These days, it’s common for streamers to have two PCs in their setup–a gaming PC and a streaming PC. You may be wondering what the difference is between the two. Here’s what you should know.
What’s The Difference Between A Gaming PC And A Streaming PC?
The primary difference between a gaming PC and a streaming PC is that a gaming PC needs a powerful GPU to run games, while a streaming PC doesn’t require a powerful GPU. The primary task of a gaming PC is to broadcast your stream. Since it doesn’t need to run games, its work is handled by the CPU.
In a dual PC setup, you’ll typically have one PC solely dedicated to playing games (gaming PC), with the other PC solely dedicated to streaming your gameplay (streaming PC).
Using a capture card, the only task of a streaming PC is to receive the video input coming from your gaming PC and broadcast it.
Using its processor (CPU) and a program like OBS or Streamlabs, the streaming PC encodes the video of your stream and transmits it over the internet to Twitch, YouTube, or some other streaming service.
Encoding streams is totally handled by the CPU, so a streaming PC’s work is performed entirely by its processor.
Therefore, a powerful GPU isn’t necessary in a streaming PC, although it’s a strict requirement for a gaming PC.
Realistically, you could even use the integrated graphics of your CPU (if your CPU has integrated graphics), and not even include a discrete graphics card in your streaming PC.
This is the main difference between the two types of PCs. While a gaming PC needs a powerful graphics card to run games smoothly at a high framerate, there isn’t much use for a GPU in a streaming PC.
What To Look For In A Gaming PC?
When shopping for a gaming PC, you’ll want to look for a powerful CPU and GPU. You’ll also want a lot of RAM, with 32 GB being a good amount to aim for. Storage is another crucial consideration. You’ll need enough space to store your games and any other media you want to keep on your computer.
The biggest things to consider in a gaming PC are the GPU and CPU. The GPU, in particular, will have an outsized impact on the games you can play and the FPS you can achieve.
When considering which GPU to go for, the best thing you can do is check out gaming benchmarks for the GPU you have in mind.
Many sites like Tom’s Hardware publish GPU gaming benchmarks, which give you an idea of the power of your GPU relative to all other GPUs on the market.
Additionally, you’ll want to make sure your GPU is supported by the games you want to play. Most games publish a list of supported GPUs, so make sure your GPU is supported by your favorite titles.
Nearly all gaming GPUs on the market are either NVIDIA GeForce or AMD Radeon brand.
Both companies release very capable GPUs, but if you plan on streaming then I recommend going with an NVIDIA GPU.
Modern NVIDIA GPUs ship with onboard NVENC hardware encoding, which means you can stream your gameplay without adding to the workload of your PC’s processor. This is a huge plus for streamers.
Aside from a powerful GPU, you’ll also want to make sure your CPU is fast enough to support the performance of your GPU.
For gaming, you don’t need a screaming-fast processor, but if you get something too slow, you’ll wind up bottlenecking the performance of your graphics card.
Similarly, you’ll want enough RAM to prevent bottlenecking either your CPU or GPU. I recommend 32GB, but 16GB is the minimum you can get away with in a gaming PC.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure the PC has enough storage for your games and operating system.
1TB or more of hard disk space is a great rule of thumb that works for most gamers, though you may need more space if you plan on installing several big games.
Best Gaming PC
The best gaming PCs available use the most current NVIDIA graphics cards, namely the GeForce RTX 30 series. A gaming PC with the right processor and an RTX 3090 will be able to handle anything you throw at it, while an RTX 3060 represents a more modest choice without sacrificing much in the way of performance.
When it comes to choosing a gaming PC, the brand of the PC doesn’t matter nearly as much as the components inside.
This is because all gaming PCs essentially use the same components, and there is a relatively narrow selection of components available for gaming PCs.
For example, whether you purchase a Lenovo Legion gaming PC, or an HP Omen gaming PC, both use NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards.
Therefore, the correct way to compare two gaming PCs is not based on the brand of the builder (e.g. Legion vs Omen), but on the components inside.
If one PC has an RTX 3090 GPU, and another has an RTX 3060, then the RTX 3090 will nearly always be the better PC, regardless of the PC’s brand.
