Review: AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K

The capture card market has become massive due to the rise in popularity of streaming platforms such as Twitch. Sure, YouTube was still a big motivator when it came to getting gameplay online five to ten years ago, but it pales in comparison to the kind of world we’re living in today. One of the biggest capture device manufacturers, AVerMedia, is leading the charge in how we record content. While others are putting their foot into the waters of 4K recording, AVerMedia is going all in with an incredibly powerful internal device: Liver Gamer 4K. As the name suggests, the Live Gamer 4K is a capture card that is capable of recording 4K content. Sure, they’re not the first to do it at a consumer-level, but instead AVerMedia is at the forefront of capturing HDR content, looking past the significantly more expensive options coming from Atomos, and most importantly, it works!

The Live Gamer 4K is an internal capture card that requires a singular PCIe x4 slot and takes in a singular HDMI connection, which requires an HDMI 2.0 cable to properly utilize a higher resolution and color range. It also has a secondary HDMI to output the signal to a TV, which also supports 7.1/5.1 LPCM surround sound pass-through. Be warned, though. Like most cards, the console will prioritize the TV for its resolution, so if you’re hoping to capture 4K content while outputting to a 1080p screen then you’ll be out of luck. Fortunately, even if you don’t have a 4K monitor hooked up to your computer, you won’t have any problem recording. As promised, the Live Gamer 4K allows users to record HDR content at 4K, 60fps. Granted, most console games don’t actually have such a frame rate at that resolution, and you’d need one heck of a PC to get those kind of results, but this is more being ready for the future. If 2160p isn’t your thing, the card is also able to capture at various resolution at incredibly high frame rates. This includes 1440p at 144hz, and 1080p240. I doubt most regular consumers will have use for a 240fps video, let alone have a device that support it, but this has the ability to record it. This does support lower resolutions downwards of 480p, but without the capabilities of recording component or composite (at least without an adapter), there’s not much use for it.

While you’d expect to have an incredibly powerful PC to utilize 4K recording, AVerMedia actually makes fairly reasonable requirements, being less demanding than their competition who is without HDR. For starters, at 4K60 or 1080p240, you’ll need an Intel i5-6XXX CPU, NVIDIA GTX 1060, and 8GB of RAM. For the standard 1080p60, it’s only required to have an Intel i5-3330 CPU, NVIDIA GTX 650 or AMD R7 250X GPU, and 4GB of RAM. The latter is over five-year-old components that weren’t even all that powerful when they were released, so there won’t be much issue there, with the former being what would be considered mid-tier hardware today. Along with the hardware, we also get dedicated software in the form of AVerMedia’s long running RECentral application, something that I’ve been a little harsh on in the past.

RECentral has come a long way. Even from RECentral 3 to 4, things have improved quite a bit, from multi-mode, which is comparable to OBS and XSplit’s ability to overlay various video sources, to just plain stability. Easily the best component RECentral 4 has to offer with the Live Gamer 4K is HEVC (H.265+AAC) recording, which allows you to capture the same video quality as H.264, but at a higher compression, which is essential for HDR. Speaking of HDR, the function to record HDR video, at least right now, is only available through RECentral, so you’re having trouble with the program, you won’t be able to move to third-party applications such as OBS without making the sacrifice. But with that said, the button to swap between HDR is only active if the video source is HDR-ready, and recording it looks very good. As you’d come to expect from HDR content, there’s a wider range of colors present and overall a more vibrant scene, being able to contain an HDR10 picture. Obviously the colors will be drastically different on a standard display (which looks like a washed out white), but if you have an HDR monitor, TV or phone, the results are nothing short of spectacular. It sets the bar for video capture, at least at a consumer level.

Looking past the shiny new HDR capabilities, we didn’t run into many issues using the Live Gamer 4K. There’s virtually no latency, which is nice, but expected for something running on a PCIe internal slot. Capturing content was more or less smooth with no audio irregularities or graphical hitches, outside some dropped frames here and there. Unfortunately, on the software side of things, it wasn’t entirely perfect. For starters, there were a number of times when we needed to close and reopen RECentral because there seemed to be extreme latency. Fortunately, this only seemed to happen at the start of booting up a console instead of at the end. It wasn’t a continuous build up but I assume was because the program had been open for an extended period of time with no signal. The other issue will most likely apply to a VERY select few, but it’s definitely something that affected myself. An issue I’ve had with AVerMedia products for quite sometime persists with the Live Gamer 4K in that, hardware or potentially the software conflicts with Android emulators. As I mentioned, this will only apply to a small portion of readers, but it’s definitely something I noticed ever since the original Live Gamer Extreme. With this, while programs such as Nox or Bluestacks is running, we ran into numerous crashes, lockups and even network failure. Yes, for whatever reason, this seems to affect the network randomly. The Live Gamer 4K will even give off the blinking red light error instead of its soothing LED glow, which can be problematic. Regardless, AVerMedia’s devices certainly have an issue whenever a virtual machine is running.

Closing Comments:

I can’t say enough nice things about the AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K. It’s able to properly record 60fps at 2160p, all while capturing an HDR10 video. The picture quality is top notch and being able to record HEVC is a plus. That’s not to mention that AVerMedia also throws in CyberLink PowerDirector 15, although this might be a strange choice considering it doesn’t support HEVC or HDR. With that said, while it has improved significantly over the years, RECentral still isn’t the perfect recording software. It’s the only way you’ll be able to get HDR, but we’ve run into numerous issues, including conflicting with other programs and needing to reset the program to avoid unplayable latency. Fortunately, these are very few and minor issues that are more annoyances than major deal breakers. Capture cards and devices have been going up in price over the last ten years, and while $299 seems like a lot of money, you’ll be getting one heck of a bang for your buck.