Razer Ripsaw Gaming Capture Card: Australian Review

There's no shortage of competition in the capture card market these days, whether you're looking to record footage on consoles or PC. And considering Razer already supplies peripherals for every other aspect of broadcasting -- mice, mousepads, keyboards, headsets, microphones, even the Razer Blade laptop -- it only makes sense for them to get into the capture card game, too.

Unfortunately, the Ripsaw costs a lot. And when you can get the same hardware and performance -- almost literally, in fact -- elsewhere for substantially less, it makes the Ripsaw a hard sell.

This review originally appeared on Kotaku.

What Is It?

The Ripsaw is Razer's first offering for gamers looking to capture and stream uncompressed footage for streams, YouTube videos or other purposes. There's inputs for HDMI and component, allowing the Ripsaw to support the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U and even the Razer Forge TV.

Because the Ripsaw connects via USB 3.0, it can stream and capture footage in full HD at 60 frames per second without any compression. The bandwidth also means that you'll get "near-to-zero" latency, not the zero latency that Razer's testimonials loudly proclaim.

The box itself is pretty tiny, weighing in at 183 grams and 13cm/8.6cm/1.7cm (d/w/h). It also comes with a 3.5mm cable for one of the two front audio and microphone ports on the front, allowing you to mix in commentary or music from another device if you want.

If you'd rather control the levels of separate sources through Open Broadcaster Studio (OBS) and XSplit though, you can. The Ripsaw doesn't come with any special software, but you'll have to download the Razer Synapse drivers to get everything going first.

If you're already accustomed to using one of these programs -- and most streamers will be, as they're the two most popular platforms -- then setup isn't too much of a hassle. Getting everything right is slightly more tricky than the plug-and-play Razer's promo videos would lead you to believe, but if you've gone through the drama of getting a stream working properly a few times you'll be able to manage.


What's It Good At?

Here's some uncompressed footage captured with the Ripsaw and OBS, then encoded through Premiere

It's obvious out of the box: the Ripsaw is very neat and tidy. It takes up bugger all space, regardless of whether you want to have it next to your console in the living room or the desk where your PC is on. The Synapse drivers are similarly low-profile, although they have some simple options for customising the colour.

Provided you're not playing something that relies on Twitch reactions, like a Call of Duty or a racing game, you can play games through the streaming/recording window without too much difficulty. I ran through a couple of missions in The Division without much fuss, and a more relaxed game like Ratchet & Clank was a breeze.

And let's not forget the major benefit: uncompressed footage at 1080p in 60 frames per second. You can also record at lower resolutions (down to 480i/480p) if you like, but the uncompressed element is the main drawcard. Better quality footage from the start means you'll have a better end product when it's being watched on Twitch and YouTube.

Those making videos primarily for latter will get the biggest benefit, especially if you have limited upload. Uncompressed footage can take up more space on your hard drive, but it also means you can encode videos at a lower bitrate with better results -- which results in a faster upload time. Precisely what that works out to be will depend on what your setup is capable of (and the same applies to those just looking to stream).


What's It Bad At?

Being cost-effective. Given that the Razer Ripsaw is largely no different hardware wise from the AverMedia Live Gamer Extreme, it's hard to fathom why Australians are being asked to pay an exorbitant $329.95.

AverMedia's LGX is available from Mwave now until the end of the month for more than half the price of the Ripsaw. Elgato's older Game Capture HD60 doesn't do uncompressed footage, but it's also a hell of a lot cheaper and the PC requirements aren't as exorbitant as the Ripsaw's.

And that's another thing that'll frustrate users: the Ripsaw doesn't have Mac support. On top of that, you'll need at least a NVIDIA GTX 660 or GTX 870M GPU (or their AMD equivalents) for Razer's little capture box. Uncompressed footage does come with a price, after all.

It's also worth mentioning that OBS Studio, one of the two programs Razer recommends on their website, isn't entirely feature complete. The Classic build of OBS worked straight off the bat, but it won't get any love from the developers going forward.

In-game sound from the Ripsaw was oddly low, too. Other users reported the same thing on the Razerzone forums and social media. If you're recording footage to be encoded in Premiere, Sony Vegas or Final Cut Pro you can easily fix up the levels there, but it's a little more of a hassle if you're exporting that footage to be streamed.

An alternative would be to use a digital audio splitter that you could then tweak to boost the volume (VoiceMeeter and Virtual Audio Cable work fine, although the former is vastly easier to use), although that substantially complicates the whole process. But if you're going to stream or record, you're going to have to do some tweaking eventually.

Something else that's a major pain: the supplied USB 3.0 cord is incredibly short. That limits where you can put the Ripsaw, and being USB 3.0 you can't just use any old cable. It's a small grievance, but given that you're paying $329.95 Razer could have shelled out for a cord that was at least a metre long.


Should You Buy It?

Razer built their early reputation on selling good products at a reasonable price point, and the Ripsaw is still that -- minus the reasonable price. Just like the BlackWidow X Chroma, the mark-up for Australians is astronomical.

At US$179.99, it's cheaper to have the Ripsaw shipped from overseas. And it doesn't help that Razer's online documentation for the Ripsaw is still a work in progress. Even having some instructive videos or screenshots as part of the FAQ would go a long way to helping users who have problems, especially if you're dealing with work in progress software like OBS.

That aside, the Ripsaw works well. Really well, in fact. I didn't have any driver problems once it was setup, and despite the low audio volume the footage recorded without a hitch.

But the performance to price doesn't add up. And while uncompressed footage is nice to have, if you don't have a great deal of bandwidth for uploading and streaming it's a moot point. And it's a harder sell if you're just recording footage on PC, since you can get serviceable performance from your Raptr/Shadowplay, provided you have the appropriate GPU.

There is one saving grace available to people, however: the Razer Supported Streamer Program. If you sign up to that, you can get a 25% discount code on a Ripsaw and a Razer Seiren, bringing the Ripsaw down to just under $250.

But signing up to Razer's streamer program comes with a whole range of other conditions. And you shouldn't have to sign up to special programs just to get Razer gear at a competitive price. That's Razer's job, not yours.

Still, the Ripsaw is a solid capture card. And if Razer didn't double down on the Australia Tax, I'd have no qualms in recommending it. But with cheaper USB 3.0 alternatives that come with bundled software for less tech-savvy users, it's hard to see why the Ripsaw would be your first choice.