In the world of game capture, we have seen a huge jump in the last few year in what’s possible, especially with external cards. With a passion for pushing the limits of what we can expect from our capture hardware, the team at AVerMedia is back with their best external capture card yet. The GC555 Live Gamer BOLT (LGB) promises a host of powerful new features, including 4K60 HDR capture, 144 FPS a 1440p, and 240 FPS at 1080p, a clean, flashy enclosure, and more options for capturing your clutch 360 no-scope kills than ever before. So, grab that coffee, kick back and enjoy our review of the Live Gamer BOLT from AVerMedia.
- MSRP: $449.99 USD
- Interface: ThunderBOLT 3
- Input & Output (Pass-Through): HDMI 2.0
- Max. Pass-Through Resolution: 2160p60 HDR /1440p144/ 1080p240
- Max. Recording Resolution: 2160p60 HDR /1440p144/ 1080p240
- Supported Resolution: 2160p, 1440p, 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 576p, 480p
- Record Format: MPEG 4
- Dimensions 9WxDxH): 120 x 120 x 29.3mm
- Weight: 348g
- RGB: Supported via RECentral Software
Lean and Mean
The Live Gamer BOLT is a sleek looking piece of hardware. The outer casing follows the trend of previous AVerMedia external capture boxes with diagonal lines running along the top surface contrasted by a honeycomb pattern underneath. More than simple aesthetics, this lined pattern also allows for ventilation along the top of the unit creating a hidden cooling system.
The sides of the BOLT are wrapped in a single piece of metal plating with two distinct ports for cooling. The back features HDMI 2.0 In and Out ports, a single Thunderbolt 3.0 port for both power and communication and a Line In for external sound devices. It should be noted that the LGB supports 7.1 / 5.1 Ch LPCM surround pass-through which means allows you to keep the integrity of your soundscape in all its glory.
The front of the BOLT offers a larger venting port that also doubles as a nice RGB light area. This is accompanied by an RGB strip on the bottom that accents the rubberized bottom of the card. All lighting is controlled from the RECentral software (more the software later) and allows gamers to customize to their heart’s desire.
Much like earlier models of AVerMedia’s external capture boxes the BOLT walks a balanced line between form and function. The design team was quite intentional about making sure to leverage every functional need into a form factor that looks sleek and sharp. The additional RGB lighting makes the whole unit look right at home with the rest of your PC gear.
Under The Hood
The BOLT isn’t just about aesthetics. In fact, it packs a heck of a punch for such a small package. Powered by Thunderbolt 3, The LGB is capable of capturing 4K HDR video at 60 FPS. During the tests, it had no problem keeping up to whatever game I threw at it. At 1080, I ran a pass-through from my gaming rig to a separate capture computer and had no problem capturing full 1080p gameplay at well over 200 FPS (let’s face it – 240 FPS is hard to drive on everything but eSports. The BOLT is the Lamborghini of capture boxes and has no problem recording whatever you throw at it in full fidelity.
Interestingly, the LGB is capable of processing the video coming into the device before it makes it to your computer. This, in turn, frees up much of the processing power of your system which you can then dedicate to other things. This feature is found in the settings in the RECentral software (more on that later) and is a pretty powerful highlight of the package.
I ran several recording tests on the BOLT with various games on my PS4 Pro. As with the capture, it has no problem recording any resolution you throw at it. Even with HDR enabled, the LGB simply keeps going. For those looking to record and edit your sweet game reels, the Live Gamer BOLT has you covered.
The supported 2.0 HDMI pass-through works flawlessly as well. For testing, I ran the capture through to my gaming PC (via the RECentral software) as well as an external 28in 4K monitor (via passthrough). There was absolutely no noticeable latency during my gameplay tests. This, of course, is due to the Thunderbolt 3.0 connectivity which pulls the latency down below 50ms according to the specs. Although this is difficult to actually measure with my current toolset, I can say with certainty that when your gaming you won’t be trying to manage latency while face stomping demons in Doom Eternal.
