Hardware Review: Avermedia Live Gamer HD C985

Preface

If you’re a budding computer enthusiast searching for hardware to increase the performance of your rig, one of the most difficult things ever is finding a part that will yield tangible performance gains. I don’t know about you, but DAMN I hate reading review after review of vague, nondescript praise about a product. If you’re just now getting into streaming or recording videos for Youtube, you’ll definitely be running into similar problems. What program is the best? Is Xsplit worth buying over something like FMLE or FFsplit? What is the difference between h264 and x264? And for hardware…Is hyperthreading really that great, is it worth the extra money? How much more will it help? Will a better CPU or GPU help me with streaming? Do SSDs even matter? What about RAM speed? If I overclock my CPU, how much will it help? Sure, it’s possible to find the answers to all of these questions, but it requires digging and digging and reading and reading and so much more research than one should ever have to do to find the simple answer to certain questions:

“How much of a performance gain can I expect from a given upgrade?”

A lot of people out there bought a PC with the intention of upgrading it at some point in time. Of course, this is hard when those Intel bastards change their socket type every 2 years, but I digress. A lot of people now are getting into the wonderful world of streaming! A year or two ago, hardly anyone streamed. If you’d venture a look onto teamliquid.net, you’d find maybe 10-15 streamers at any given point in time. If you check today, that number is easily 10 or 20 times greater.

One question people constantly ask me is “What part of my computer should I upgrade to stream better?” Unfortunately, the answer is your CPU. Streaming is entirely CPU dependent and better RAM/SSDs/GPUs will not help you stream better. Unfortunately a CPU upgrade for a lot of people also means a motherboard upgrade, and, consequentially, sometimes a RAM upgrade as well. This translate into way more money + time than a person might want to invest into just picking up streaming as a hobby. And that brings us to….

Review

Avermedia Live Gamer HD C985

Avermedia Live Gamer HD C985

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I, on principle, absolutely hate these kinds of products. “Plug this device in and it will magically decrease the strain on your computer and increase your system performance!”…yeah, right. As someone who’s been streaming for a long time, I’ve become highly skeptical of products like these. My motto is the typical “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”  I searched and searched for any kind of decent benchmarks, but all I could find were these vague statements of praise -

“Another appealing aspect of this card is that the hardware H.246 [SIC] encoder found in the device unbelievably reduces the cpu consumption.”

Unbelievably, huh.

“One of the enticing features for me was the compatibility with Xsplit and the low pc resource consumption.”

Low PC resource consumption???

I searched and searched and I couldn’t find any good reviews. I hate descriptive adjectives; I WANT NUMBERS!

ARG! Let’s start with the product that we have here.

The Avermedia Live Gamer HD C985 is a PCI-insertable card that assists with capturing and encoding. You plug it into a PCI slot, run an HDMI cable from a monitor to the “Out” port on the card, then run an HDMI from your graphics card to the “In” port on the capture card. The card can then be used to capture the image, or you can use it to encode it into an h264 stream. You can only do one at a time, though that’s irrelevant. I won’t go into detailed explanation here, but the h264 hardware encoder on the card is no good for streaming as the bitrate it spits out is far too high. If you’re interested in purchasing this card for streaming, you will be using it for its capture purposes.

The card is capable of up to 1080p@30fps or 720p@60fps. Based on the polling I’ve done, either setting seems to be fine, with a slight preference for the 720@60fps option.

The Laboratory

My rig -

I7-2600k @ 4.4GHz

GTX580 @ 975MHz

Benching software -

Fuck Furmark, and fuck 3dmark. I don’t care about the results for those programs because I don’t play those programs in my free time. I, personally, play Starcraft 2. Starcraft is an incredibly CPU-intensive game, so it should be a good program to get us some decent benchmarks.

3 tests to make sure I have a decent average. I’ll be using FRAPS to give me averaged FPS measurements. I’m going to run a Starcraft 2 replay from 0:00 for 1 minute for every test. All tests will be done using Xsplit doing a local recording. The testing will be done at 1280×720 @ 60fps.

