Capture card manufacturer Magewell has unveiled two new highly-capable 4K capture cards sporting a highly unusual M.2 form factor. The new card's are known as the Eco Capture HDMI 4K Plus M.2 and Eco Capture 12G SDI 4K Plus M.2. As the names suggest, one model is designed to work with HDMI connectors while the other is designed to work with SDI ports, which is a video connector used by the professional video production industry.
M.2 capture cards are not something you often hear about, but the ultra-compact form factor has many advantages. One of the biggest advantages is integration with newer motherboards that sacrifice most of their smaller PCie x8, x4, and x1 slots for M.2 slots. In these cases, having an M.2 capture card instead of a traditional half-height or full-height PCIe card can be really effective, especially if a system is already using the remaining one or two standard PCIe slots for graphics cards, audio cards, and/or ethernet cards.
Another use is with Mini-ITX motherboards which have even fewer PCIe slots than ATX and micro-ATX motherboards. In cases where the primary and only PCIe x16 slot is being used, M.2 is the only way to add additional PCIe devices to the system. Lots of Mini-ITX boards have more than one M.2 slot as well, which will allow users to build a full Mini-ITX system without sacrificing M.2 storage.
With these capture cards, streamers, video enthusiasts, and professionals can re-route all their video encoding and video processing to the capture card. This offloads work from the CPU and GPU, freeing up resources and improving image quality in some cases (depending on how slow or old the CPU or GPU is). Most people will find the built-in encoders found in the best GPUs and best CPUs to be more than adequate. But, a dedicated capture card can still be beneficial for highly-demanding setups that require more processing power than what a built-in CPU/GPU encoder can provide.
The M.2 card's themselves come in a 22 x 80 mm form factor, similar to that of 2280-sized M.2 SSDs. Both cards come with a green PCB and feature a large black cooling solution on top, with a very tiny fan actively cooling the encoding chip underneath. Since the M.2 standard does not feature any external ports, the cards need to be used with a special adapter that connects the card to a full-sized HDMI or SDI connector.
According to Magewell, these two new cards offer double the frame rate of their previous versions, featuring 60FPS playback at resolutions of up to 4096x2160 (ie. 4K resolution). Both cards are compatible with Windows and Linux operating systems and support native video APIs like DirectShow, DirectKS, V4L2, and ALSA. Plus, they also support high-quality upscaling, downscaling, cross-scaling, and color space conversion.
Pricing has not been unveiled just yet, but the Eco Capture HDMI 4K Plus M.2 is reportedly now shipping, and the Eco Capture 12G SDI 4K Plus M.2 will be available in the next two months.
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Aaron Klotz is a freelance writer for Tom’s Hardware US, covering news topics related to computer hardware such as CPUs, and graphics cards.
That heasink it's a little to big for mini itx builds at all...Reply
Hi Amdlova, Magewell has made two SKU's for each card to help solve the space issue. We have found that some users pop an M.2 in their build and didn't fully factor in cooling. For this reason, we want to cool our FPGA directly. For the majority of our use cases, OEM's have factored all of that in so we offer a SKU without the heatsink and provide just the power header.Amdlova said:That heasink it's a little to big for mini itx builds at all...
RyanMVD said:Hi Amdlova, Magewell has made two SKU's for each card to help solve the space issue. We have found that some users pop an M.2 in their build and didn't fully factor in cooling. For this reason, we want to cool our FPGA directly. For the majority of our use cases, OEM's have factored all of that in so we offer a SKU without the heatsink and provide just the power header.
Do you support HDMI 2.1 VRR passthrough on these models?
EDIT: Checked your web site, these have only HDMI in, they basically usable for video camera input or off-line capture from HDMI source.
For game streaming these wont do, since you limited to playing on the preview screen which has higher latency than passthrough function, has no HDR support nor VRR.
This is not a Streamer product.