How Many Cores Do I Need For Streaming?

Streaming isn’t always CPU-bound because you can actually designate the streaming load to your graphics card by using a hardware encoder. Hardware encoders such as AMF and NVENC are your go-to encoders for streaming, and they’re usually present on AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards.

In this post, we’re going to go over whether Intel or Ryzen is best for streaming, and what to look out for. Also, we’re going to go over whether it’s worth it to build a dedicated streaming PC, and what specifications you need to look out for in terms of your CPU.

Answer: Streaming is a task that is typically CPU heavy which means it will use as many CPU cores as it can, we recommend between 6 and 8 cores to stream effectively. You’ll quickly find out that the more CPU cores the better your streaming performance will be. But with that being said, it’s not always optimal to buy as many cores as possible because that can get expensive.

So, How Many Cores Do I Need For Streaming?

To keep it quick and simple, you only really need 6-8 cores to stream adequately, and this is on a single PC, if you’re going with a dedicated streaming PC, you can get away with only 6 cores. The reason why streaming PCs require a decent number of cores is because streaming is heavily CPU intensive, therefore it leverages as many cores as possible.

So more cores literally translate into better streaming performance, and HEDT processors are especially great at streaming because they come with up to 32 cores. If your computer is able to split the physical cores into virtual cores, this can be a big benefit as hyperthreading increases the efficiency of each core allowing it to do more tasks at once.

For a single streaming PC that handles the stream and also the content you want to stream, PCPARTGUIDE recommends at least 8 cores to have sufficient resources for the task you’re streaming. Single streaming PCs have to be more powerful than a dedicated streaming PC but the biggest benefit is that you don’t need to purchase additional hardware.

Which Processors Are Best For Streaming

streaming setup

The type of processors used for streaming are processors which are good at multi-tasking, so if you can find a processor that has a decent amount of cores, then it’s likely that the processor can stream well. So you should typically watch out for processors which offer hyperthreading which essentially divides physical cores into virtual cores, this will also help with streaming.

Now that we’ve established that multiple cores are important for streaming, you’re probably wondering whether the core clock speed matters. In this case, the core clock speed has a minimal effect on the stream quality, encoders such as the x264 which is used by OBS provide a slight performance boost if you were to overclock your CPU.

So with that being said, more cores = a smoother streaming experience for your viewers, so processors such as the Ryzen 9 5900x, and the I9 12900K are beasts when it comes to streaming as they both come with 12 cores and 24 threads. They offer pretty strong streaming performance, but the price can be out of reach for many.

In general, if we’re talking about Ryzen Vs Intel for streaming, then Ryzen wins because on average their processors come with more cores compared to their Intel competitors. For example, the Ryzen 5 processors tend to have more processing cores than the I5s.

So technically, it makes better sense to go for Ryzen if you’re looking to save some money and not blow the bank on a CPU such as the I9 12900K. And nowadays, Ryzen can sometimes match Intel in gaming performance, for example the Ryzen 5 5600x and the Intel I5 11600K.

But for the best performance possible, you’ll want to look into HEDT processors which stand for High-End desktops, and processors such as Ryzen Threadripper and Intel Sapphire Rapids fit into this list. Processors such as the Threadripper 3970x come with 32 cores and 64 threads, so you can only imagine the type of performance it can offer in terms of streaming.

Why Should I Buy A Dedicated Streaming PC?

dedicated streaming pc

Building a dedicated streaming PC is as simple as building any other PC, except you do not need a video card as we will be encoding via software. A dedicated streaming PC can be a low investment not costing more than $500, and it’s great for reducing lag especially when gaming. This makes for a better streaming experience for both the streamer and the viewer.

Imagine streaming games such as CSGO where the competitive nature heavily relies on the performance of your system, any little lag can cause you to lose the game. So a dedicated streaming PC can eliminate any performance issues in-game allowing you to play to your full potential.

With your dedicated streaming PC, it will be primarily running the streaming service of your choice and that’s it. Running any other program on the PC can reduce the effectiveness of the stream, so keep the dedicated streaming PC to one program. Popular streaming services such as OBS are free and use the x264 software encoder to process the data from your main PC.

To make your dedicated streaming PC work, you will require a capture card to interface your regular PC with your streaming PC. The capture card works by accepting a high-quality signal from your main PC and sending it over to your streaming PC. You will not need a capture card if you’re streaming and gaming on the same machine.

Just like before, the more cores the better, but the biggest difference is that all the resources will be allocated to the stream. This means you won’t need to break the bank when looking for a processor, a simple 6-8 core CPU should do the job and you can find these types of processors from both Ryzen and Intel.

You probably realized that as long as a system has sufficient specifications to stream, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a PC or a laptop. So if you have a decent laptop laying around, you can repurpose it to be a dedicated streaming machine, and the biggest benefit is you do not need to purchase a monitor as you already have a screen there.

Conclusion

To summarise what we’ve learned, single streaming PCs tend to be more powerful than dedicated streaming PCs, this is warranted as single streaming PCs need to run both the stream and the application you’re streaming. Single PCs should have at least 8 cores, but you can get away with less, but lag will be far more common.

Dedicated streaming PCs do not need as many cores because the stream is running on a PC that is primarily made just to stream. So this means all resources are being allocated to the streaming platform you’re running, this completely eliminates in-game stutters as the stream and the game are independent of each other.