So, when shopping for a gaming PC, it’s a good idea to decide beforehand the model of graphics card you want, as well as the processor you prefer (Intel or AMD Ryzen).
Then, if you find two PCs with similar specs and components, you can choose the one that looks better or has a better brand reputation.
There are plenty of decent pre-built gaming PCs on the market, and some of my favorites include the Alienware Aurora R13, Corsair Vengeance i7200, and the Acer Predator Orion 3000.
These great gaming PCs will provide you with an incredible gaming experience.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you could also go the route of building your own gaming PC. There are lots of guides on YouTube and elsewhere that can walk you through the process step-by-step.
Now, if you’re not too tech savvy and have no interest in learning, it might be a good idea to buy something pre-built.
Although building your own PC is a rewarding endeavor, it’s common to hit a lot of snags along the way. If you’re not up for the challenge, then leave the building to the pros.
No matter which route you go, make sure you do your research before buying a gaming PC. Otherwise, you might end up with a computer that isn’t powerful enough to run the games you want to play.
Now that we’ve looked at gaming PCs, let’s explore the shallower waters of streaming PCs.
What To Look For In A Streaming PC?
When shopping for a streaming PC, you’ll want to look for a reliable processor that can handle the video encoding required for streaming. Video encoding can be very demanding on your CPU, and if your PC struggles, your stream will suffer too.
Encoding is the process of compressing video into a smaller format that can be easily read by other devices.
When you stream using a software like OBS or Streamlabs, your PC must take the uncompressed video feed generated by the software and encode (compress) it into a tidy video format that can be transmitted to YouTube or Twitch.
This process of encoding your stream is handled entirely by your CPU. So your PC’s ability to encode the stream smoothly is directly related to the power and performance of its processor (CPU).
Generally, most modern processors with enough processing power should not struggle to keep up with your stream.
If you’re looking for the best CPU for streaming, then I recommend picking up a current-generation AMD Ryzen 5 or above, or a current-generation Intel i5 or above.
Aside from a decent CPU, you’ll also want a PC with enough RAM to handle your streaming software. 16GB or more is usually enough RAM to get the job done.
If you’d like to record your streams or save VODs to your streaming PC, then you’ll also want to consider beefing up the storage space of your streaming PC.
VODs take up a ton of storage space, so consider including an HDD in your build with 2-5TB of storage space.
Remember, a streaming PC isn’t meant to play games. So if you don’t plan on gaming with your streaming PC, you don’t need a GPU.
As long as your processor has some sort of integrated graphics on board, then you can just use that and you won’t need to waste money on a dedicated graphics card.
Best Streaming PC
The best streaming PC does not need to have extremely powerful components. A mid-range processor such as the Intel Core i5-10400F or the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 is more than enough for most streams. For graphics, a GTX 1660 Ti or an RTX 2060 will be more than powerful enough.
I have made streaming work with just 8GB of DDR4 RAM, but you should aim for 16GB just to be safe. It is also worth noting that storage is not as crucial for a streaming PC as it is for a gaming PC.
So, a 256GB SSD should be more than enough for most streamers. You really just need enough space to store your operating system and streaming software.
If you want to store VODs on your streaming PC, then you can add on a 2-5TB HDD, which is plenty of space and won’t break the bank.
You can always buy a used PC if you want to save money. Just make sure that the PC you’re buying is powerful enough to handle the video encoding required for streaming.
Really, as long as the PC you choose has a current-gen AMD Ryzen 5 or higher, or a current-gen Intel i5 or higher, you can’t go wrong.
Streaming is handled almost entirely by your CPU, so the main thing you’re looking for is a CPU that’s good enough to get the job done.
Best PC For Streaming And Gaming
A core i7 11700F can easily handle streaming and gaming, thanks to its exceptional octa-core performance. For graphics, you can’t go wrong with an RTX 2060. It has excellent performance and can handle any game you throw at it.
As for RAM, 32GB of DDR4 RAM should be more than enough for gaming and streaming. Couple that with a 500GB SSD, and you should be ready for any game.
However, it is important to remember that your PC will be under heavy load when streaming and gaming at the same time.
I recommend getting a liquid cooling system to help keep the temperatures at a healthy level. Otherwise, your expensive rig might break prematurely.
