Capturing video-game footage has become increasingly popular among gamers, and the rise of YouTube means that everyone now has the opportunity to record their best Grand Theft Auto V stunts and Call of Duty kill cams. But, with the sheer number of capture devices on the market, it's become a minefield of brands, models, connections and prices.
Thankfully we’re here to help. We've spent some time putting the AVerMedia ExtremeCap U3 through its paces. Could this be the affordable high-end video-capture device you've been looking for?
Before I dive into the details, you should be aware that the ExtremeCap U3 is a USB 3-compatible device only and so will require some fairly serious processing power to get going. If you’re a YouTuber working with a MacBook Air or similar, then you're better off looking elsewhere.
AVerMedia's website features a handy tool that will allow you to test compatibility; we recommend you do this before diving in and buying the U3.
If you’re confident that your rig can handle the ExtremeCap U3 then setup is simply a matter of hooking up an HDMI cable from the U3 into your console of choice and then connecting the U3 to your PC – and that's it, you're ready to record.
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The ExtremeCap U3 offers 1080p 60fps recording straight to your computer, with live monitoring through RECentral – AVerMedia's in-house capture software. While we were a little sceptical about AVerMedia's claims that the ExtremeCap U3 is lag-free, in all our time using the device we have found this to be 100% true.
Essentially, this means you can use your PC rig as your main display. If you’ve spent hundreds of pounds on an amazing iMac or PC monitor then it's only logical that you’d want to use it as your gaming screen too, so it's great to see AVerMedia making this an affordable, simple process.
However, there are some considerable downsides of which you should take note.
Firstly, if you’re live streaming with a virtual camera or some other means of displaying your face on-screen as you play, it will take up some of your game screen and block it from view. It isn't a huge deal, but can become quite frustrating if you do this regularly.
Another big issue, and one that could be a deal-breaker for some, is the lack of HDMI pass through. If you're used to playing CoD on your 46-inch LED TV as it records to your computer, then you're out of luck with the ExtremeCap U3.
A possible workaround would be to invest in an HDMI splitter, but we always find it difficult to sing the praises of a product that needs to be modified, or have additional accessories bought for it, in order to function.
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So how does this little black box stand up against the competition on looks?
The ExtremeCap U3 is a small, glossy black box with a single LED on the edge and three ports round the back (HDMI, USB 3 and Mini USB for the supplied component cable). Although it's larger than the Elgato HD60 and considerably weightier at 345g, it looks nice and would sit happily next to any games console or PC rig.
Of course, capture quality is the most important consideration here and, providing you’ve jumped all the hurdles of compatibility and the lack of HDMI pass through, you’ll get some solid performance from the ExtremeCap U3. It captures 1080p Full HD content at 60 frames per second with ease.
Compatible with almost all consoles, the U3 can handle non-HDCP-protected signals such as the Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PS4 (once the settings are tweaked), while protected devices such as the PlayStation 3 will require the use of a component video adapter, which is supplied in the box.
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Recording footage from the Xbox One, PS4, Wii U and PC was a smooth experience, and streaming was just as satisfying.
AVerMedia's software RECentral is free to download and, while light on features, it's simple to use, offering a smooth experience overall. Voice commentary can be captured at the same time as video and is saved as a separate file – a nice touch. You’ll also be happy to find a TimeShift function, which allows you to rewind and start recording from buffered footage.
Experienced streamers may be disappointed by RECentral's lack of tools, but will be happy to discover that a few months' free membership to XSplit Broadcaster is bundled in. This is a fairly impressive streaming suite, offering tweaks such as dynamic text and 3D backgrounds to spice up your next stream. Those who are new to video capture won't have any complaints with RECentral, however.
The problems with the AVerMedia aren't with the capture quality so much as the process itself. If you’re happy to use a single monitor for capture and play – and you have a robust computer setup – then the ExtremeCap U3 is a great little device available at a decent price. If you're looking for something to use on the go with your laptop, however, and can't do without HDMI pass through then you'll simply need to look elsewhere.
Overall the ExtremeCap U3 is a good device but, unfortunately, only suited to one group of players.