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Internal vs External: Finding the Right Video Capture Card

written by: twhatley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/4/2011

With each passing year, more and more items become available to make video capturing easier. The problem most consumers are running into is deciding between the hundreds of products on the market. This article gives insight into internal and external video capture cards.

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    Introduction

    The power behind video capture cards are all in the eye, or the hand, of the beholder. Not armed with the correct information, consumers rush in and purchase a video card that doesn’t have the capability to do what they want it to do. Many just want a card that is capable of receiving their favorite television broadcasts, while others want to digitally capture all their old family home videos. When deciding whether to use internal or external cards, you must first decipher what will be the main function for which you are purchasing the device.

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    Internal Video Card

    Internal cards have to be installed inside the computer in one of the expansion slots. Some consumers aren’t comfortable gambling with messing around inside their computer or don’t want to shell out the bucks to pay someone else to install it for them. This is the main reason that keeps them away from the internal cards; which could be a big mistake. Internal cards are much more flexible with their selection, features, and cost. They are generally less expensive than the external ones.

    Pros: Internal cards have a broader selection range, with better features, to choose from. They don’t cost as much as external cards. It is easier to find an internal card that will work with Microsoft Vista.

    Cons: Internal cards have to be installed inside the computer. This will be a potential problem for people with older systems. PCs built before 2004 may not have the PCI expansion slot that is required for the installation of the internal cards. Not all cards are compliant with Microsoft Vista.

    When to use: Internal cards are best when you don’t need an expensive solution and just want to capture video files. If you are using Microsoft Vista, you will have a better chance finding an internal card that is compatible.

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    External Video Cards

    The two biggest draws for the external card is that it is easy to install and are mobile. Quickly exchanging the device from one computer to another is as simple as plugging and unplugging. Most external cards use USB cables, but some also use FireWire. Although external cards are ideal for DVR functions, it uses a lot of the computer’s resources in the process.

    Pros: External cards are easy to install. They can easily be transported from one computer to another.

    Cons: External cards are much more costly and the selection is limited. External cards don’t come with as many features as internal cards. They use more of the CPU’s resources. Not many offer support for Windows Vista.

    When to use: The best time to use an external card if you really don’t want to deal with the installation of the internal ones. Also, if you play to use one card for multiple computers then use an external one. External cards are the best choice for quality DVR service.

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    Additional Buying Tips

    • For DVR functions, find a video card with a remote.

    • For external cards, 1GHz is needed for better quality videos.

    • Get a card with dual tuners for recording one channel while watching another.

    • Find a video card that comes with DVD authoring software if you want to burn DVDs.

    • Find a video card with TV tuning if you want to use as a DVR.