If you’re looking to stream and play on the same machine, it’s crucial to get a PC that can handle the workload well.
Otherwise, you’re better off getting a dedicated gaming PC and a dedicated streaming PC, which brings us to the next topic.
Do You Need 2 PCs To Stream?
You do not need 2 PCs to stream. Most gaming PCs can handle gaming and streaming just fine. Many professional gamers choose to use 2 PCs for streaming because it allows them to hit a very high FPS in their game without interrupting the quality of their stream. For a novice, however, 2 PCs is not required for streaming.
While many pro streamers have started using dual-PC setups, beginners shouldn’t worry about spending money on a dedicated streaming PC.
The real advantage of a streaming PC is that your stream becomes more reliable with fewer dropped frames, and your streaming software won’t have to compete with your game for computing resources.
That being said, there are plenty of great options for streaming on a single PC.
In particular, if you have a modern NVIDIA GeForce graphics card, you can actually just use the hardware encoder on your graphics card.
By enabling hardware encoding in OBS or Streamlabs, your computer will no longer encode your stream on its CPU.
Instead, it will send your stream to the NVENC encoder on your GPU to handle the encoding process.
This is great because it allows your processor to focus solely on handling your game, and your game’s FPS is less likely to be impacted.
Now, if you are a professional, then it’s possible that you want better performance than what you can achieve with hardware encoding on your GPU.
If that’s the case, and budget isn’t an issue, then by all means a dual-PC setup is the way to go. But for beginners, don’t sweat it if you only have a single PC for gaming and streaming.
Is A Gaming PC Good For Streaming?
A Gaming PC is usually good for streaming. You can even run a stream and game on a high-end gaming PC at the same time without experiencing any issues. Many GPU’s even have onboard encoders, allowing you to encode your stream using your GPU, rather than your CPU.
You only need a dedicated streaming PC if you’re a professional streamer who goes live for hours on end. Otherwise, one gaming PC should be more than enough to handle your streaming needs.
Is A Streaming PC Good For Gaming?
A streaming PC isn’t always good for gaming, as it can struggle with demanding games on high settings. The primary purpose of a streaming PC is to encode video and send it to a streaming platform like Twitch or YouTube.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t play games on a decent streaming PC. You can, but you’ll have to lower the game’s settings to get a stable framerate.
I used to play games on my core i5 PC before getting my current rig. But I could only get by on medium to low settings. In short, if you want to use your streaming PC for gaming, you can, but don’t expect too much.
Can You Use Any PC As A Streaming PC?
You cannot use any PC as a streaming PC. You need a computer that can handle a fast internet connection and has a decent processor to properly support the encoding and uploads.
It is also worth noting that not all CPUs are created equal – some are better at encoding video than others. If you are on a tight budget, go for the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 or Intel Core i5-10400F. Couple that with 16 gigs of RAM, and you should be good to go.
Pro tip: The idea is to take a slightly better CPU, GPU, and RAM than you think you need. That will future-proof your rig and help you avoid tweaking your complicated setup every time you want to move up the food chain.
Does Streaming Affect FPS?
Streaming will affect your FPS if you’re trying to stream and game at the same time on high settings. If you lower the game’s settings, your FPS will go up, and your stream will be more stable. You can also try switching your stream from software encoding to hardware encoding.
The issue with FPS and streaming is that when you’re encoding video, your CPU is working overtime. This can result in dropped FPS if you’re not careful.
The good news is that there are ways to avoid this. One way is to use a separate CPU to handle the encoding. Another way is to lower the game’s settings.
Another way to alleviate some strain on your CPU is to switch your stream to hardware encoding. This will shift the task of encoding from your CPU to your GPU’s encoder, preserving computing power.
How Much RAM Do You Need To Stream?
You don’t need much RAM to stream – 16 GB is the sweet spot, but 8 GB will suffice if you’re on a budget. You only need more RAM if you’re also gaming or doing other resource-intensive tasks while streaming.
I use 16 GB on my dedicated streaming PC, which is more than enough for streaming alone. If I were to add gaming into the mix, I would need 32 GB of RAM to keep things running smoothly.
How much RAM you’ll need depends on if you are gaming from the same PC you’re streaming on. The more programs you want to run on a single PC, the more RAM you’ll need to keep things running well.
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