It seems that every type of gamer these days either produces YouTube “Let’s Play” videos or live streams their favorite game to Twitch.tv or the more recent competitor site, Hitbox.tv. AverMedia has been on the cutting edge of capture devices for years with their consumer product line, including the powerful PCI Express Live Gamer HD and the PC-less Live Gamer Portable – which SelectButton reviewed back in June.
With the release of the next-generation of consoles (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One), AverMedia has timed the release of the ExtremeCap U3 perfectly, hoping to attract those willing to shell out the cash for a brand-new system. While the PS4 has made live streaming easily accessible to every console owner, the quality is far below what should be labeled as acceptable. Things aren’t much better on the Xbox front, as the firmware has yet to be upgraded to allow for live streaming.
Using RECentral to capture footage, the current max bitrate has been increased from 30Mbps at launch, to 60Mbps thanks to the latest firmware update when recording at a full 1080p resolution and a blazing 60 frames per second (fps). Considering the butchering of the videos by sites like Facebook and YouTube that compress videos to Hell and back, this is more than adequate. I have yet to complain about the quality of the videos that are captured straight from the ExtremeCap U3. This matches the current bitrate for the Live Gamer HD and Live Gamer Portable, which now supports up to 60Mbps after their respectful firmware updates. The LGHD and LGP is still limited to 30fps when recording at 1080p. This alone makes it more attractable for console or PC owners looking to get into video producing.
The technology wizards at Avermedia have produced a latency-free preview window, allowing you to play right from the video software preview window. In the previous products I have tested, there was always the worry about latency, making playing off the preview window not an optimal experience. The main reason for the delay was due to bandwidth limitations of USB 2.0. This is where the inclusion of an additional video output pass-through came in handy, as you could play using another display at full resolution while recording at a lower resolution. Unlike its competitors, the ExtremeCap U3 foregoes a pass-through, allowing users to play games using the preview window at the selected recording resolution. Introducing an HDMI splitter to the device didn’t yield any drawbacks, allowing me to use my current set-up of switching between multiple sources, while outputting to multiple displays.As an official USB 3.0 device, not everyone will be able to take full advantage of this powerful external capture device. The ExtremeCap U3 requires specific PC hardware in order to produce the highly touted uncompressed videos. In fact, you can’t even produce these videos in AverMedia’s own software, but instead most use the plugins for either Adobe Premiere Pro or Sony Vegas – two of the leading video editing programs. I’ve tested both plugins and the resulting video files are crystal clear and well worth the investment. Make sure you have plenty of available disk space on your SSD beforehand.
The ExtremeCap U3 immediately worked after installing the drivers with all of the live streaming software on the market. Whether you use XSplit, or OBS, you’ll be able to seamlessly live stream to your favorite sites.
USB 3.0 is required for recording at 1080p and 60fps, but if you don’t have a motherboard with open USB 3.0 slots, you can install additional ones through the back of your PC in an open PCI slot. Even my Rosewill R5 case from a few years ago came with an additional USB 3.0 slot. The ExtremeCap U3 will still function if plugged into a USB 2.0 slot, but you will be limited to 1080p at 30fps. If you want to record a 60fps video, you will have to lower the resolution to 720p. Without the video pass-through, you may experience latency in the preview window when using USB 2.0.
Inside the box you won’t find any of the necessary drivers or the required AverMedia RECentral software; forcing users to download everything from the AverMedia GamerZone website. Normally this wouldn’t be a cause for concern, but the official AverMedia site has been less than stellar for months now. Trying to find updated drivers for my previous products led to broken download links or forum links, which no longer exist. The forum community was a great resource with tips from fellow users and up-to-date beta drivers that solved many of my original issues with the Live Gamer HD. Hopefully AverMedia either brings back the forums or provides a new location for Beta drivers for both the capture devices themselves and RECentral.
The ExtremeCap U3 can be found on Amazon for the same price as its pocket-sized brother, Live Gamer Portable, and still cheaper than the internal Live Gamer HD. Having USB 3.0 should be a huge factor when determining what product to purchase. If the answer is yes, the ExtremeCap U3 should be the only product on your list, with incredible visual quality and the only way to record 1080p at 60fps videos with a consumer level device. The lack of video pass-through does hurt the product if your PC doesn’t have USB 3.0 due to the lack of video pass-through and Mac users are simply out of luck once again.Note: The ExtremeCap U3 review was written after testing the device with a PS3, PS4 and PC. Live streaming was tested using both XSplit and OBS to Twitch.tv and Hitbox.tv