I cannot talk about the 4K60 Pro without first mentioning that Elgato has become a company I am more and more impressed with, especially as I see and understand their efforts in the marketplace and particularly since the game capture market itself has evolved over time.
The original game capture HD, which had onboard compression and both digital and analogue connections, was a huge hit which continued to prove popular with retro gamers, thanks mainly to those analogue connections, so much so it was only recently discontinued.
Then YouTube started offering 60FPS and along came the HD60, it had some streaming features but was predominantly used for recording. Next, we see streaming services like Twitch emerge and along with it the HD60s, perfect for that low latency streaming and with its USB 3.0 connections it meant uncompressed video could be passed directly to the computer and out to a live stream quickly. It did require a slightly higher spec host machine as previous models did the heavy lifting onboard which in turn meant the compressed files created could use USB 2.0 and of course lower spec hardware for the host computer.
If you want to stream or record in 1080P Elgato has had you covered with some fantastic hardware but with 4K gaming available on consoles as well as 2K and 4K gaming being very popular on PC the world asked, “Elgato what can you do for us this time?”
In truth, most home internet connections will not be capable of streaming in 4K so the only real option is to record your gameplay and upload it. Whilst there are software solutions to help you do this, a dedicated card is always going to give you far better results and put less strain on your system not to mention higher quality results.
Say hello then, to the Elgato 4k60 PRO.
The 4K60 Pro is aimed directly at gamers who want to record in up to 4K for editing and uploading and whilst compression is handled by the card you will still need a very beefy system to take advantage of all those pixels. Indeed, you will need at least a 6th generation i7/Ryzen 7 or better as well as a 10 series NVidia or RX Vega card and at least a spare PCIe x4 slot to house it.
Opening the package, you are greeted with a very sexy looking black backplate, it has a geometric pattern and the Elgato logo in a shiny black. It’s sleek and oozes high-end quality. The IO has an HDMI in and out, the Elgato Logo and text which I thought was a very nice touch considering it will rarely be seen. The front of the Card has a black vented shield with a white Elgato logo and the words 4K60 Pro on the centre. It’s a stunning looking card and the addition of an interesting backplate meant it was going to look great in the system.
On plugging the card in and booting up it was immediately recognised and I noticed as I looked through the windowed side panel the small Elgato logo on the top edge of the card had lit up. I didn’t realise the card had LEDs and I really liked this touch, my primordial brain whispered “shiny is always better than no shiny” but the fact is, it’s the little touches, the unnecessary additions like the backplate looking so good that show this card is a premium product and this gave me great confidence that it was going to give me the results I had longed for.
Confidence that was rewarded with the results of the recordings being nothing short of incredible and I will elaborate on that but before I get there, I want to talk about the software that accompanies the 4K60 Pro. It’s not terrible, but there are a few issues that I have read about and some I encountered directly.
Firstly, I couldn’t install the software at all until I uninstalled the Elgato HD60 software. The person whose system I was using wasn’t happy as they had things set up “just so” but as I explained to him, “stop whining, this is happening anyway”.
The 4K capture Utility program is actually very nice, the UI is clean and simple despite the number of features its easy to understand how to get started. That said, it comes with a heap of issues that caused me minor to major irritations, It should be noted that this software is actively being developed so whilst there are a few teething problems I am sure they will be addressed in time, right now though, I need to talk about those issues.
On two separate occasions, the software crashed whilst I was recording which meant all of the footage prior to the crash was lost. Luckily it happened within a few minutes of starting on both occasions but I was still miffed, I had just got a 50,000-kill streak on Call of Duty so now I can never show anyone even though it did definitely happen. Imagine though that you had spent the last 2 hours grabbing the best footage ever for it to all be lost in the blink of an eye. I think miffed wouldn’t be the word I used.
I have also read about people experiencing BSODs, random switches from 60p to 30p and the inability to select 4K resolution unless there is a 4K monitor attached.
Despite the flaws in the 4K Capture Utility I spent enough time with it to find the joy, I was happy to see that I could adjust things like brightness, contrast, saturation and hue. The ability to do this prior to post-production is a really nice feature and something I will use a lot particularly as I often increase the saturation and brightness of my footage.
You can set two separate EDIDs’, This stands for Extended Display Identification Data and it includes vendor and product id, serial number, manufacture date, size of the display, resolution and frequencies supported, and detailed signal timings for native resolutions which makes it easy for other hardware to understand what resolutions are available etc. It’s not essential to understand how but it will make recording in one resolution while gaming in another a much easier process specifically in a dual PC set up or if there is something wrong with you and you are gaming on a console when you have a PC.