All graphics set to their lowest setting, game is in Fullscreen: Window mode and running at 1920×1080.

Starcraft 2 baseline bench - 334FPS
Streaming with X-split's "Screen Capture" - 203FPS
Streaming with X-split using the C985 - 237FPS

Wow, I’m honestly surprised. That’s a fairly solid 34FPS (17%) gain, considering all I did was plug in a card to my PC. I was more just curious to see if I could get a noticeable difference in FPS with these settings. I would never stream with the game looking like this, however. So I bumped up the settings to “Medium” and checked the “Reduce Mouse Lag” button (Keeping off anti-aliasing/other effects) and repeated the same tests.

Starcraft 2 baseline bench - 202FPS
Streaming with X-split's "Screen capture" - 111FPS
Streaming with X-split using the C985 - 147FPS

Holy shit. If anyone had told me that these kinds of gains were possible (32%) using a $220 capture card, I honestly wouldn’t have believed them. Not only is the FPS bumped, but the game feels amazingly smoother. Streaming with the capture card eliminates all of the jittery laggy problems that occur when streaming.

My chip is no slacker. Even when it was clocked at 4.8 I could not stream without some noticeable lag, especially when scrolling on the sides of the screen. The C985 eliminates that lag.

Conclusion, Afterthoughts

Buy. This. Card.

If you are someone who is looking to upgrade your machine to get into streaming, I have two pieces of advice for you. 1) If you’re looking at streaming in high quality (720p@60fps or 1080p@30fps) you WILL notice some lag on even the BEASTLIEST of systems unless you want to run a two-PC set-up. Again, this is coming from someone with a GTX 580 and an i7 that was clocked at 4.8GHz. And 2) even though this card is somewhat pricey for a PC part ($220), the amount of money you save by purchasing this card over building a whole second system is irrefutable. I will never stream again without using this capture card. Ever since I first hooked it up and got it working, it has become an indispensable part of what I do every day. In case you’re not too familiar with me, I stream ~8 hours a day 6 days a week, so I’m very serious about my streaming hardware.

Questions/comments? Leave ‘em below, I’ll try to edit or update everything up here accordingly if there’s something I missed.

28 Responses

  1. kkk.bob says:

    wtf is this shit nigga

  2. How well will i be able to stream with

    i5 750 @ 3.6Ghz
    GTX 560ti
    8gb ram

    And a 30mb/down 2mb/up

  3. Nigga says:

    WTF IS THIS SHIT NIGGA

  4. Daniel Samuels says:

    I assume you stream at 720p60 then? I’ve always thought it was 1080p60, but it looks like this card doesn’t support it.

  5. IceBurg says:

    Best review of this card that I have read, with solid numbers, not vague crap.

  6. VideoFletcher says:

    Athlon X4 640 8 Gig ram
    GTX 460

    will this help or is it better my buying an I7 in the future

  7. Jeff says:

    Destiny, I also use this card. Do you have any instances where you have noticed that certain links become blurred when viewing them on the monitor with the hdmi pass through? Example being the links on your home page under ‘twitter feed’. The time stamps appear blurry to me as well as on some other websites. However, if i move the browser window to a different monitor other than my main, the links become clear.

  8. Aver.Destiny says:

    I guess when your team-less you need to make money somehow

  9. Muf says:

    Software capture needs to lock a video buffer in order to copy it. During this lock the game cannot render stuff and so your framerate goes down. It’s not necessarily an issue of CPU speed, just an issue of shared resources. As a capture card takes the video as it’s exiting the graphics card, there is no conflict in trying to read and write the same video buffer at the same time, so you don’t encounter the lag that you do with software capture.

  10. KKK.Dave says:

    EG.Destiny? what is this fake marketing bullshit nigga

  11. Niaz says:

    I bought a few new parts a while ago that would allow me to stream once I have better internet.

    i5 3570K
    GTX 560ti
    128GB SSD
    8GB 1600MHz Dual-Ram

    At what quality can I expect to stream without lag?

  12. Ancu says:

    Are you sure the bitrate on the h264 output can’t be tweaked? Sounds like you’re throwing away quite some processing power there.

