NVidia Shadowplay capture review & comparison with Fraps and DXstory

  • Published in Apps reviews

Alongside the 780Ti, NVidia also released its very own take on video-capture, with the so called Shadowplay, a part of the GeForce Experience that allows for gameplay recording. Naturally, I was interested to see what the feature can accomplish and what impact it has on the overall performance.

The PC environment is one of the most diverse when it comes to recording, with access to both capture cards and more than a dozen software recording options. Now NVidia seems to try to bridge the gap between the two, leveraging the H.264 encoder built into the Kepler-based GPU s, recording 1080p resolution gameplay footage that is subsequently encoded and compressed automatically in an mp4 format.

NVidia Shadowplay vs Fraps vs DXstory

Shadowplay is part of the GeForce Experience, and it requires an NVidia GTX 650 or higher for recording. It's able to capture up to 20 minutes (10 minutes on Win 7) in Shadow Mode, which is a fancy way of saying automatic mode meaning it captures the last 20 minutes (or 10 depending on the OS) of gameplay. There is also an option to capture manually, which records unlimited length video (3.8GB, or about 20 minutes in Win 7).

Comparison

Well these are the official stats, and since I had a MSI TwinFrozr 680 in my system, I said I will give Shadowplay a whirl and see how well it performs. Alongside I chose two of the most popular game capture software, Fraps and DXtory, and recorded the same subsection using the MSI Afterburner overlay to showcase frame-rate.

Shadowplay vs some software

I was interested in the performance hit taken by the system with each alternative, the overall capture quality and the resulting filesize. It is worth noting that for Fraps and DXtory I used their native codec, which means that the resulting files were lossless, reaching up to 17 GB for a 4 minute video.

The game chosen for capture was one that was not optimized for NVidia, though it remained quite demanding. This leaves out a rather massive library of games, but I chose the Tomb Raider since it has some pretty demanding requirements (and is present in my Steam Library). The reference frame-rate without any software capture in use is 60 to 65 frames per second, with the settings cranked up to maximum.

NVidia Shadowplay

I played and recorded the first four minutes of gameplay up until Lara escapes the crazy bloke trying to pull her back. The resulting mp4 file was about 983MB at 1080p, with 48000Hz / 16 bit audio. There are no options to tweak or change anything when it comes to video-quality.

NVidia Shadowplay

Surprisingly enough, NVidia is the most taxing on the system, eating between 12 to 25 frames per second. However, it is worth noting that this impact is also due to the fact that it automatically compresses the video, while Fraps and DXtory were used to create lossless files.

Fraps

Fraps is the most known capture software for PC, with free and paid versions ($37.00) available on the official site.
The software has only one single lossless codec available, so the resulting clip had about 11 GB, with 192000Hz / 24 bit audio. Like NVidia's Shadowplay there are no options available when it comes to video-quality.

During gameplay it has a pretty standard performance hit, somewhere between 10 to 23 frames per second. It's also worth noting that the file was written at a 50mb per second speed.

DXtory

DXtory is the most extensive of the lot, being able to use up to eight individual codecs and interpret 3d party application codecs from Bandicam or Fraps (these are the two I had installed). It is available at the price of 3600Yen ($37.00).

I recorded the video using the proprietary lossless codec, with the resulting file having up to 17 GB at 1080p and 192000Hz / 24 bit audio.

Contrary to popular belief, DXstory has a performance hit, lower than fraps and Shadowplay, but I still lost about 6 to 18 frames per second. However, the resulting file was written at about 700MB per second, so let that sink in for a while.

Conclusion

NVidia's Shadowplay is an interesting addition to the GeForce Experience. Yes, it is somewhat limited when it comes to available options, but it's also the fastest way to capture and prepare a clip. While DXtory is superior, it has certain requirements that simply cannot be ignored. As a result, if you are interested in a game-capture option (and you are not proficient with any video-editing software), then Shadowplay is the way to go.

However, the most important part is an actual video that showcases what we just said. Therefore, I give you this:

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