How do you create a high-quality stream that will attract viewers in droves? Obviously, you first have to be pretty good at gaming and genuinely engaging with your audience. But you also need the best gaming equipment to stay ahead of the game.
Why the Switch? Well, until November 2018, Nintendo's strict policies made streaming and uploading videos from their games and consoles virtually out of the question. Ever since they eased up on these policies, Nintendo streaming has grown by leaps and bounds, particularly on their newest console, the Switch.
Consequently, capturing gameplay from the Switch is growing rapidly. Unfortunately, the capture card market is yet to fully catch up to evolution, as most cards are still designed mainly for PS4, Xbox One or PC. That being said, we've done the leg work and mustered a comprehensive guide to help you find the best capture card for Nintendo Switch.
What is a Capture Card?
As you probably already know, Nintendo Switch does come with a built-in feature that allows you to share gameplay, mainly in the form of screenshots or videos. However, it only allows 30-second clips and a maximum of 4 screenshots per post. These are certainly not ideal numbers for most people.
If you're looking to record and share extended Nintendo Switch gameplay or stream them to your audience live, you need an extra device to do so; a capture card. This is an external device primarily used to record, store and broadcast gameplay.
How do Capture Cards Work?
Typically, a capture card goes in between a console (your Nintendo Switch in this case), a display and a computer. The console connects to the capture card and then to the display, mostly via HDMI. It's then connected to the computer to record your gameplay using a particular software. Just as crucial, you have to be in Dock Mode to stream and create videos.
A capture card works by picking up video and audio signals from your console through an HDMI connection. It captures, records and encodes the information, then transmits it to a PC for processing. The videos are then stored in the computer's hard drive, where they can be accessed later, just like any regular video file. So once you've set up, all you have to do is simply get on with your gameplay while the capture card and computer do the heavy lifting.
Here are 5 of the best Nintendo Switch capture cards on the market:
1. Best Overall: Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro
- Interface: PCIe x1
- Input: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Xbox360, Nintendo Switch & Wii U
- Output: HDMI (lag-free pass-through)
- Supported resolutions: 1080p60, 1080p30, 1080i, 720p60, 720p30, 576p, 576i, 480p
Elgato is undoubtedly one of the forerunners when it comes to making top-of-the-line capture cards. The Game Capture HD60 Pro might arguably be the best out of them all.
This is an external capture card that you plug in and play. It's a PCI-e slot card, meaning it has to be plugged into a free slot on your computer to get the most performance out of it. The HD60 Pro fixes most of the problems associated with streaming on Switch, especially the drop in video quality when in dock mode. It delivers an impressive 1080p resolution at 60fps.
It also comes with an "Instant Gameview" feature that allows you to stream even from low latency. As the name suggests, this feature also lets your viewers see what is happening on your screen in real-time.
2. Best Portability: AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus
- 4K Pass through: Experience 4K while recording at Full HD
- PC & PC-Free Modes: Capture with or without PC and read your files on the fly
- Headset Commentary: Add your commentary to your streams or recordings
- Console Party Chat: Capture your party chats effortlessly
If you want a capture card that does a neat job and is also easy to lug around, the AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus should be worth your consideration.
It weighs just 1.1 pounds, hence the portability. It comes with a PC mode and a unique PC-Free mode. At only the push of a single button, the PC-Free mode lets you record your gameplay without necessarily connecting the card to a computer. In fact, this mode only needs a USB connection to maintain a constant power supply. It has a status light that indicates when it's ready to record video, which turns red and fades out slowly when you start recording.
This capture card can record stable 1080p 60 fps videos with a 130MB/minute file size. You could also reduce the size of the files by turning down the video quality settings. All in all, this is a remarkably portable capture card that can stream with or without a capture yet still produce high-quality videos.
3. Best High-Res: Razer Ripsaw HD
- 4K 60 fps pass-through for uninterrupted, smooth gameplay for uninterrupted,...
- Full HD 1080P at 60 FPS for powerful streaming performance for powerful...
- Hemi 2. 0 & USB 3. 0 Connectivity for zero latency output and maximum details
- 3. 5 mm audio cable for easy, software-free setup for easy, software-free setup
Razer, the company for gamers by gamers, has an incredible capture card lineup, the Ripsaw. The Ripsaw HD is arguably a game-changer for Nintendo Switch streamers.
It has a 4K pass-through capability, clearly ahead of the curve. It also comes with hardware-based audio capabilities, which removes the need for software mixing. This makes the streaming and video recording process fairly straightforward. This feature means the Ripsaw HD comes with a built-in mic and headphone jacks for monitoring.
Unfortunately, this Switch capture card does not include its own streaming software. Therefore, if you pan on 1080p streaming, you have to adjust your OBS to its finest or buy an XSplit premium account. But these are only minor caveats when you factor in the fair price.
4. Best 4K: Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro
- Input: HDMI (unencrypted)
- Output: HDMI (lag-free pass-through). Supported resolutions: Up to 2160p60
- HDR 10-bit: Pass-through & recording. Encoding: HEVC/H.265 HDR, AVC/H.264
- Perfect for: PS5, PS4 Pro, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One X, Twitch, YouTube
The Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro might be unnecessary, mainly due to the Switch's limitation. However, this is still an excellent choice if you're looking for a future-proof video capture card for next-gen consoles. It can capture an impressive 4K 60fps HDR-10 gameplay with ultra-low latency on eighth-generation consoles, such as PS 4 and Xbox One X.
