The pillar of streaming and making content on the internet for me is the presence and quality of capture cards. I remember, years ago now, using my first capture card and it wasn’t even really designed for gaming in the first place. After watching Call of Duty montages and gameplay commentary, however, I wanted to start to get into this world for real. Fast forward many years and varying degrees of capture hardware and the Razer Ripsaw is sitting on my desk. What is a modern capture card like, I wonder.
Let’s start with the technical stuff. The Razer Ripsaw is a USB 3.0 device that supports up to 1080p 60fps capture. I primarily used the Ripsaw as an HDMI device but there are component options available including a PS3 specific cable. The Ripsaw also features two 3.5mm audio jacks that you can use to plug in a mic and an auxiliary music player to mix straight through the device. Based on the I/O alone, you can adapt the Ripsaw to function more like a hardware mixer of sorts if you really needed to, but most of my usage, and probably most of the average use, is just as an HDMI device. The component cable options in particular were kind of surprising to find in the device since I don’t personally use that stuff anymore.
Technical specs aside, the Razer aesthetic comes to the Ripsaw very well. I personally enjoy the look of every Razer product I’ve come into contact with and this is no exception. Before even plugging it in, the combination of matte and gloss black on the device is striking. The spot gloss, as it were, for the Razer logo is such a nice way to have the logo appear subtle. Once you do plug the device in, the only light you’ll be getting is the status light on the front face of the Ripsaw. It’s very understated with only red and green lights and combinations of blinking and pulsing to tell you the status of the device. I say “understated” in this context because I partially expected the Ripsaw to be Chroma-enabled. I could definitely see future iterations of the Ripsaw featuring a Chroma logo instead of just gloss black but I respect the restraint from Razer on this. This is one aspect of the package that most people don’t really care about but I obsess over more than I should, especially for a device that will likely sit far behind or away from your active desk space.
Let’s move onto the software side. Like other Razer products, Razer Synapse is used to manage your drivers. With other products, Razer Synapse also manages what your mouse buttons do, your Chroma settings, heat maps, etc. but until the Ripsaw becomes a Chroma product, all Synapse does is keep it up to date. If you are keen to try Razer’s own recording software, you can download Razer Cortex. This is my first experience with Razer Cortex and overall, I’m not very impressed. Cortex includes a bunch of different features but we’ll stick to the capture card related tab, Gamecaster. From the Gamecaster tab, you can stream or record directly off the Ripsaw and include some simplified behind-the-scenes production like a BRB screen, mixing in various audio sources, and even add in a webcam with chroma key options.
Gamecaster includes several different streaming services so if you really want to use it to stream, you could but I don’t recommend it, personally. If you’re in this for streaming, Gamecaster seems a little limited and it’s hard to forget that OBS is free. Even if you want to use Gamecaster for recording, you can’t change the default directory for recordings which is a no-go for me. Beyond that, I don’t personally like how Razer Cortex looks and I don’t think the actual recording interface for the Ripsaw specifically is that great. Gamecaster seems to be a PC-oriented tool so they designed it as an overlay. This makes sense with PC games you have in fullscreen but as capture card software, it makes no sense. In order to start recording, you need to hover over a little icon in the corner of the capture window to make the overlay pop out instead of just having the recording options on display. Again, this is probably fine as PC utility but makes no sense for use with a capture card.
What about the video? This is a capture card, right? What does the video look like? The video coming off the capture card has looked good in any scenario I’ve tried to record it. Whether I’m using XSplit, OBS, or Razer Cortex, the Ripsaw has performed very well. It’s at this point where I’m starting to recognize that websites are not necessarily keeping up with common production gear. 1080p60 was a hard target for one reason or another years ago. Looking at it now, every capture card I can buy supports 1080p60 and instead it is the streaming platforms that don’t necessarily support it. YouTube states that for live video, your cap is about 9,000 kbps for 1080p60 and for uploaded videos, it’s 12,000 kbps unless you can upload it as an HDR video in which case it’s 15,000 kbps. This isn’t so bad but for standard uploads but you’re still going to see some artifacting in fast-moving scenes so streams will obviously look a little worse. Twitch recently increased their bitrate cap to about 6,000 kbps which is great for 720p60 video but lower than YouTube so still not great for 1080p60. There are obviously other kinds of limits across other websites. This isn’t me telling you not to get this capture card because websites are terrible, but more to help you be aware of the capabilities of the Ripsaw in relation to your actual broadcast restrictions.
Ripsaw vs Competitors
How does the Ripsaw compare to other capture cards? There’s a bunch of different factors to consider if you’re looking to buy a capture card. As solely an HDMI capture device, the Ripsaw performs quite well, I’d say. The capture is latency-free as well which isn’t a big deal for me but some people probably go crazy for it. For the HDMI aspect of this capture card, however, it’s fairly unremarkable. Basically every capture card on the market is HDMI-capable so if that’s all you want, there’s a ton of things you can take your pick from. Speaking objectively, the things to consider will be the rest of the features. The Ripsaw is compatible with component devices and has two auxiliary audio jacks that you can mix in your software. If something like that doesn’t appeal to you, then there’s not anything dramatically appealing about the Ripsaw unless we start going into more superficial reasoning.
I wouldn’t necessarily chalk this up to a problem, though. For consumers, there are plenty of options with very similar features and if we discount the Magewell capture cards from my comparison, the difference between the cheapest and most expensive capture cards is under $50. For very high quality video production gear, I’d say that’s not that bad at all. To go back in the Way Back Machine™ for just a moment, when I first started looking at capture cards many years ago, there were not so many options for capture cards so seeing so many different choices now and marketed towards gamers is refreshing. Lastly, though, the Ripsaw is a Windows-only device for whatever reason. I know companies have been getting better about Mac support but that’s not the case here.
This is the first chance I’ve gotten to really talk about capture hardware here so I feel like we should also get my personal preferences in here and try and be less objective, perhaps. I definitely think the Ripsaw is good, but for my money, I’d still prefer a PCI-E option over USB, which Razer does not offer currently. Early on, I invested in an AverMedia LiveGamer HD and then upgraded to the Elgato HD60 Pro which is what I was comparing the Ripsaw against. For disclosure purposes, comparing the capture cards started to make me question what the true video really was and which actually represented the real video the best. The difference in the direct capture is likely subtle to the average observer but not something you can’t compensate for in post. If you put someone to a blind A B test, they likely might not even notice the difference or even firmly state which is which. I think this just goes to show how even the playing field is in terms quality from these capture cards.
When the Ripsaw initially came out, I heard pretty good things about it but I was pretty cautious about a capture card from what I really only knew as a mouse and keyboard company. Razer did not disappoint. I may not like Razer Cortex and I still prefer PCI-E but I’m having a hard time saying objectively bad things about the Ripsaw. I haven’t had any hands-on experience with Razer’s other “Broadcaster” gear, the Seiren and the Stargazer, but I’m more inclined to look into them after using the Ripsaw. More to the point, I can’t imagine how they’d build off of this assortment of gear but I am curious where Razer will go with a broadcaster department. Razer wants us to be armed with the right tools for broadcasting and they have quite an impressive toolbox so far.
Disclosure: This review was conducted with a standard Razer Ripsaw provided to us for this review. Post contains affiliate links.