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AVerMedia Live Gamer ULTRA: Portable Powerhouse For 4K and HDR

By Damien Gula on July 17, 2018 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

AVerMedia Live Gamer ULTRA: Portable Powerhouse For 4K and HDR

Let’s set a hypothetical stage: Let’s say that you are curious about creating content around the games that you love, but you need to find a way to capture quality video to match your hard work of theory-crafting and scripting the perfect voiceover lines. You have looked into some options, but many of them require internal components or sacrificing some quality. What if you could record high-quality content without sacrificing the high-end features that you bought that PS4 Pro or Xbox One X for? AVerMedia doesn’t think that should even be a question. This is our review of AVerMedia’s Live Gamer Ultra GC553.

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Specifications

  • MSRP:  $249.99 USD
  • 4K with 60Hz HDR passthrough, 30 FPS capture
  • 1440p with 144Hz passthrough, 60 FPS capture
  • 1080p with 240Hz passthrough, 120 FPS capture
  • HDR Capture: 1080p at 60 FPS*******
  • Recording format: MPEG 4, H.264+AAC or H.265+AAC
  • USB 3.1 type-C connection for low latency
  • HDMI 2.0a

With the varied video resolutions on modern consoles and growing expectancy for quality digital content, AVerMedia’s outboard Live Gamer ULTRA is set to make your “Play of The Game” moments look just as good as they felt with 4K HDR play-though and capture.

You read that right: 4K and HDR recording. While we have seen other devices offer 4K recording and pass-through, HDR is an entirely different animal. It is important to note that HDR recording is limited to Full HD (1080p) at 60 FPS.

If you aren’t familiar with the term, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It means that the depth of color found within the black spaces have a higher range of colors displayed, making what happens in the dark far more visible. HDR is a feature that has been more readily available in TVs within the past year or two and making its way to PC monitors.

The Live Gamer Ultra is limited to 30 frames per second recording 4K, but it does give you the full 60Hz refresh rate out of the passthrough. This quality scales up as you reduce the resolutions and all of this at ultra low latency, thanks to the blistering data transfer speeds of USB 3.1. A short USB-C to USB-A comes with the device, but you can go USB-C-to-USB-C to give those lonely ports on your PC their turn to shine!

Since the latency is so low, playing directly on your PC while recording is a dream. AVerMedia’s RECentral software serves as a powerful tool for recording, taking screenshots, monitoring your system resource usage, and streaming to multiple platforms at on time. It allows you to create capture profiles for the resolutions, frame rates, and refresh rates of your choosing so long as it is within the supported parameters of the Live Gamer ULTRA. It also came bundled with CyberLink’s PowerDirector 15 for editing, but it is not necessary for capture and immediately hit me up for a paid update upon installation. It will be getting uninstalled.

AVerMedia does recommend that your system be decently current to support high resolution or high frame rate recording scenarios. They recommend an Intel Core i5-6000 series or higher with an NVIDIA GTX 1060 and 8 gigs of RAM.

For my testing, I am using a 2017 iMac equipped with an Intel Core i5 7600K with 16 gigs of RAM and an NVIDIA GTX Titan X in an eGPU enclosure. Let’s just say that I didn’t have any issues with recording or streaming in both Windows and MacOS environments. While AVerMedia’s RECentral software is a Windows 10 application, OBS worked just fine under MacOS as does Streamlabs OBS.

It is important to note that if you are running an AMD-based system, AVerMedia does not promise the same performance as you might see under an Intel environment. They do not elaborate on this much, but they do site stability and performance inconsistencies as reasons to steer toward the usage of an Intel-native chipset and USB port.

Setting up the Live Gamer ULTRA is fairly straightforward, but it will require you to perform a few pre-setup setup steps before it will be ready to receive video from your devices. While there are no drivers necessary for instillation on the PC end, console setup is where I spent a bulk of my time getting everything to play nice together.

If you are using a Playstation 4, you will need to go into your System menu under Settings and disable HDCP. The Xbox One X will automatically detect the capture card, but your display option needs to be set to Auto-detect. In both situations, it is necessary (as stated above) to have HDMI 2.0 support for 4K and HDR.

As far as construction goes, the Live Gamer ULTRA has a plastic casing with a variable LED indicator for error detection and built in fan to keep the components cool. A word of warning: the fan is always on and it is loud! I had to unplug the capture card when it is not in use to manage that extra noise and to make sure that fan is not needlessly running when the card is not in active use.

The Live Gamer ULTRA has very small footprint making it a great grab-and-go option if you need it to or for usage with a laptop or All-in-one where a PCI slot is not available for an internal card. In case you are wondering, AVerMedia has one of those, too: the Live Gamer 4K GC573.

Final Thoughts

With the variety of capture, refresh rate, and passthrough options, as well as the use of USB 3.1, and support for HDR and 4K, the AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra is in a weight-class of its own. It’s $249.99 USD price tag does put it into a cost category above the Elgato Gaming HD60S, but below Epiphan Video’s $500 USD AV.io 4K. What do you get for that extra cash? The options to record at higher frame rates and resolutions with high efficiency H.264 and H.265 encoding.

The Live Gamer ULTRA’s bundled software is a mixed bag. RECentral provides a stellar environment for video capture and streaming to multiple channels - a massive upgrade from previous versions, but PowerDirector 15 loading outdated out of the box of a less-then-a-month-old device is a needless cash grab. The positive side of this bundle is that it offers an entry point into content creation. If you are already using pro-grade software, AVerMedia’s offering needs no other supporting software other than the provided capture software itself. If you aren’t inclined to use RECentral, Streamlabs OBS plays just fine with the Live Gamer ULTRA.

If you are looking for a capture device that does not compromise on capture quality and you have the gear to support these features as well as the ability to spend in a bit of a higher price bracket, AVerMedia’s Live Gamer ULTRA has enough extra options to support your modern console capture needs.

Pros

  • Driverless device with good software support
  • Ultra low latency via USB 3.1 allows you to capture in real-time on your system’s display
  • Tons of great options for recording, streaming

Cons

  • Loud cooling fan
  • Bundled software out-of-date, asking for paid update
  • Inconsistencies on an AMD-based platform

The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.