Is Streaming CPU or GPU Intensive? (Everything Explained)

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Is Streaming CPU or GPU Intensive

It has been years since you started playing all those games. You have watched a lot of videos, enhanced your gaming skills, and above all, had fun sharing these moments with your friends. But, what next?

As the world around you is evolving, and streaming is becoming widely popular, you might want to give it a try. Maybe, you could use it as an income source too! I see you, mates and I have been there once as well. But, that is a story for another time.

This article is meant to address one of the most common issues all of us face while starting out. The constant confusion if streaming is CPU or GPU extensive. I have covered almost every question that comes to mind as you think of streaming online, in this very blog.

So, ensure that you scroll till the end and have all your doubts cleared.


Does CPU And GPU Matter For Streaming On Twitch?


As a newbie, not all of the streamers have a budget that allows investing money in both CPU and GPU. Even if they have a lavish budget, spending such a hefty amount on something that is full of uncertainty is something only a few dare to risk.

Image of a twitch streamer

Hence, it is a tough call to decide on one of these, and you often find yourself asking does streaming use CPU or GPU.

The simplest answer to your question is that streaming uses both CPU and GPU. The streamed video quality depends on both of these.

The difference comes from the encoders you use on OBS, which ultimately decide if your video will be rendered using CPU or GPU on Twitch.

Some encoders would work smoothly if your CPU has more cores, GHz, and IPC. While some only need a premium graphic card to render a high-resolution video.

Related: What is a Twitch raid? & how to raid on Twitch?


Which Streaming Encoding Is The Best For Streaming?


Now that you know that streaming could both be CPU and GPU intensive, you might want to know more about encoding, as you and I both know that encoders will be the final decision-makers for the video quality of your stream.

Let’s first look at the available options. We have NVENC, AMD VCE, x264, and Quick Sync by Intel. Using x264 would use your CPU for rendering the streamed video.

The rest of the options will make your OBS choose the GPU-intensive method of streaming.

Choosing x264 could be a genius approach as it is supported in almost all OS, is available for all platforms, and requires no setup. It will give you the best quality right away. However, it lowers the in-game FPS by utilizing the CPU resources.

NVENC is an encoder that accelerates the GPU hardware. Using this for streaming means that your CPU is free from the encoding process, and hence there won’t be any frame rate problems. Also, since it will only use the encoder part of GPU, the graphics of your game will have little-to-no effect.

One of the cheapest alternatives is the Intel Quick Sync. Encoder. Most Intel CPUs support the Intel Quick Sync. Except for the one with iGPU or with F. AMD, VCE is much like NVENC, except that it uses open-source codes like AV1 to improve the streaming quality.


Do GPUs Help With Streaming Videos?


As I have mentioned earlier, the streaming operation could be CPU or GPU intensive. So, definitely, GPUs can help a lot with streaming.

The simple formula that applies here is that GPUs possess encoders that can affect the overall performance of your system greatly. I mean this in a positive way.

The load on your CPU is then shared with your GPU, which will allow you to stream the videos at a much higher frame rate.

Both NVENC and AMD cards are good for this. It is on your preference and budget which one you choose!


Does Streaming On Discord Affect GPU?


If you are streaming through software encoding, it uses your CPU only and has almost no effect on your GPU. However, if you go for hardware-intensive encoding, aka GPU’s encoding, then you will surely feel a difference.

Adding a GPU to your system increases the productivity it offers. Many streamers have previously complained that Discord is using a lot of their CPU space. Hence, many wonder if the same will happen with GPU.

Image of a triple monitor gaming setup

The thing is, there is no “one right answer” to this question. The effects that streaming will have on your systems will eventually depend upon many other factors, including the games you play, the FPS, your network’s bandwidth, etc.

Still, adding a GPU to your system can produce better results if you’re going to stream directly from the gaming computer and don’t have enough budget for two systems. Although, it will not be serving you many benefits if you only stream on Discord.


Is Discord Streaming CPU Or GPU Intensive?


Discord streaming is mainly CPU intensive. Almost all the streamers who have streamed on Discord and Twitch find themselves worried about the high usage of CPU when they stream on Discord.

