Flaky with a Capitol F: My Elgato HD 60 Pro review

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I wanted a top quality capture solution for my PS3 and PS4 consoles, something that would last a few years and that I could use for high-quality HDMI capture of other devices too. I’ve had a cheap USB solution before and as you can imagine, the quality just wasn’t great. I finally bit the bullet and purchased an ELGATO HD60 Pro. This is a PCI-e card with a dedicated video encoder, HDMI in and out, and from what the sales brochure tells you, it’s the proverbial Dog’s Bollocks. I’ve had it for several months now and can give you some impressions.

First of all, this model is NOT to be confused with the USB solutions that Elgato offer under the same name. Those are the HD60 and HD60s, and the limiting factor with any such solution is the USB controller itself. It’s unpredictable in regards to data throughput, plus you’re relying on the controller itself to do most of the work. This PCI-e version on the other hand interfaces directly with the bus and – according to Elgato – keeps latency to an almost unnoticeable minimum. 

Spending close to $200 on a game capture card is a little scary for a hobby, or for something that I wasn’t sure is going to come in handy, but I did it anyway – because I’m a geek at heart. Installation was super simple: pick a free PCI-E slot, giving my shortest slot on the motherboard something to do. The card itself looks nicely built, with all electronics shielded away in a matte black case. There are no flashy lights on it as far as I can tell, but they’d be lost on my anyway due to the card being hidden in an enclosed tower case under my desk.

I’m using the Elgato HD 60 Pro in a HP Z800 Workstation. It’s old, but with its dual Xeon setup it packs plenty of punch. My GPU is an RTX 2080. I’m mentioning this because although this card has a dedicated hardware encoder, somehow my GPU is used as well, and it makes a difference when using Elgato’s own Game Capture HD software. We’ll come to that in a moment.

The setup is fairly straightforward: plug in your capture source into the Elgato’s HDMI input, and if you wish, loop a monitor through on the HDMI out. The last step is optional of course, but it’s nice to have. In your capture software (OBS for example), pick an Image Capture device, then select the Elgato HD60 Pro from the list and that’s it. In theory. In practice however, this is where the not-so-straighforward part starts.

I’ve seen plenty of users who think this card will improve their PC streaming/recording adventures. Just to be clear: that’s not the case. This card captures external HDMI sources, say a games console or another PC. If you have a single PC setup, you do not need this card. Just thought I’d mention it here.

Capturing Tips

I found that I had to set the device to what I wanted to see on the output manually. That is, the defaults in OBS aren’t working well. Instead, set the card to 1920×1080 output manually, and set the frame rate manually to 60fps (or whichever resolution/frame combination you need). The card does convert automatically for your, which is a nice touch. I also recommend picking the 709 colour space and full rather than partial colour capture. It’ll look a little nicer.

When it works, this card works great. It shows rock solid frame rates, it’s easy on your hardware, audio comes through without distortion or glitches – just what you would expect for a $200 piece of hardware. Sadly though, and seemingly randomly at times, it just doesn’t work. At all. About half the time. For example, when I use my PS3 as input source, its output resolution sometimes changes, upsetting the card. Other times, I switch on my PS4 and the HD60 Pro just doesn’t see a signal. I can, my other monitor can, but Elgato can’t. 

The Big Flaky Caveat

The main issue I get is that the card tells me there’s “no input”, when clearly there is, and there’s no easy way to reset it. Even a computer restart doesn’t bring this back. I’ve been in touch with Elgato support about this, and while they were trying to help, they could ultimately not fix the problem. Many users have reported the same issue, and it just hasn’t been addressed by Elgato. It’s probably a hardware design fault. 

The good news is that I’ve found a workaround! Watch my video above to see my solution of disabling and re-enabling this card in Windows Device Manager. That works most of the time.

Capture quality – when it works – is fantastic. Lag is extremely good, so good in fact that I do not feel the need to play through a second monitor. Just maximising the OBS Window with my game in full screen works great, no matter if I stream or record high-quality gameplay footage.

The HD60 Pro needs an unencrypted HDMI signal, that is one without HDCP encryption. This can be disabled on the PS4 and the Xbox One, but not on older consoles or other devices like DVD players. For capturing PS3 footage or other encrypted sources, I recommend a HDMI splitter that strips the encryption out. When used, capturing such footage it works flawlessly.

The card is compatible with NVIDIA’s GeForce Experience (formerly ShadowPlay), as well as Elgato’s own Game Capture HD software. The latter is not something I recommend. Although it works, it puts too much strain on your GPU, trying to encode the footage once for streaming/recording, and once again for displaying on the monitor in “super low latency mode”. Besides, the whole point of this card is the built-in hardware encoding WITHOUT the need to involve my GPU. GameCapture HD is a terrible design choice and it shows. By all means try it out, but it’s not something I found a pleasure to use, and degrades both fun and performance more than it helps. OBS on the other hand does a fantastic job – and all that without the need to install any drivers. 

My Verdict

Overall the Elgato HD 60 Pro is an OK card. Not actually a great card, but it’s OK. Quality is very good, but the flaky “no signal” issues are unforgivable on a device with a price tag like this one. At the same time, internal low latency HDMI capture cards with good quality aren’t easy to come by. ELGATO knows this, and charges adequately for it. 

The hardware looks well built, the marketing shots look nice, and from a sales point of view, they’re doing a fabulous job. Performance is great – when it works. But it doesn’t always do that. In fact, you can count on this card NOT to work when you need it. For that reason I was close to sending it back, but decided against it. With my above trick I could eventually make it work or me. 

It’s just that for nearly $200, jumping through those hoops shouldn’t be necessary. 

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