This PCI Express card comes in a quite elegant design. It's housed in an electro-galvanized steel casing with sleek grills for airflow. The compact design means it'll fit into your gaming rig seamlessly. Right out of the box, the Capture 4K60 Pro supports streaming software such as OBS Studio and Streamlabs OBS. It also comes with a proprietary software suite, ensuring you don't have to go back into your pocket for premium broadcasting applications.
This capture card lets you start streaming on the Nintendo Switch at the highest possible resolution. On the downside, it doesn't have built-in H.264 encoding. This means you have to pair it with the right processor and graphics card to get the best performance.
5. Best Budget: AVerMedia Live Gamer Mini
- Full HD 1080P video Recording: stream and record all your content in full HD at...
- Zero-lag pass-through video: enjoy playing uncompressed video straight on the PC...
- Plug-and-play functionality: offers convenience, Just plug it to your PC, and...
- H.264 hardware encoder: with hardware encoding, this device takes load without...
This is a cheap capture card option that doesn't compromise on quality. It delivers the standard 1080p 60fps resolution without much of a hassle.
The capture card comes in a compact size, which makes it easily portable. It also has a straightforward installation, meaning all you need to do is plug in the HDMI cables and you'll be good to go. There's no need for extra drivers, plus you can use it directly with OBS.
The AVerMedia Live Game Mini uses a zero-latency pass-through system. This feature does a splendid job at reducing lag, especially if you have a powerful PC and a strong internet connection. The H.264 encoder is equally reliable on most computers.
The only significant drawback is perhaps the tendency for audio to drop out or stop functioning. Nevertheless, this is still a good buy for someone looking for a cheap and reliable capture card.
Things to Consider in a Nintendo Switch Capture Card
If this is your first time getting a capture card, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. These should guide you in finding the option that best meets your needs and preferences:
What type of content are you creating? Capture card specs vary from one objective to the other. Some of them are more suited for recording high-resolution videos, while others excel at streaming videos for extended periods.
If you're looking to stream high-resolution gameplay, your capture card should have at least 1080p capability. Some cards might allow you to record in this resolution for editing but might not support 1080p streaming, which happens to be the Switch's highest resolution output. Nevertheless, unless you intend to use your capture card with upcoming generation consoles, like the PS5 of Xbox Series X, this output more than suffices for the job.
Capture cards are quite expensive, meaning cost is something you'll inevitably have to consider. Generally, the price of a capture card depends on the brand and capabilities. The higher the price, the more high-quality the videos recorded.
As such, you'll professional gamers lean more towards high-end capture cards, such as the Elgato Game Capture 4K60 Pro, some of which can be prohibitively expensive for a casual gamer. However, unless you're looking to stream regularly, a budget capture card should be enough.
3. Video Output Quality
You'll probably want rich videos if you're looking to stream your gameplay. This means you'll want to invest in one of the more expensive cards.
Since the Switch can only produce 1080p videos, there's no particular need to get a Full HD or 4K capture card. As long as it can deliver 1080p resolution at 60 fps, you should be good to go.
It's always a plus if you get a capture card that's easy to operate. It would help if you read reviews or checked out a couple of YouTube videos to get the gist of how a particular product works specifically. Luckily, the capture cards included in this guide have features and applications that are pretty easy to use for both casual and professional Switch gamers.
How to Stream and Record Gameplay
When using a capture card for streaming on the Nintendo Switch, you're also going to need additional hardware and software, especially if you want to record high-quality videos:
- Broadcasting software like Streamlabs OBS.
- A stream deck.
- A headset with a decent microphone. Alternatively, you can get a dedicated desktop condenser microphone if you really want your voice to be transmitted loud and clear.
Once you have the necessary equipment and are ready to start streaming, these steps should help you with the physical setup:
- Disconnect the HDMI connection from your display and connect it to the capture card.
- Using the Type-C port, connect the capture card to your computer.
- Finally, connect the capture card's HDMI output port to the display or the display's HDMI input port using a second HDMI cable.
Nintendo has always had incredibly loyal, hardcore fans. Streaming on the Switch can be extremely rewarding with this ready audience. Unfortunately, it has a fairly limited video game library. But this could plausibly work in your favor since the niche isn't as saturated by streamers compared to popular titles from various other platforms.
These are some of the most popular Switch games to stream:
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons
- Pokemon Sword and Shield
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Super Mario Odyssey
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Frequently Asked Questions about Capture Cards
1. How much does a capture card for the Nintendo Switch cost?
Depends on your budget. If you want a basic capture card, you'll more than likely get one at the cost of a new Nintendo Switch game. However, a more premium, high-spec option will probably cost you 3 or 4 times the cost of a budget card.
2. What settings do I require to capture good footage?
Nintendo Switch has a 1080p resolution limit. As such, the best way to ensure you get high-quality videos is tweaking around the file format for recording your gameplay footage. There are two main options: MPEG-4 and H.264.
H.264 is the better option. For starters, it creates smaller file sizes, hence you can record more video yet take up less space. Furthermore, it delivers better video quality with somewhat less lag when streaming live.
3. Can I use a capture card on a Nintendo Switch Lite?
No. Since the Nintendo Switch Lite is the more compact version, it doesn't include any external controllers or visual output options.
However, if you still want to film footage on the Lite, you can build a physical camera setup, including the camera itself, a rig, and proper lighting.