The latest video game consoles and video cards for PCs have built-in recording and streaming tools. So why should you bother buying a game capture device? There are many benefits to using a game capture device instead of, or in conjunction with, the consoles' built-in capabilities, but it really comes down to control. The Xbox One, arguably, gives you more control over your recording capabilities than the PS4 does, but neither comes close to a solid video game recorder. Even PCs can benefit from game capture devices. Nvidia's ShadowPlay is an excellent recording tool, but it still uses your system resources. Discrete game capture devices do not.
There are several categories to consider when you weigh the benefits of using a game capture device. Let's go through these categories and see why they're important.
Video Buffer Time Limit:
One of the biggest differences between video game recorders and the built-in recording functionality of the PS4 and Xbox One is the amount of buffered, or available, video. With the Xbox One, you get five-minute clips for videos. You cannot record any single segment of video for more than five minutes. The PS4 gives you 15-minute clips. While the PS4 gives you longer clips, 15 minutes pales in comparison to game capture devices.
With something like the Elgato Game Capture HD, you're only limited by the amount of space available on your computer's hard drive, not by time. This means you have much more material to work with and edit after recording.
When recording videos on the PS4 and Xbox One, you have no control over the recording's quality. Both consoles create videos with relatively low bit rates, which translates into less appealing recordings. Both consoles also record videos at 720p with a maximum of 30 frames per second. While this is acceptable video quality, it isn't desirable.
There are a couple of reasons that the consoles' recording functionality is limited to lower quality. First, uploading those videos to Facebook and YouTube means that the quality will take a hit anyway. For example, YouTube videos are limited to 30 frames per second. The second reason is that high-quality video can take up large amounts of space on a hard drive. The PS4 and Xbox One simply don't have enough storage space to handle much high-quality video.
Depending on the game capture device you use, you can adjust just about every variable for your recordings. You can change the recording resolution to anything you want, set a custom frame rate, and raise or lower the video bit rate. In short, you have much more control over how your recordings look. You also have much more storage to hold those high-quality videos.
The Xbox One gives you a fair amount of options in regards to editing videos. The PS4 doesn't have many editing abilities other than clipping your recordings. Most game capture devices come with some editing software. Because they're all different applications, they give you varying amounts of tools and features, but even the most basic of them gives you at least the same amount of control as the Xbox One's editing application. The best game capture devices include robust editing software that allows you to create highly polished videos.
Better PC Performance:
One major advantage to having a game capture device is that it eases the load your CPU has to bear. Higher-end game capture devices process and compress the video files so that the CPU doesn't have to do it. This equates to more resources while you're gaming, which means higher settings and frame rates.
Game capture devices are not necessary anymore. With Nvidia's ShadowPlay and built-in recording and streaming tools on the PS4 and Xbox One, most amateur screencasters and Let's Play creators don't need a discrete game recorder. However, if you're a screencasting professional or enthusiast, game capture devices are worth using because they offer more control and higher quality, and they don't affect your game performance while recording.