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The best PC game video capture software: 5 top recording tools compared

Ian Paul | March 7, 2016
For an emerging Twitch broadcaster, or any gamer eager to share epic highlights with pals.

Benchmarks

Recording gameplay can potentially take a toll on performance, so we benchmarked what sort of frame rate drops you can expect from using these particular programs.

We didn’t use a top-of-the-line rig for our tests, but a laptop with an external GPU set-up. The point wasn’t to see a tremendously powerful system can do, because tremendously powerful systems won’t have much of a problem running anything. Using this setup shows how a mid- to low-end system fares while gaming and recording at the same time.

Take these numbers with a slight grain of salt, though. The performance hit created by video capture software can vary wildly among different PC configurations. Your CPU, graphics card, and even graphics card brand can greatly affect results. GamersNexus’ prior testing of AMD Gaming Evolved vs. ShadowPlay showed Nvidia’s software performed far better with GeForce graphics cards, for example, and AMD’s recording solution shone brightest on Radeon graphics cards. Likewise, when my editor conducted some quick tests on a more powerful gaming machine with an overclocked Core i5-3570K and a GTX 980, the performance hit was far less severe than I saw with my system.

In a nutshell: It depends! But these benchmarks still provide a helpful general idea on recording software performance. And note that the unique features of each of the gaming capture programs discussed here may lead you to pick one over another regardless of potential performance concerns.

Our test rig was a Lenovo X220 laptop with 8GB of RAM, a 2.7GHz dual-core Intel “Sandy Bridge” Core i7 2620-M processor with HyperThreading, and an Asus GeForce GTX 750Ti overclock edition with 2GB of dedicated onboard memory. Game-wise, we used Metro: Last Light Redux’s built-in benchmarking utility running on High graphics settings at 1080p resolution. Pretty much everything else that could be turned off was turned off, including SSAO, motion blur, tessellation, V-Sync, and Advanced PhysX. The utility was set to run the scene three times for each test.

 
(Click on image to enlarge.)

Simultaneously recording and playing a game can hammer PCs, particularly the CPU. Activating many of the recording options on this dual-core Core i7 system invoked a serious decline in game performance despite its HyperThreading—but not all of them. The best all-around performer was Plays.TV, which lost a little less than 6 percent of performance compared to the baseline. Nvidia’s ShadowPlay was a close second, with a performance hit of a little over 8 percent. The worst performer was Raptr, which lowered performance by more than 40 percent. But remember that Plays.tv integration in Raptr was still in beta; soon, it’ll include the full, efficient Plays.tv client as its default recording solution. OBS (full monitor capture mode) and Afterburner created healthy performance hits too, with both underperforming the baseline by about 31 percent.

 

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