  13. Patrick says:

    So, instead of buying a 220 dollar GPU, why not just invest in a better rig?
    Get an I5 2500K
    A Radeon 6870
    And 8-16G Of Ripjaw DDR3 Ram..
    I’m running Dual GPU/i5 2500k/16G RipjawDDr3 and can stream, without lag, or issues, at 1080p.
    I feel like capture cards are so irrelevant and useless,
    They’re just a sign that you’re doing something wrong.

    • destinyadmin says:

      Because “investing in a better rig” is 2X more expensive than just buying a better card. Also, with an i5-2500k you will feel lag while streaming at high quality. There’s no way that you don’t lag with only a 2500k while streaming at 1080p. It could just be that you’re too bad to notice because you’re not as picky as me.

      The fact that you’re admitting to Xfiring two 6870′s and running 16GB of RAM makes me hesitant to believe any of this post is serious, though.

  14. fro3054 says:

    if u still cant stream by now, its kinda time to buy some new hardware, anyways, soonish.
    i feel like, u made this review at least 1 year too late. (or idk when this capture card was released)

  15. DJiGGs says:

    Finally someone who knows what they are talking about.
    I love how people come in here, saying they stream at 1080p no lag. Thats complete bullshit. And all they talk about is that they have X amount of ram, and some 700$ gpu. When none of that matters.

    Most likely the PC a streamer has today has something equivalent to and i5. Im personally running a i7 920 @ 4.0 GHz only 6 gig ram and 5870 matrix, Upgrading my rig would make me need to buy a new mobo and a new cpu, so something like this will make me want to buy it, since its only 200$.

    Thanks Destiny for the review.
    Just ignore the idiots who post bullshit

  16. Projekt says:

    Have you ever noticed video/audio desyncing? After a while when I’m streaming on Xsplit my audio and video start desyncing to where it’s noticeable.

  17. andrew says:

    Were you paid to make this review? You’ve always been big on transparency, so I’d like to know if this was influenced by money in some way or not

  18. emart says:

    I’ve been trying to decide what to upgrade for so long. I asked myself “Do I upgrade to a 2500k? Do I get a better GPU?” But after reading this, I might just consider this… Definitely going to look into this a bit more. Hopefully I can buy one locally so I can return it if I’m not satisfied

  19. Pungyeon says:

    Great review.

    Do you have any experience with the Blackmagic products?

    The BM Intensity Pro seems to be the exact same product as this (I obviously may be wrong). And I think it would be cool to look into their newer products as well :)

    • HoppeH says:

      As far as i know the BMIP will not take any load of you regarding encoding the stream. It will help with the screen capture and that will ofc help! It does not run at anything above 1080p24hz “it does 1080I@60 if you like to use that” I have had a shit ton of trouble with getting it to lock to 24hz to not get screen tearing or splitting meaning you have to go to 720p@60 hz. I have just ordered this card so looking forward to testing it out and seeing if its as good as they say :>

      • Michiel says:

        I have never lag 1080 30 fps/720 60 fps or stuttering without capture card. (corei7 920 3.6ghz)

        Stream program: Obs stream tool (completely free tool way better then Xsplit/Adobe)
        Dxtory 2.0.119 as capture (best capture tool with the most functionality)
        Starcraft2 framecap 100fps enough smoothness for gaming

        Bitrate 3k-5k
        on twitch.tv

  20. Nice stuff. A couple of questions.

    * How is the HDMI output configured? Are you mirroring your main 1080p gaming display to the HDMI port, or using a hardware splitter? How does the mirroring/splitting work if the gaming monitor is at 1080p and the Avermedia is at 720p? Do you have a second monitor running during this test?
    * Do you think you could run this test with a midgame or lategame max battle and see what game FPS impact of the Avermedia is?

  21. sri says:

    hello, plz tell me if there is any lag in the streaming, as i am tired of kainy, splashtop lag and really want to play games on my tablet.

  22. Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end
    or if it’s the blog. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

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  24. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point.
    You definitely know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your blog when you could be giving us something enlightening
    to read?

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