The 3.5mm line in pass-through is a nice added feature that comes with the BOLT. For those that really want to push the sound quality of your recordings and streams, you’ll find this little port to work exceptionally well. The LGB supports 7.1 and 5.1 LPCM surround so you can easily pull all of the uncompressed gaming sounds into your capture and recordings.
Circling back for a moment to the Thunderbolt connection, it is important to note that this is not optional connectivity. Thunderbolt 3.0 is required to use this card. The BOLT doesn’t support USB at all. This means you either have an existing Thunderbolt 3.0 port on your motherboard or to pick up an external Thunderbolt card, which adds another $50 – 100 onto your purchase. If you have a high-end motherboard, you might find that you already have a header built into your motherboard, however, so it’s worth checking just to be sure.
If you are looking into the latter, I cannot stress enough the importance of doing your research. Not all boards support Thunderbolt 3.0 and even finding information on the internet about it can be an arduous process. For example, in our research, it was very unclear whether or not buying an add-in card was enough. At least for our motherboard, it was not and requires you have a Thunderbolt 3 header, as well. Setting up a new Thunderbolt card can be a difficult task, too. It generally requires activating all sorts of nested settings in your BIOS, having a Thunderbolt 3.0 header on your board, and an available PCI-e slot free.
As to whether that is a worthwhile venture for you all depends on your needs for capture and recording. If you are looking for a high-end capture/recording solution I would argue that it’s worth the investment. Not just because of how powerful the BOLT hardware is but also because of the software that comes with it.
RECentral: The Software of The People
In much the same way as there is more to a muscle car than horsepower, the same is true of any great piece of hardware. You can have some of the best hardware in the world but if the user interface is hot garbage, well my friends, that’s a recipe for disaster. Thankfully AVerMedia not only designs smart hardware, but they also bring that same intelligent design to their software.
RECentral 4 is wonderfully clean and smooth and allows you to push the BOLT to its limits. I’ve actually used it for the last couple of years with my original Live Gamer Ultra and have to say that it is one of the best I’ve used. Not only is the interface easy to navigate, but it really gives you full control over your capture experience. You can quickly switch between video formats on the fly, change HDR settings with a click of a button and control your RGB lighting easily.
The Live Preview is another wonderful feature of RECentral 4. You can actually use the software to preview your capture live with zero latency. This allows for a seamless experience. In the case of the BOLT, you can capture all 240 FPS in the preview so you are seeing exactly what your viewers will see.
The software can also handle all of your streaming needs. RECentral supports simultaneous streaming to multiply platforms with the only real limitations being what your internet and computer can handle. The software even features two modes for capture, multi-mode and single-mode. The former allows you to add layers to your scene (much like OBS) well the latter is a more straightforward affair and is great if you need to get up and running quickly.
Arguably one of the most interesting features that I tried out while working with the BOLT was the Live Editing tools. Essentially this allows you to trim down an otherwise long video into a nice, shareable clip. You can actually do this while still recording and once completed you simply save. In my tests, I found it to work quite well and was easy to use.
The AVerMedia Live Gamer BOLT is one of the most powerful capture boxes I’ve ever worked with. It offers a host of features that will be exceptionally useful as we transition into this next generation of consoles. Coupled with the RECentral 4 software, the BOLT is truly a next-generation capture box that will be hard to beat for the foreseeable future.
There are really only two considerations for those looking at the LGB as their new capture device; both of which really have less to do with the device and more to do with your system and pricing: that Thunderbolt 3 connection and the current pricing. It’s a high-end piece of kit with a premium price and system requirements to match. However, if you’re a streamer or content creator doing this full time or planning a move in that direction, the AVerMedia Live Gamer BOLT is a future-proofed option that will keep your steams and content looking sharp for years to come.
The product described in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.