With content creation on everyone’s mind, and new 4K consoles slowly reaching more people, the need for a capture card that can deliver the best footage possible is now more important than ever. With more need than ever, it is no wonder brands like Elgato and AVerMedia are pushing what is possible with internal and external solutions. This is where the latest and greatest from AVerMedia comes into the picture, leaning on the latest technologies, the Thunderbolt 3 based Live Gamer BOLT brings 4K60 HDR10 to an external capture card that just works.
CGMagazine has been using AVerMedia products for years now, with many of our First-15 videos being captured on one of our 4K internal capture cards. So, we were excited to see how Live Gamer BOLT could stand up to the competition, both in ease of use, and quality of the footage. In the past we have found AVerMedia capture cards to be some of the leading options from the ranges we have tested, so expectations were high going into this review.
4K60 is nothing new in game capture, with there being some solid choices from a few brands if you want to go internal. Sadly, on the external front, the choices are a bit more limited, with many of the options topping out at 30FPS like the NZXT Signal 4K30. AVerMedia gets around the limitations of USB 3.0 by opting for Thunderbolt 3 to bring the needed bandwidth to deliver the best results possible. While not as widespread on desktop systems, it is becoming more the norm on new motherboards from both AMD and Intel, and it is standard on most laptops from the past three years.
While computers on the market can manage 1080P footage without breaking a sweat, 4K 60 is something much more intensive, so you will need something powerful to get the most of the Live Gamer BOLT and the footage it outputs. For our testing, we used a recent Intel Core I-9 12900KS based system, running an Nvidia RTX 3700, and 64 GB DDR5 RAM. While a bit overkill, considering the AVerMedia site only mentioning needing an Intel® Core i5-6XXX / AMD Ryzen 3 XXX or above, we wanted to ensure the best experience possible to see the potential of the Live Gamer BOLT.
“…the Thunderbolt 3 based Live Gamer BOLT brings 4K60 HDR10 to an external capture card that just works.”
With our content creator-focused PC up and running, and the Live Gamer BOLT unboxed it was ready to be hooked up, and getting the capture started. The Live Gamer BOLT boasts a very simple setup, and a limited number of ports, so the process is for the most part painless. The Live Gamer BOLT features a Thunderbolt 3 (Type-C), HDMI 2.0 Out, HDMI 2.0 In and Line In. AVerMedia provides an HDMI 2.0 cable, 3.5 mm audio cable and Thunderbolt 3 cable all in the box, so you should have everything needed to get some content creation underway.
Even beyond the Thunderbolt 3, the Live Gamer BOLT is also tailor-made for the modern content creator, with the simple look allowing for plenty of RGB to match any system style or look. The simple box is small enough to never get in the way, while doing what it is supposed to do, very well.
Thunderbolt 3 means the Live Gamer BOLT delivers amazing performance with a fantastic 50ms latency. The footage you can get out of the capture card is stunning, boasting a 4K resolution at 60 frames per second (FPS) with or without HDR. It also allows you to record your captured content in either h.264 or h.265 and at a maximum bitrate of 240mbps.
“It should be noted that the files the Live Gamer BOLT outputs are massive, so you will want to ensure you have the hard-drive space to store the videos…”
Thanks to the simple interface, and the fact the Live Gamer BOLT relies on GPU encoding to deliver the file, when you are recording, you simply set record and go. The little box does the work you need it to, and once you are done, there will be a file waiting for the next step in creation. It should be noted that the files the Live Gamer BOLT outputs are massive, so you will want to ensure you have the hard-drive space to store the videos, or you could find yourself running out of space, very quickly. If you are looking to dive into capture seriously, you may want to look into a NAS system, just to ensure you can off-load the files as you make them.
AVerMedia offers their own in-house RECentral software that is made to make the process of capture as easy as possible. It will get the job done for most people, and it gives everything you need to capture and organize your many recordings. Personally, while I don’t hate RECentral, I am glad the Live Gamer BOLT also supports XSplit or OBS, since I prefer using software that is constant across all my hardware and configurations, but it is good to know AVerMedia provides the option for those who need it.
Testing with both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X, and the footage we got from the Live Gamer BOLT was fantastic. It managed to deliver flawless video in HDR and non-HDR gameplay and did it all easily without struggling to get everything set up and going. In this current age of consoles, there are few capture cards that feel this easy, or deliver this level of video, especially at 4K60 with constant fluid frame rates.
At $449, the Live Gamer BOLT is an expensive option, but one that delivers the results. It is hard to deny the potential of Thunderbolt 3 for game capture, or how well AVerMedia have implemented it with this external capture box. This is a capture device made for the modern streaming setup, complete with RGB lighting and the ability to capture next-gen consoles. If you have the budget, and a Thunderbolt 3 post at the ready, the Live Gamer BOLT brings the best external 4K60 capture on the market today and gives you everything you need to bring your Next-Gen gaming experiences to the world.