Intel Or Ryzen For Streaming – What To Pick

While streaming, you may already know that it’s more CPU intensive, and the graphics card plays very little role in your streaming performance. So now, it’s only normal to wonder what processors are best for streaming, and considering there are two main brands for CPUs, it can get quite confusing.

In this post, we’re going to go over the effects each brand has on streaming. For example, we are going to discuss why CPUs are important in the first place, and what type of CPUs are favored for the task at hand. Essentially, it comes down to whether more processing cores are more effective than single core performance.

Answer: Intel and Ryzen have been going on for as long as they’ve existed, and they both excel in different ways, Intel processors tend to have high single-core performance whereas, Ryzen processors tend to have more processing cores. Streaming tends to benefit from having more cores, therefore Ryzen can be seen as the more practical processor.

So What’s Better, Ryzen Or Intel?

streaming pc

Strictly speaking, Ryzen is the better option when it comes to streaming, this is because Ryzen processors are more focused on core count whereas Intel processors are more focused on core clock speeds. This is evident if you look at the Ryzen 5 competitors, Ryzen 5 processors tend to come with 6 cores and 12 threads, and I5s tend to come with 6 cores and 6 threads.

That doesn’t mean Intel processors aren’t good at streaming, there are some great options such as the I9 12900K that comes with 12 cores and 24 threads, which can compete with the likes of the Ryzen 9 5900X when it comes to streaming but in general, Ryzen is the better option. Going along with the I9 12900K also offers superior gaming performance in quite a lot of games, so this could be a good choice.

But, if you want the most cores possible, then you might have to look into a Threadripper processor, as they come with 32 cores and 64 threads. This is an absolute overkill but there’s no kill like overkill, streaming on such a processor will be pretty much smooth sailing and 0 problems should arise such as lag and bad quality.

Why Are CPUs Important For Streaming

CPUs are important for streaming because most streaming platforms use software encoding techniques that heavily use CPU processing power over GPU processing power. You’ll find that your GPU is almost 0% utilized, so it’s safe to say that the CPU is the biggest factor when it comes to streaming.

Streaming EncoderEncoder Type
X264Software
WirecastSoftware
VidBlasterXSoftware
QuicksyncHardware
AMFHardware
NVENC Hardware

Streaming-wise, you will most likely use OBS to encode your video game, while the graphics card will handle small rendering tasks, the CPU will manage encoding which is quite intensive. The specific video encoder is the x264 and the default settings balance the stream quality and the CPU usage.

People are well aware that encoding is CPU intensive, and not everyone wants to use up all their CPU resources, so there are a few ways you can reduce the load on your CPU. One way is utilizing hardware encoders which are present on recent NVIDIA and AMD GPUs, using such methods will result in a decrease in video quality but it’s worthwhile if your CPU is quite weak.

Hardware Encoding Vs Software Encoding

Comparing the two is quite easy as while they produce similar results, the way they work is quite different, Hardware encoders are usually physical devices that come with everything you need to stream, usually an encoding algorithm that converts the data into streamable content. Software encoders run on your desktop and heavily rely on the CPU to convert data into streamable content.

Software Encoder Pros & Cons

1. Pro: Software encoders are completely free and downloadable as an application on your computer. This is the most popular option

2. Pro: Software encoders are far more flexible as they can process multiple feeds, change the bitrate, and even the encoder type

1. Con: Higher latency can cause lag for the individuals watching the stream, this can lower the quality of your stream.

2. Con: Lower-end PCs will not perform well streaming, this is usually because the processor is bad and is unable to encode the data effectively to produce a viable streaming experience.

Hardware Encoder Pros & Cons

1. Pro: Hardware encoders usually offer great performance, this is because the CPU isn’t being heavily utilized, and the main load is being offloaded onto a dedicated streaming device.

2. Pro: Lower latency when streaming can result in better quality streams. This is obviously much better for the viewers, this can cause your viewership to increase.

1. Con: Dedicated streaming devices will cost money, this technology isn’t free. Not everyone will be willing to purchase a dedicated hardware encoder.

2. Con: Lack of flexibility, hardware encoders are not able to change the bitrate and process multiple feeds, and you’re unable to change the type of encoder.

Is More Cores Better For Streaming

streaming laptop

Streaming is a task that leverages multiple cores, unlike gaming which is a task that can only leverage up to two cores. This means, when you’re streaming, you should always go for a processor with more cores, and it’s recommended you need at least 6 cores to stream effectively if you’re using a software encoder.

If you’re software encoding, hyperthreading can be a massive benefit, this is when physical cores split into two virtual cores (threads). These threads allow the processor to perform more tasks in the same amount of time, and since x264 heavily relies on your processor’s power, this can be a massive benefit.

If you’re looking for a top-tier processor for streaming, we’d recommend a Ryzen 9 5900x which comes with 12 cores and 24 threads, this is a beast of a processor which will handle any streaming scenario. But if you’re looking to go more mid/budget tier, then PCPARTGUIDE recommends the Ryzen 7 5800x which comes with 8 cores and 16 threads.

Is The Clock Speed Important For Streaming

In general, a higher clock speed means your stream will run smoother, so if you overclock your processor to run at a higher clock speed, your stream should produce less lag. But the core count is far more important when it comes to streaming, the core speed plays a role, but is not as significant as core count, and you shouldn’t really worry unless you have an old processor.

Encoders such as the x264 should receive slight benefits if you were to overclock your core, but if you’re to overclock your processor whilst encoding via NVENC, then you’ll notice no difference because this is a GPU encoder. Just ensure you know what you’re doing before overclocking, this is because it can be a waste of time and produce minimal effects.

If you’re wondering whether your CPU can overclock, it’s quite easy to find out, all you need to do is find out if your processor is unlocked. Usually, Intel processors denoted with a (K) at the end mean the process is unlocked and free to be overclocked. Ryzen processors denoted with an (x) at the end are also unlocked and can be overclocked.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Ryzen is the better option in general, but Intel does have some pretty good options, ultimately it comes down to what you want out of your PC. If you want top tier gaming performance whilst streaming then intel is the way, otherwise, for top tier streaming performance, you should go with Ryzen.

Just remember that the core count is the biggest factor when it comes to software encoding, so if you’re streaming via OBS, all of your CPU cores is being utilized, so more cores is better. If you’re hardware streaming, then the processor doesn’t matter at all, hardware encoders such as NVENC do not care about your processor and completely leverages the GPUs performance instead.