Is Streaming CPU or GPU Intensive – The Truth

When streaming, the performance of the stream heavily depends on the hardware being used, for example, a poor-performing PC will not stream as smoothly as a good-performing PC. Today, we’re going to look into whether a graphics card affects the streaming performance, and get down to the exact components which impact your streaming.

In this post, we’re going to go over the main component that impacts streaming, whether graphics cards have any impact on the streaming performance, and whether you need a graphics card for console streaming. By the end of the post, you should know exactly how to build a streaming-ready PC.

Answer: Graphics cards are an essential component to most PCs which need to perform maths extremely quickly, this involves machine learning and gaming. The better the graphics card, the better things perform in this category, but does this affect the streaming performance? Whether streaming is CPU or GPU intensive depends on the type of encoder you’re using. Software encoders use the CPU, and Hardware encoders use the GPU.

Is Streaming CPU Or GPU Intensive?

When streaming it is definitely CPU intensive, this is because most streaming platforms use software encoding techniques that utilize almost 0% of the GPU. Essentially, it is the CPU that sends the data over to the streaming services, although the GPU may help in rendering the image and any webcams you have.

Encoding a video via OBS is extremely CPU-intensive, as it uses the x264 codec, so you should expect high CPU utilization when using this software. It is entirely possible that you may experience degraded performance when running other applications that are CPU intensive, so it is possible to offload the video rendering onto the GPU via QuickSync or NVenc.

With the right configurations, you can utilize more and more GPU, this is by utilizing hardware codecs such as NVenc for NVIDIA, AMD VCE for AMD graphics cards, and QuickSync for integrated graphics cards. OBS Studio allows for these options to be utilized if you’re looking to reduce CPU load when streaming.

Typically, you’ll find that Ryzen CPUs are the choice of processor for streaming, this is because they come with more cores than Intel processors do. The Ryzen 9 5950x comes with a massive 16 cores and 32 threads, this is more than enough for streaming, whereas the i9 12900K comes with 16 cores and 24 threads.

Typically, you’ll want at least 6 cores for streaming, the more cores the better but 6 is ideal for the minimum specification. Typically older generation CPUs with 6 cores will perform worse than newer generation CPUs, so try to pick up a solid 6 core CPU that is fairly recent, but if you’re looking to future proof your PC, you may require at least 8 cores.

streaming gpu or cpu

Do You Need A GPU For A Dedicated Streaming PC?

When building a streaming PC, you may require a dedicated graphics card for compositing, and displaying your webcam. compositing is when the webcam overlays the primary video. Usually, you wouldn’t require a super-powerful graphics card as most low & mid end GPUs can composite quite easily.

Also, programs like OBS and Xsplit need a GPU for resolution scaling for example, when your stream is converted from 1080P to 720P. Most of the processing is done by the CPU, so you don’t really need to pick up a high-end graphics card for streaming. Most of the time, you can get away with integrated graphics, and in this case, you will always want to go with Intel CPUs.

So, the main hardware component when building a dedicated streaming PC is the processor, typically any processor with at least 4 cores will do. You don’t need a high-end processor as the primary task of the steaming PC is just to stream, nothing else. The graphics card is optional, you’re serious about streaming with the best quality possible, then a dedicated GPU is necessary.

The hardware requirements of a dedicated streaming PC are much different than the hardware requirements of a normal PC. A dedicated streaming PC can get away with just a CPU with integrated graphics, and a minimal amount of RAM. Dedicated streaming PCs are usually much cheaper than normal PC, and consume less power.

Here are the recommended processors for a streaming PC. These are great processors if you’re going looking for x264 encoding. The integrated graphics will help for processing any overlays and webcams.

ProcessorCore/Thread CountIntegrated Graphics
Intel Core i5-65004/4Intel® HD Graphics 530
Intel Core i7-87006/12Intel® UHD Graphics 630
Intel Core i5 10600k6/12Intel® UHD Graphics 630
Intel Core i7-107008/16Intel® UHD Graphics 630

When Will I Require A Dedicated Streaming PC?

Dedicated streaming PCs are usually optional, but they can ease the streaming load off your main PC making the applications running smoother. the most likely scenario you’ll require a dedicated streaming PC is if you’re gaming on a console. If you already have a PC, you could just utilize that for streaming, if not, then the hardware requirements aren’t too expensive.

The pros of owning a dedicated streaming PC are quite compelling, a dedicated streaming PC will create better quality images than a normal PC would, this is because the CPU is primarily focused on steaming. Another pro would be the fact that streaming will be separate from your main PC releasing a massive load which can inhibit gaming performance.

The cons of owning a dedicated streaming PC are obviously extra cost and maintenance, this is a separate PC you will have to build or buy which can be quite expensive. Another con would be the space requirements needed. A dedicated streaming PC will definitely take up a lot of space in your room, it’s only recommended you build one if you’re serious about streaming.

dedicated streaming pc


In conclusion, some graphical performance is necessary, but not a lot. usually, your CPU is being utilized the most and your graphics card will process information such as compositing and scaling resolutions. You can get away with integrated graphics, or an inexpensive dedicated GPU.

When building a dedicated streaming PC, the requirements are much different. An Intel CPU is most recommended as they have great performance plus they have integrated graphics. This means you do not need a dedicated GPU, this can be cost-effective.

The only times you’ll need a dedicated streaming PC is if you’re streaming console content, most people will have a PC around they can use as a dedicated streaming PC. Gamers and enthusiasts may use dedicated streaming PCs to maximize the performance they have in-game, this is because streaming uses a lot of resources which can reduce the frame rate.