Over the last couple of years I have experimented with HDMI video grabbers from different price points. Starting with a very cheap grabber in 2020, the topic had me captured for quite some time now. If you are looking for an option to record video signals from a camera via HDMI, you find my experiences and recommendations below.
I do not have hands on experience with all listed devices. If I got something wrong, please ping me on Twitter or write me an email.
What are HDMI grabbers
HDMI grabbers convert incoming video (and usually audio) signal from HDMI to a USB Video Class (UVC) input. As UVC, it can be used as an input in web conferencing software like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, or streamed online via Twitch or YouTube. HDMI grabbers make it possible to use “real” cameras as a webcam or capture the screen from a secondary device for streaming. Many grabbers also have additional functionality to attach a headset, switch between inputs, or change audio settings in hardware.
The grabbers come in different form and shape, from a simple thumb drive-like form factor up to fully featured video mixers for live content production. This buyers guide concentrates on camera grabbers. For game capture, features like 1440p capture and HDR are relevant. For such features, devices like the Elgato HD60 X or AverMedia Live Gamer Ultra are more suitable.
Best HDMI grabber for Home Office - Roland UVC-02
The Roland UVC-02 is video conferencing hardware from Roland, an established Japanese company best known for their audio equipment. I personally use the Roland UVC-02 as a daily driver in my home office environment.
Besides having a 1080p60-compatible HDMI input, the UVC-02 has many helpful features as a web-conferencing tool. The most striking reason for me was the central hardware mute button. Instead of tabbing through my open windows when I want to unmute myself in a web conference, the mute button is always at reach. The LED lighting clearly shows if I am on air or not. With the Roland software (Windows and macOS only) the behavior of the button can be set between toggle, push-to-talk, or push-to-mute.
For audio input, the UVC-02 supports audio via HDMI, from a connected headset via TRRS line jack, XLR (with 48V phantom power), and an additional 3,5mm audio jack. All inputs are adjustable via dedicated hardware knobs. I primarily use the TRRS jack for my React Fnatic headset via a single wire. There is also a dedicated knob to control the monitor volume, another important feature for me. Direct monitor feeds back my voice to my headphones without latency. Since my headphones are pretty tightly sealed I tend to speak up in video conferences, because I cannot hear myself. With monitoring, I immediately hear how load I am talking. With these features, the UVC-02 replaced my dedicated Behringer UMC-202HD audio interface.
The Roland software has additional config options for the LED color (just a gimmick), various sound effects for a clearer voice in meetings, and the two dedicated A1 and A2 buttons. These buttons can either be configured to flip through a presentations or to activate audio effects. Those effects are funny, but I find little use for them in a professional context. The buttons can also play short audio samples, like a cheering crowd.
The entire device is build very sturdy and feels more premium than the price suggests. The Roland UVC-02 costs 179€ at Thomann. Roland also sells a matching Gooseneck microphone (CGM-30) for 69€, that plugs into the XLR port.
Best HDMI grabber for content production - Blackmagic Atem Mini Pro
Blackmagic Design is an Australian company that produces semi-professional and professional video equipment and affordable prices. Blackmagic was one of the first companies to use flexible FPGA modules for their video mixers. Since FPGAs are software programmable, Blackmagic utilizes economy of scale to design hardware that remains affordable. In the sub-500€ range, Blackmagic has little competition for video mixers with multiple HDMI inputs. A mention-worthy competitor is RGBlink, as well as Atomos and Roland at a higher price point.
The ATEM Mini series are affordable video mixers with at least four HDMI inputs. All ATEMs have included audio control, video effects like a green screen keyer, and dedicated audio inputs. The devices can be controlled via a very flexible software from Blackmagic (Windows and macOS). Alternative implementations exist for Linux. The ATEM Minis offer selected pro-features at a still affordable price. The maximum supported video resolution is 1080p60.
The lowest-spec model “ATEM Mini” is not on sale anymore, but can be found used at around 140€. The upgraded “Mini Pro” model extends the features by the option to directly stream to certain platforms and record to an attached USB drive. The Mini Pro costs around 300€ new, or 250€ used. The Pro model also has a multiview showing all four cameras and audio information on the dedicated HDMI output.
The ISO models of the ATEM Mini Pro can record all supplied streams individually. They also generate cut-marks, so that externally recorded material (from the camera) can easily be cut matching to the original stream. The Extreme models mainly feature additional HDMI inputs.
The device itself is made from plastic, so its pretty lightweight and surprisingly small. Users should not be fooled by the toy-like appearance, the ATEM Mini is a very capable video mixer.
ATEM Mini on blackmagicdesign.com
Cheap offbrand capture cards
For my experiences with offbrand Chinese capture cards, see this and this post. When spending several hundred euros for a camera, I would not want to accept the image quality drawbacks from these devices.
Elgato Cam Link 4K
The Cam Link 4k is a thumb-drive-like capture card. it has 4K support (although only 30fps) and may be end of life, as it is not listed on the Elgato homepage anymore. However, the Cam Link 4k and its predecessors are a go-to choice for many content producers. New, it costs around 90€.
The Roland UVC-01 fits the HDMI capture capabilities of the UVC-02 into a small thumb drive-like form factor. Since the device is pretty expensive (around 250€), I’d recommend to buy the cheaper and more powerful UVC-02 instead.
The Atomos Nexus has a very comparable feature set to the Cam Link 4K. Around 85€ it may be a good pick, especially when the Elgato goes out of stock.