Not all streamers have the budget to build a powerful gaming PC that can live stream seamlessly. You might be wondering, should your budget spend most on your CPU or GPU?
Streaming software will strain your PC because it needs to record what currently happens on your screen, syncing audio and video that enter (microphone and webcam setup) and exit (game audio) while at the same time it uploads the compressed data to Twitch or YouTube.
You might wonder, which part of your PC is strained more when you are streaming, your CPU or GPU? Actually, live streaming will use both CPU and GPU resources. Streaming will take at least one of the core and your GPU needs to process the rendered data of your game
- Does CPU and GPU matters for Streaming on Twitch?
- Should I Use CPU or GPU encoding for Streaming on Twitch?
- Does RAM matter for Streaming on Twitch?
- Do You Need Fast SSD for Streaming on Twitch?
- Does Using OBS make your PC lag during Streaming?
Does CPU and GPU matters for Streaming on Twitch?
Both CPU and GPU can influence how much FPS you get when you are streaming your games on Twitch. But the streaming encoders you use on OBS will decide whether your PC will use CPU or GPU to render your streaming on Twitch.
Some streaming encoders will get a better result if you use a CPU with more cores and faster Ghz and IPC. Others will get a better result if you have a premium graphic card on your streaming setup
Which Streaming Encoding is The Best for Streaming?
There are four streaming encoders you can choose from; x264, NVENC, AMD VCE, and Intel Quick Sync. Choosing NVENC, AMD VCE, and Intel Quick Sync meant OBS will use your graphic card to render your streaming, but if you choose x264, your CPU is the one that will render your stream
Each streaming codec will result in different video quality. x264 will provide the best quality at the expense of a heavy load on your CPU. GPU streaming codec, with the right setting, can give 80-95% quality of what x264 will without straining your PC
Now, what streaming encoding should you choose?
x264 uses h.264, which is supported by most OS. It requires no setup and is available for all platforms, including PC, Mac, Android, and even on PS5 and Xbox Series X. x264 is the only CPU encoder you can choose that is supported by Twitch, Facebook Gaming and YouTube.
The advantage of using a CPU for your video encoding is it will give you the best picture and video quality right off the bat. The disadvantage is it will utilize a lot of your CPU resources lowering your PC in-game FPS.
You can setup x264 preset from Ultra Fast, which least affect your CPU, to Placebo, which gives you the best quality you can get from the encoding process
Here is the list of x264 presets you can choose for streaming:
- Super Fast
- Very Fast
- Very Slow
What is The Best Preset for x264 encoding setting on OBS?
If your CPU is not strong enough for streaming, try to choose Medium preset first, then lower to Fast, Faster and Very Fast if your PC is lagging during streaming. Try to compare which one is better by testing them during your stream and ask your viewers’ opinion which one is better
If you have 8 core CPUs like Intel i7 and Ryzen 7, use Medium preset, which gives the best quality at a balanced performance cost. If you have 10 Core CPU Intel i9 or 12 core CPU Ryzen 9, try to consider Slow preset. Your viewers will love and thank you
Only Very Fast, Faster, Fast, Medium and Slow is the option you should choose for streaming.
Even though maybe you’re tempted to choose very slow so your viewers can enjoy the best video quality you can provide, it will eat your internet bandwidth and if your stream is choppy, your viewers will hate it.
You need to consider which x264 preset is the balance between good video quality and low FPS performance cost.
Why Does Fast Preset give worse quality than slow on OBS?
Fast preset during the encoding process means that your CPU will encode the video faster, leaving less time and less CPU power to process your video. This means that the video quality will be lower compared to slow preset which give CPU more time and resources to render your video.
Placebo is the slowest but gives no advantage compared to Very Slow, which the reason why it named placebo, not worth the increase of CPU resource on video quality in most case
Nvidia NVENC encoder is a built-in GPU hardware accelerator that performs video encoding. It’s a video encoding that you can freely use if your GPU supports NVENC. The benefit of using a GPU encoder is it will use part of your GPU that is dedicated only for encoding, so it will have little impact on your game.
Not only that, since your CPU resource is free from encoding purposes, using NVENC can let you play your games without getting framerate penalty.
Which NVIDIA GPU support NVENC?
Not all NVIDIA GPUs are supported. NVENC was released in Kepler (7xx) generation in 2012. It was built to encode the video you watch on your PC, to reduce the heavy load of 4K encoding.
But only the newer NVENC version can support streaming purposes. Here is the list of GPUs that support NVENC for streaming purpose
- NVIDIA Pascal Generation (10xx) released in 2016: Only 1080 Ti
- NVIDIA Turing Generation (20xx) released in 2018: GTX 1650 super to RTX 2080 TI are supported. GTX 1650 initial release version doesn’t support Turing NVENC, but the newer GTX 1650 version that uses GDDR6 supports Turing NVENC.
- Nvidia Ampere Generation (30xx) released in 2020: Currently, all ampere GPU support the highest level of NVENC natively
OBS will detect automatically if you use supported NVIDIA GPU, so you can choose between x264 and NVENC. Choosing NVENC is the best option for most streamers since the benefit of x264 is only useful for streamers with at least 8 cores on their CPU or an unsupported GPU.
Not only for streaming, but you can also use NVENC for video editing and rendering purposes. Video editing software like Adobe Premiere can let you use NVENC to supercharge the speed of your video rendering project. Video rendering takes a long time, especially if you render 4k videos.