After you have finished messing around with the settings it’s on to some gaming and more importantly testing the 4K60 PRO and it really didn’t disappoint. The first game I recorded was Arma 3. Before recording the game was running at a consistent 58FPS on max settings, whilst capturing with the 4K60 PRO, the game was running at a consistent 58FPS. There was zero impact on the FPS and the game looked incredible, better still the footage was remarkable but again I hit another little problem in the 4K Capture Utility. While I watched the footage, there was a noticeable static in the audio and quite a few frame drops. I imported the footage into Vegas and it disappeared so again, hopefully, a patch will fix this soon.
We recorded other titles including, Tomb Raider, Forza 7, Project Cars 2, Kingdom Come: Deliverance all in various resolutions and refresh rates from 720p to 1080p and 1440p and of course 2160p in 30 and 60 FPS at 120hz, 144hz and at 720p 240hz and every time the footage was unbelievably fantastic with zero impact on the games FPS. I could see no difference between the live gameplay and recorded footage which is staggering considering the amount of data being captured.
There is a downside to all this glory, you will need a lot of space to store any reasonable amount of 4K footage. In fact, a 10-minute recording of Tomb Raider yielded a file over 8.5GB. If you record an average of 6 hours of footage per day you will be filling 306GB of your HDD space each and every day until you are ready to put something together.
Don’t forget the fact that all those extra pixels need to be handled by your editing software too which is not an issue when you see the quality of the footage, however, here is my only real question about this incredible card. How many people are watching 4K footage on YouTube?
The information from YouTube is limited so after some digging around I have discovered that YouTubes 4K video encoding would probably be around 40Mb/s using h.264 encoding and 10Mb/s using VP9 encoding. Using these figures, it would mean that a one-minute 4K file would be around 375 MB, however, the quality of the footage will be amazing.
This brings me back to my question. How many people could watch this right now? Depending on where you get your facts you will need a connection of at least 15MBS (Amazon) to 25MBS (Netflix) to watch 4K video online. This at first may not seem like an issue, however, based on the information provided by the Akamai global connection speed rankings for 2017 only South Korea at 28.6 Mb/s, would have a high enough average connection at the upper estimate. Sure, even at 18.7 MB/s the US would still be mostly fine and many people have connections far faster but it is limiting the audience somewhat.
Which brings me to the dilemma with this particular card. I have seen the card available on Amazon UK for £359.95 which, compared to other 4K cards is very reasonable, but, limiting your audience is not a smart way to grow a channel so who can take advantage of this card right now?
The 4K gaming market is growing, but 1080p appears to be the norm for desktop users and 480P for those watching on mobile. YouTube has a 4K option, however, despite not being able to find statistics as proof I suspect most videos are viewed at 720P/1080P or less given the number of mobile views the platform attracts. 4K videos are larger, take more computing power to work with, take more space to store and most people want to increase their audience so will be looking for the lowest common denominator when appealing to the masses.
I want this card to exist, it needs to be here for those of us who can take advantage but I wonder if it has arrived a little too soon to be useful?
There are other minor downsides too. I could not find a way to set up profiles so I could change my settings quickly between different games or needs, I didn’t know what was happening to the screenshots after clicking the button until I found them all on the desktop and I think the software could have done with a configuration wizard or similar to help me get everything ready.
The Elgato 4K60 Pro is built for recording, however, it can help you keep your frames high if you use OBS for streaming. There are many tutorials on how to set this up and if you want to know how Google will be your friend.
The negatives may seem like a big deal but overall, the 4K60 Pro is a solid and fantastic card. The results are the best I have ever seen from a capture card and despite two crashes, the card has worked flawlessly in many hours of testing. I am very interested to see what the future holds for the 4K Capture Utility as it’s a very good start and I think if you have the money, the time and the need, then this card is going to be your best purchase for many years.
The Elgato 4K60 Pro in Summary:
If you want to be ready now for the 4K game capture revolution then you should jump in with both feet and treat yourself to an Elgato 4K60 Pro but don’t expect your 4K videos to be the mainstay for a few years to come. 4K TVs are more popular than ever (I suppose I should thank the Xbox one X and PS4 Pro for that) and home internet speeds are climbing all the time but this card could be a leap too soon for some. At £359 this card is a great deal, however, the AVerMedia LGP2+ has a 4K passthrough, is less than half the price and the 1080P footage it records is relevant now.
I am glad the 4K60 Pro exists, I think it will be useful for some today but the masses will need to wait a few years for the rest of the tech world to catch up.