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How to capture HDMI video on your computer for under $20

You don't need to buy an expensive video capture device.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Vixlw HDMI capture dongle connected to a Raspberry Pi.

Vixlw HDMI capture dongle connected to a Raspberry Pi.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The Vixlw HDMI capture dongle which is available from Amazon for $18.
  • Cheap, simple to use, and is very reliable. Works well with OBS Studio software.
  • Limited to 1080p output and no ability to connect headphones or microphone.

People get confused by HDMI. For example, say you have a laptop and a Raspberry Pi. Both of these devices have a HDMI port on them, so surely you can connect the Raspberry Pi to the laptop and use the screen of the laptop as a display.

The problem is, it's not that easy: The HDMI ports on both these devices are outputs. Only devices like TVs and monitors have input HDMI ports. 

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You need a video capture device. And while a professional -- or someone who wants to capture for high-quality output such as recording gameplay -- needs a dedicated video capture card, many of us can get away with something simpler.

For example, this video capture dongle will set you back less than $20. 

View at Amazon

Vixlw HDMI capture dongle tech specs

  • Input port: HDMI
  • Output port: USB
  • Input resolution: Up to 4K
  • Output resolution: 1080p
  • Max output frame rate: 30 frames per second 

Vixlw HDMI capture dongle couldn't be simpler to use: Plug an HDMI lead from the input into the dongle, connect the dongle to the computer using a free USB-A or USB-C port (a USB-A to USB-C converter is provided) and you're ready to go – no drivers needed.

The dongle comes with a USB-A to USB-C converter.

The dongle comes with a USB-A to USB-C converter.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

As for software on the PC, you can use something like OBS Studio -- which is free and yet super powerful. Mac users can use the built-in Quicktime Player software.

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There are some limitations. For example, you're restricted to a 1080p output, and there's no ability to connect audio to the dongle, but if you just want to capture a display, this is the perfect way to do it for under $20.

Output from a Raspberry Pi running Ubuntu captured by OBS Studio via the HDMI capture dongle.

Output from a Raspberry Pi running Ubuntu captured by OBS Studio via the HDMI capture dongle.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

If you need more performance, then you might want to take a look at something like the AVerMedia HDMI Capture Card 2.1, which offers 4K60 video capture and has 3.5mm jacks for microphone inputs and headphones.

ZDNET's buying advice

This Vixlw HDMI capture dongle is a cheap and cheerful, yet reliable way to capture up to 4K video from a device and output it to a PC at 1080p. Sure, there are some limitations to this $20 dongle. It is, after all, a $20 dongle. I've found a lot of uses for it, from managing Raspberry Pi devices to outputting the display from broken laptops to my laptop for help in data recovery. 

For the price, it's definitely something worth having in the tech toolbag.

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