Tech Review: Elgato Game Capture HD60 S: Easy does it

Younger audiences don’t give a shit about television. They watch Netflix, they watch YouTube and, in greater numbers than ever, they’re watching Twitch. This means that Twitch has become an attractive platform for streamers of all stripes to get their start. Elgato’s HD60 S is, for the first-time streamer, exactly the kind of kit you need as you set out on the road to internet stardom.

The HD60 S is an external capture device that can be connected to your PlayStation 4, Xbox One or Nintendo Switch, allowing you to stream or record your gameplay directly to online video platforms like Twitch or YouTube. Once connected to a console and your TV, the HD60 S must also be connected to a computer running streaming software like Elgato’s own Game Capture program or Streamlabs OBS. Hit the Go Live button and you are off to the races.

Setting up the HD60 S is actually much easier than it might sound, and if you have a reasonably powerful laptop handy you shouldn’t have a problem getting your stream up and running. To compare: My Dell 2016 Ultrabook, with its minimal graphics processing, began to really struggle the longer the stream went on. On the other hand, my gaming desktop on the handled the HD60 S and the stream without breaking a sweat. What I’m saying is that, depending on your home computer’s overall power, your performance mileage with the HD60 S will vary. In terms of vision output, the HD60 S taps out at 1080p60 and can be scaled up and down using the Elgato Game Capture software. 1080p60 is, in my opinion at least, more than enough to be going on with. Those looking for 4K output will need to look at other devices in Elgato’s roster. This will likely be limited to those who want their footage in high res for editing. Australian internet being what it is, the idea of watching a 4K stream is a joke surpassed only by the idea of streaming in 4K. You’re gonna be fine with 1080p.

I can already anticipate what the first question from many of you will be — David, the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 both have streaming and recording capabilities built right into their software. Native support for Twitch, YouTube, Mixer and even DailyMotion, right there, ready to go. What good does a separate capture device do me?

Great question, glad you asked.

For me, as a critic, one of the most important aspects of a device like the HD60 S is that its far easier to get to footage of a game I record than it is on an Xbox One or a PS4. Yes, they can both record and stream natively, but have you ever tried getting the footage or screenies you’ve recorded off the console and onto a hard drive? It’s hilariously difficult. The process of retrieving footage on the Xbox One, in particular, is so convoluted that few other journos I know actually use it. A device like the HD60 S allows you to use Elgato’s Game Capture software to record footage straight to your computer’s hard drive in whatever format you like. The moment you stop the recording, the video file is created and is ready for editing. If you have a rigid YouTube content schedule, I cannot overstate how much of a time saver this is.

Further, using a device like the HD60 S lets you run your stream on a second screen, applying webcam windows, overlays, alerts, donation drives and more. It also lets you see a preview of your stream as it goes out. This is all useful for those want to keep one eye on community building while playing. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 solutions don’t really let you do any of that. Your stream goes out, but you have no feedback on it.

This does, however, bring me to what I think is one of the HD60 S’s more significant letdowns — the software. Elgato’s Game Capture software is a very basic set of streaming utilities. It gives you everything you need to get started and offers a reasonable amount of control over things like upload speeds and volume. You can also switch between scenes and overlays as you would with any other streaming software. At a surface level, everything’s fine. You can get set up and your stream live in no time. But the moment I started monkeying with the settings and pulling levers behind the scenes, the whole apparatus started to wobble. Frequently, just playing with the settings would be enough to crash the application entirely. Compare this to an app like Streamlabs OBS, with all its functionality and open source bells-and-whistles, and the difference is night-and-day. There’s no question in my mind about which app I should be using. Luckily, the HD60 S is platform agnostic and therefore not too picky about which software you use.

With the HD60 S, I think Elgato have really cornered the market as it relates to budding streamers. It’s a simple device that’s well-built, easy to set up and easy to get rolling with — and that’s exactly as it should be. To me, its ease of use alone makes the HD60 S worth investigating for any would-be streamer. I think you’ll be really impressed with it. The software, on the other hand, is solid enough to get you off the ground but as you grow as a streamer and your needs change, you’ll find yourself looking for alternatives pretty quickly.

Score: 8.5 out of 10
Highlights: Simple design; Easy set up; Easy to use
Lowlights: Game Capture software could be more robust
Manufacturer: Elgato
Price: $269 AUD
Available: Now
Website: www.elgato.com

Review conducted with a retail unit provided by the publisher.