PC or laptop with available ports. As mentioned, USB and ExpressCard video capture cards are good for laptops whereas PCI Express cards are better used with desktop computers.
- The appropriate cabling is required to utilize your chosen card - this will depend on what source you're attempting to record/stream from (HDMI cables for HDMI-capable devices, component cables for component sources, etc.).
- Appropriate adapters as needed to connect non-standard devices such as cell phones (iPhone adapter, etc).