So, if you are planning to stream on Discord, I would recommend you to stop worrying about the premium graphic cards more than cores, GHz, and IPC.


Do You Need A Graphics Card To Live Stream?


I would say that it is not necessary if you are using a separate PC for streaming. You will not need a premium graphic card but rather an onboard card to connect that PC with a monitor.

However, if you are streaming from the same PC you are using for gaming, then you must install a proper GPU.

The GPU on this PC is not just rendering the game but also streaming; hence all things combined are sure to put a lot of load on your system.

In the longer run, I believe that a dedicated gaming PC with another dedicated streaming PC would do a good job.

You would need to include a powerful GPU for the gaming PC along with a cheap onboard card for the streaming PC.


Is It Better To Stream Using CPU Or GPU?


So, now you must be wondering if going for a CPU-intensive method is better than the GPU-intensive one. Whether you choose CPU or GPU for encoding, the decision highly affects the FPS, performance, and detailing of your stream.

Yet, the decision is not a simpler one and heavily depends upon your budget as well. It is an affordable option to install a powerful GPU on your gaming PC to help you with both encoding and rendering without affecting the FPS.

However, if you could upscale a bit, it is best that you use a double PC setup for streaming. This way, you are not fully dependent upon either CPU or GPU.


Is Streaming CPU Or GPU Intensive?


CPU primarily focuses on the operation of your system by managing a wide range of tasks. While GPU’s primary focus is better quality of what’s presented on the screen. Overall, streaming requires perfection in both of these domains.

Streaming could both be CPU or GPU intensive. It all depends on if you are using software encoding or hardware encoding.

Software encoding is CPU intensive and gives the best results right off the bat. However, you might struggle with playing games as the FPS might suffer.

Hardware encoding uses CPU and GPU both, but more responsibilities go to the GPU, hence the overall gaming experience is not much affected while you stream.


Frequently Asked Questions

#1 – CPU vs GPU- what’s the difference?

CPU, Control Processing Unit is your system’s task manager, which is responsible for managing a number of tasks at a fast rate.

On the other hand, Graphics Processing Unit, or GPU, runs side by side with a CPU, managing the visuals primarily.

GPU is usually associated with pictures and video production quality because of being capable of processing visuals at a higher rate.

#2 – Should I use Intel Quick Sync for streaming on Twitch?

The answer is YES! You should definitely try using Intel Quick Sync if you are looking for a cheaper way to solve your streaming-related issues. People have reported CPU usage drop even by 50-60% with the use of Intel Quick Sync.

#3 – Does RAM matter for streaming on Twitch?

Using a powerful RAM is for your own good, even if you are not streaming. I would say investing in RAM is the cheapest yet most effective favor you could do to your systems.

I would recommend going for 32GB RAM (or slower ones) if you plan to stream multiple games.

#4 – Do you need a fast SSD for streaming on Twitch?

SSDs are usually out of the picture unless you are streaming in 4k. The reason is all the load is either on your CPU or GPU.

However, having an SSD would help you with saving capacity if you are a regular streamer. Games already take up most space on RAMs, so it’s best that you keep it free from your past broadcasted streams.

#5 – Does OBS use GPU or CPU?

OBS uses GPU for superior results. So, even though you are using an x264 for encoding with OBS, you will still need a part of the GPU to make the whole stream smooth.

If you are experiencing a render lag with an x264 and OBS, the reason could most likely be overload on your GPU.

#6 – What kind of graphics card do you need for streaming?

Streaming depends much on the budget. While you can shop for other components according to your budget, there are two things you can’t compromise on without compromising on the quality of your streams; processor, and graphics card. I recommend using at least the GTX 1660 TI for streaming.

#7 – Do you need a graphics card to stream 4k?

If you are using a dedicated PC to stream, it doesn’t matter if you rely on your integrated PC’s graphic card. However, if you are using the same PC for both gaming and streaming, you are going to need a spacious graphic card.

I recommend going for at least a 6GB graphics card to ensure that your games run at high quality and frame rate.

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