While most video game capture technology has reached a certain level of parity, there are still a few frontiers left for leaders in the space to aim for. For some, it is Display Port capture, but most content creators have been waiting for a capture card that supports HDMI 2.1 in order to get the most out of their current-gen gameplay experience regardless of whether they are on PC or console. AVerMedia is the first to answer that call with the Live Gamer ULTRA 2.1 external USB-C capture card and just recently the company also introduced the AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K 2.1, a PCIE HDMI 2.1 capture card.
As the name suggests, the AVerMedia Live Gamer ULTRA 2.1 is the first external capture card from a major manufacturer to support HDMI 2.1 passthrough. A few years ago that might not have been as valuable, but now, HDMI 2.1 is practically essential for any capture devices moving forward. So, props are already due AVerMedia for being first, but equally, the company deserves recognition for doing everything right.
As well, the AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K 2.1 is the first PCIE HDMI 2.1 capture card to hit the market. While it is releasing slightly after the Live Gamer ULTRA 2.1, the PCIE internal capture card still delivers everything that the ULTRA did when we reviewed it back in October. The key difference is that this capture card fits into a PCIE slot on a PC rather than plugging into a USB port.
Why Are HDMI 2.1 Capture Cards So Important?
The big question of why HDMI 2.1 is so important comes down to the output of the current generation of consoles (PS5, Xbox Series X/S), graphics cards, and input on TVs. On the output side, these new gaming devices are capable of delivering up to 4K 120Hz (for consoles) or 4K 240+Hz (for PC) video signals, which is a big ask for passthrough. Some capture devices could meet some of the expectations, but there was always a shortcoming or two where the consoles were concerned. Without HDMI 2.1, the capture device couldn’t hit both 4K 120Hz, and HDR, and support VRR on the passthrough side. Creators needed to accept a lower visual experience on their end, even though the most they could output to the average streaming platform was 1080p 60Hz (or 1440p on some platforms).
Those content creators also lost out on the benefit of Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), which is like Vsync for UHD TVs. It basically smooths out the frame rate of a game on the fly so that it looks smoother on the panel than it would without. VRR eliminates that screen tearing that can happen when the refresh rate of a TV and a game console aren’t in sync.
So even though many console games can’t reach beyond 4K60, being able to take advantage of VRR is still a big selling point for HDMI 2.1 support and why the Live Gamer ULTRA 2.1 and AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K 2.1 are worth investing in. It ticks all the expected boxes beyond that, though, by supporting up to 4K 144Hz passthrough when using a HDMI 2.1 compatible graphics card like an Nvidia 4080 or AMD’s 7800 XT. Capture is limited to 4K60, but that is still the standard and likely to be that way unless bit rates improve on content platforms and download/upload speeds get an all-around bump. For the average gamer/content creator now, though, they shouldn’t be losing any graphic fidelity while playing, and their content should be crisp and smooth.
Honestly, the selling point is the HDMI 2.1 capture capability and everything else is icing on top. AVerMedia has designed the Live Gamer ULTRA 2.1 with an RGB array on the front that is customizable or capable of syncing with some RGB devices. It also includes two 4-pole 3.5mm jacks, one for a headset and another for a gamepad. RGB is a nice touch for those who like to fully customize their setup, but aside from that it’s a fairly straightforward setup. Users will want to ensure they have a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port available to ensure perfect compatibility, but that’s about the biggest ask from the device.
AVerMedia does provide software that works with the Live Gamer ULTRA 2.1 or the Live Gamer 4K 2.1 capture card to handle things like RGB customization, input and output volume, and configuring the video source. One nice touch with the software is that it can switch down to 2.0 if there are some compatibility issues with a monitor or TV. It’s useful for situations where HDMI 2.1 isn’t an option, and prevents users from having to keep multiple capture cards around.
Live Gamer ULTRA 2.1 Specs
- Max Passthrough: 2160p144 HDR/VRR, 1440p144 HDR/VRR, 1080p240 HDR/VRR, 1440p244 HDR/VRR, 1080p360 HDR/VRR
- Size: 4.72 x 2.76 x 1.09 in.
- Weight: 115 g
Why Do Some Prefer PCIE Capture Cards?
Although at one point a PCIE capture card was preferred for its lower latency and faster data transfer rates, companies like AVerMedia have balanced out those differences thanks to USB 3.0. Now, it all comes down to personal preference whether you want a PCIE card or a USB capture card.
Obviously, the biggest benefit is not having to worry about having an available USB 3.0 port and plugging the capture card directly into a PC, which is worth it for a lot of people. Not having to provide external power or deal with extra cables beyond the HDMI 2.1 input and output is also one of the reasons that someone might prefer a PCIE card. At the same time, you do lost out on the portability of an external card – it’s far easier to connect a USB card to one PC and then connect it to another.
Honestly, users can’t go wrong with either capture card but the Live Gamer 4K 2.1 is an enticing option for its lower price of $269.99.
Live Gamer 4K 2.1 Specs
- Max Passthrough: 2160p144 HDR/VRR, 3440x1440p 120 HDR/VRR, 1440p240 HDR/VRR, 1080p360 HDR/VRR
- Size: 4.76 x 6.32 x 0.85 in
- Weight: 150.5 g
The HDMI 2.1 capture card generation is here and there is something to be said for AVerMedia being the first out of the gate. Without any noticeable hiccups in the design or compatibility with software like OBS, the Live Gamer ULTRA 2.1 is currently the external capture card to beat for content creators. Admittedly, the value of HDMI 2.1 correlates to higher-end tech, but that tech is now becoming more and more ubiquitous. Where it felt like a luxury to have an HDMI 2.1 port on a TV, now they are becoming standard.
Of course, the biggest hurdle for most is going to be price, and at $299 for the AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra 2.1, or $269.99 for the Live Gamer 4K 2.1 these capture cards are quite the investment. There are some pros and cons to weigh as far as how valuable the highest frame rate and resolution are while streaming or recording gameplay. Those who want to get the best possible experience from an external capture card, however, have their answer.
AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra 2.1
This high-performance capture card leverages the power of HDMI 2.1 technology, offering uncompromising video quality with up to 4K144 pass-through HDR/VRR, and ensuring that every moment of the gameplay is transmitted with stunning clarity and fluidity. Additionally, it supports up to 4K60 capture, providing streamers with the option of capturing their memorable gaming moments in pristine clarity.
- Max Passthrough Resolution
- 2160p144 HDR/VRR
- Max Capture Resolution
- USB-C 3.2 Gen 2
- Package Includes
- LIVE GAMER ULTRA 2.1 (GC553G2), HDMI 2.1 Cable, USB Type-C to Type-C Cable, 4-Pole 3.5mm Audio Cable
- HDMI 2.1 is the future of capture cards
- Support for tons of resolutions/frame rates
- Easy to setup and use
The AVerMedia Live Gamer ULTRA 2.1 is available now for $299.99. The AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K 2.1 is available now for $269.99. Game Rant was provided units for this review.