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Elgato 4K60 S+ Review: 4K HDR Capture At Home and Beyond

4K HDR and PC-free capture in the palm of your hand

Damien Gula Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

If you have ever looked into devices for video capture or live streaming, you know the name Elgato. For as long as content creators have been putting together clips of their most epic gameplay moments, Elgato had been the go-to name in content capture. Well, Elgato is back at it with a new product to fill in a pretty interesting hole in their product stack: mobile recording. A few weeks ago, they released the 4K60 S+ into the wild and we got our hands on it. Let’s check it out. 

Specifications

  • MSRP:  $399.99 USD
  • Capture Resolution: Up to 2060p (4K) at 60 FPS
  • HDR Format: HDR10 
  • Recording formats: HEVC/H.265 HDR, AVC/H.264
  • Maximum Bitrate: 140 Mbps
  • Input: HDMI (unencrypted) 
  • Output: HDMI (lag-free passthrough)
  • Interface Type: USB 3.0, SD Card, mic line input
  • Included Accessories: Power supply, 2x USB 3.0 cables, HDMI 2.0 cable

In case you are wondering, yes, Elgato does already have a 4K60 device on the market. So, what sets it and the 4K60 S+ apart? Let me start by telling you what is the same, starting with the obvious. Both the 4K60 and the 4K60 S+ exist to capture video running resolutions of 2160p (4K) at 60 frames per second, hence the “4K60” part of the naming convention. But, that isn’t their only trick: with last year’s refresh of the internal 4K60 card, both devices have the capability of allowing HDR (High Dynamic Range) signal to pass through the device AND to capture!

What sets them apart is that the Elgato 4K60 S+ is the external counterpart to the PCIe-based Elgato 4K60. Where the internal 4K60 requires a fairly modern PC system to assist with video encoding and running software for capture, the 4K60 S+ can be used along with a PC for live monitoring and capture, but it is also capable of standing on its own. 

Thanks to it’s built-in HEVC encoder and SD card slot, the 4K60 S+ can function in both a desktop environment or in the living room - not to mention that it’s incredibly easy to do. Simply connect your devices as you normally would with a capture device, insert an SD card, and touch the shiny red light in the center. The ring around it will illuminate to indicate that it is recording. Then, just press it one more time to stop and there you have it! That means that where ever the “Play of the Games” are happening, the 4K60 S+ is there for it. Speaking of capturing the moment, if used along with a PlayStation 4, the Elgato 4K60 S+ will capture all audio using Chat Link. So, if you’re going for those big team moments, you will be able to capture it all! 

Here is a 4K HDR sample of what that looks like to record directly onto the SD card:

This mobility is not all portable power all the time, it does come with some sacrifices. There is a slight (~250ms) amount of preview latency. This means that if you are using the 4K60 S+ for live streaming, it will require a few extra steps to sync your devices to make sure that what people are seeing matches how you react to it.    

The 4K60 S+ also has a frame cap of 60 frames per second, regardless of the resolution. It is also does not support 1440p passthrough or capture. Now, these limitations are not huge sacrifices if you are looking to capture gameplay from current generation consoles, but it is worth considering in case you had an application that depended on capturing higher frame rates or at 1440p. 

There are also some limitations with the supporting 4K60 S+ is Elgato’s 4K Capture Utility. It is a good utility for capture, but does not offer the ability to edit recorded clips or to serve as a streaming platform like Elgato’s Game Capture HD. Anecdotally, I did find that the software was having a fair bit of trouble keeping signal straight between the USB-based 4K60 S+ and my PCIe 4K60 Mk. II. I had to remove my internal unit to keep the software pointed at the 4K60 S+ for more than three minutes. We did make Elgato aware of this issue in case others have had similar conflict. This won’t be everyone’s experience, but it is worth mentioning in case you are needing to capture multiple devices simultaneously. 

Another discovery worth mention is that we experienced some frame stuttering and audio syncing issues while capturing at 4K60 with and without HDR via the 4K Capture Utility using default settings. However, we were able to narrow down where these issues were coming from. This is what we found:

By default, the 4K Capture Utility captures video at a bit rate of 140Mbps. That is going to produce a very high quality clip, however you will need to make sure that the storage device you are capturing to can handle those kind of data speeds. We discovered that capturing onto an HDD with a modest 5400 RPM spindle speed and lower data transfer rate caused video stuttering and audio desyncing in the capture. However, when capturing to the WD_Black S750 NMVe SSD, we had no issue whatsoever. If you are locked into capturing on an HDD, you can mitigate this by adjusting your capture bitrate lower than the peak transfer speeds of your HDD.

Here is a gameplay sample similar to the prior one captured via Elgato’s 4K Capture Utility:

Final Thoughts and Considerations

Chances are, if you have been looking into 4K and/or HDR content creation, this unit has likely sparked your interests - and for very good reasons. There really are not a lot of outboard options on the market, unless you have access to Thunderbolt 3! Elgato has created an incredible unit for capturing gameplay that is both extremely well built and packed with features.

If you are considering picking up a 4K60 S+, an important consideration comes in the form of dealing with HDR footage. Depending on your video editing platform of choice, you may have some measure of difficulty with, despite the wealth of information on the internet regarding it. I typically edit in Final Cut Pro X despite the support for both HDR and HEVC, it refused to import HDR game footage captured from within the 4K Capture Utility. However, it had no issue with the footage captured directly on the SD card and all non-HDR files worked just fine. In your own considerations, I would research your application of choice to determine how fussy it will be with HDR footage.

At this moment in time and its price point of $399.99 USD, this unit is an enthusiast’s device. Unless you are looking to up your professional game and start making 4K HDR content, there are several other offerings that might serve you (and your wallet) better. That being said, before you drop the coin on this powerful little unit, it would be worth your time to check out Elgato’s video on which capture device is right for you. You can find that link right here. They have done a really good job breaking information down by use-case.

Delivering quality at just about every level, the 4K60 S+ is ready to handle modern gaming capture along with being a good starting point for when next-gen consoles arrive. If you are looking for a portable video capture unit that can capture and pass through 4K HDR footage at 60 frames per second as well as capture without the need of a beefy rig, the 4K60 S+ is an excellent option.

The product described in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

9.0Amazing
Pros
  • SD Card slot offers a portable platform for high quality recording
  • Built-in HEVC encoder captures quality clips without needing a PC attached
  • Solid build quality
  • Very easy to use as a standlone unit
Cons
  • 1440p format, 1080p240/1440p144 passthrough not supported
  • Lower end performance capture locked to 60 FPS
  • HDR file formats can be a bit fussy, dependent on how you capture and your editing platform


Pastor_Dame

Damien Gula

Born in the heyday of mullets and the El Camino to a tech-foward family, Damien joined the MMORPG.com team back in 2017 to review hardware and games as well as provide coverage for press preview events. He has participated in a number of MMOs over the years, including World of Warcraft, RIFT, Guild Wars 2, and the Destiny series. When he isn't writing for MMORPG.com, Damien is a pastor by trade who loves talking with anyone interested about life, God, and video games (in no particular order). He also co-hosts a podcast dedicated to these conversation with fellow MMORPG writer Matt Keith called Roll The Level.