Not only that, digital artists that work on 2D art using photoshop and 3D art using Blender can heavily benefit from using NVENC encoder to render their artworks. It’s always recommended to Blender artists to use NVIDIA GPU to render their art.
Since NVIDIA have their own hardware video encoder, AMD Video Coding Engine is the AMD version of NVENC. It’s rebranded as AMD VCN or Video Core Next in the Navi GPU lineup.
Unlike Nvidia, which heavily supports software developers to improve NVENC, AMD VCE generally uses open-source codecs like AV1 and OpenCL.
Intel Quick Sync
Intel Quick Sync is a dedicated encoding and decoder technology in Intel Integrated Graphics. It’s the cheapest hardware encoder you can buy since most Intel CPUs support Intel Quick Sync., except the one with F or disabled iGPU.
Should I Use CPU or GPU encoding for Streaming on Twitch?
It depends on your CPU and GPU specifications. If you have a high-performance CPU with at least 8 cores like Intel i7 or Ryzen 7, x264 will always be better. If you have a recent Nvidia graphic card like RTX 3060 and RTX 3070, you should always choose NVENC as encoding setting on OBS
Should I use NVENC or x264 for Streaming on Twitch?
With NVENC, you can get the equal video quality of x264 Very Fast without getting dropped frames on your games. Always choose x264 if you have more than 8 cores on your PC’s CPU. If not, use NVENC if your graphic card support NVENC. Your Twitch streaming video quality will be better if you choose x264
Now that Nvidia improved their NVENC in Ampere GPU generation and 8 core CPUs has become cheaper with the release of Intel Alderlake, you should choose x264 with Faster preset for better video quality when you are streaming compared to GPU encoders like NVENC and AMD VCE.
NVENC Vs. AMD VCE for Streaming on Twitch?
You should always choose NVIDIA as your GPU. If you have AMD GPU, rather than using AMD VCE for your video encoder, use x264 at medium setting. It will be much better than both NVENC and AMD VCE.
Want a solid honest opinion?
AMD VCE is a nightmare for both developers and users. When it works, it works decently yet is inferior to Nvidia NVENC. When it is not, well it’s a buggy mess that is embarrassing for a company that rivals Intel in their CPU quality.
Maybe the only benefit of AMD VCE is it has better Linux support than NVENC. But if you use Linux, then you are not the intended market for the video encoder. Intel Quick Sync, which uses Intel integrated graphics, will be the better choice for you
Should I use Intel Quick Sync for Streaming on Twitch?
Intel Quick Sync is bad for streaming on Twitch. Using x264 encoder or NVENC on budget Nvidia GPU will bring better results when you are streaming on Twitch. Intel Quick Sync is too weak to play demanding games.
Since most of you will play using either Nvidia or AMD GPU, instead of Intel Integrated Graphic that easily beaten by 50$ (Before the scalper and miners hit ☹) GT 1030, you shouldn’t use Intel Quick Sync.
Intel Quick Sync is only useful for Mac and Windows Ultrabook users if they edit and render video using supported software like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere. Using either Nvidia or AMD GPU will always be a faster and better choice than using Intel integrated GPU
Mac already stopped using Intel CPU in last 2020. Apple M1 CPU in the new MacBook Air, Macbook Pro, Mac Mini and iMac has a better hardware video encoder than Intel Quick Sync. The good news is Apple Macbook with M1 CPU is great for streaming on Twitch
Now that we have already discussed CPU and GPU for streaming, what about RAM and SSD?
Does RAM matter for Streaming on Twitch?
RAM is not that useful, as long you have at least 16 GB RAM which is the number that most streamers will need. 32 GB of RAM will be better if you want to future proof your PC. 64 GB of RAM is too much and is only needed for simulation and heavy 3D rendering, not for gaming and streaming
Does overclocking RAM is good for Streaming on Twitch?
If you pick the right setting, it can give extra 5-10 fps when you are streaming on Twitch, but streaming will strain your GPU anyway, so the benefit will be gone.
Just use the latest DDR type of RAM, DDR5 and just forget about it. Overclocking can affect the stability of your PC. No streamers want to get a BSOD (Blue Screen of the Death aka crash) when they do their job
Do You Need Fast SSD for Streaming on Twitch?
Since you will upload your streaming rendering to Twitch or YouTube, writing and reading speed in SSD doesn’t matter. You and your viewers will experience no difference between using SATA SSD and the faster NVME SSD.
Using HDD is actually not that bad since what only matter when you are streaming on Twitch is upload speed
But there is a Catch
Most AAA modern games, especially after the release of PS5 and Xbox Series X will need a fast SSD to play with.
If you use HDD when playing a game that needs heavy resources rendered at lightning speed, you will experience bugs, artifact and your gameplay will be trashed to your viewers. So, it’s better to spend a little bit of money to buy a cheap SATA SSD for streaming purpose
Does Using OBS make your PC lag during Streaming?
OBS is the best recording and streaming software in the market and it’s incredibly lightweight. OBS is not the reason your PC is lagging unless you add too many Webcams, Overlays, Transitions, Effects on your stream.
Choosing alternative software like Wirecast or Bandicam won’t improve your performance during streaming. Running OBS as administrator and updating the OBS can easily increase your streaming performance.