Streaming for some can be a very CPU intensive task, this is because some encoders rely on CPU power, and the more cores you have, the better the stream will run.
The types of encoders that rely on CPU power are software encoders such as X264, and by nature, X264 is highly multithreaded.
So for streaming, the best experiences generally have around 6 cores, but 8 wouldn’t hurt. This should be able to sustain streaming and gaming at the same time.
How Many Cores For Gaming?
Well games can run well on about 6 cores, some games are now utilizing multiple cores, but single-core performance is the main aspect that increases the FPS.
And if your CPU supports simultaneous multithreading or hyperthreading, that will only make things better in terms of running the operating system and background programs.
Having around 8 cores is great for multitasking, and running additional tasks in the background, 8 cores would be excellent for a gaming and streaming PC.
The most common type of processor today are hexa core processors. Hexa core processors are mostly considered mid-tier processors.
Our recommendation for a 6 core CPU would be either the Ryzen 5 5600X, or the I5 12600, they are affordable, and they pack a punch for gaming.
How Many Cores For Gaming & Streaming?
If you’re looking to stream your games via a software encoder, then you must know that the impacts it can have on your gaming can be huge.
To stream and game at the same time, we recommended at least 6 cores, but 8 would benefit you massively.
Naturally, your video game will share CPU resources with your encoder, so you can notice significant FPS drops depending on the title.
This is why NVENC is highly recommended, this is because you can save a ton of FPS encoding with your graphics card.
How Fast/GHz Should Each Core Be?
The processor clock speed or GHz is extremely important for gaming, the higher the clock speed, the better the single-core performance usually is when comparing CPUs in the game generation.
When buying a CPU for gaming, you should look for processors between 4-5GHz as these clock speeds are at the upper end when it comes to CPU speeds.
However, it’s not just the CPUs clock speed that influences the gaming performance, there are other aspects of the CPU such as the cache.
Also Read: What Is A Good CPU Clock Speed?
CPU Cache For Gaming & Streaming
The CPU cache is the second most important aspect when it comes to gaming performance, the more CPU cache, the more FPS you will receive in games.
This is evident when you look at processors such as the Ryzen 7 5800X3D which has a lower clock speed than the Ryzen 9 5900X yet it still beats it in gaming.
It also ties the I9 12900K which is one of the best gaming and multitasking processors you can buy at the current moment.
What Is Streaming?
When we’re talking about streaming, we’re not talking about streaming movies like the ones Netflix offers, we’re referring to streaming content on services such as Twitch and YouTube.
This is often referred to as live streaming, many users will livestream their games straight from their PC using software such as OBS to be viewed by thousands on Twitch.
OBS Studio is a free and open source software used by live streamers to screencast and stream their content onto streaming services.
OBS Studio supports recording, encoding, broadcasting VIA RTMP, and real time capture. RTMP is a protocol which is supported by YouTube, Twitch, Instagram, and Facebook.
OBS Studio primarily uses the X264 encoder which is why it’s CPU intensive, but it can also support hardware encoders such as NVENC and AMD Video coding engine.
However, the X264 encoding aspect of OBS is highly CPU intensive, so the more cores you have on your CPU, the easier it will be to encode via X264.
How Many Cores For X264 Streaming?
For streaming on a single PC, you will require between 6-8 cores to stream at a level that would be smooth and enjoyable for your viewers.
The ideal processors that fit this specification would be either an Ryzen 5 5600X, or the Ryzen 7 5800X. They both have 6 and 8 cores respectively.
The idea behind having multiple cores comes from the fact that CPU cores are independent from each other. This means each core can focus on processing one set of information whilst the other focuses on something else.
Overall, this will improve the performance of the applications being run as the workload can be split between each core.
Logical Threads Vs X264 Thread Parameter
With X264 it’s important to differentiate between threads/logical cores, and (threads) which is a parameter set within X264.
Having more logical cores is known to improve multithreaded performance which streaming can heavily benefit from.
So CPUs that have multithreading/hyperthreading which is pretty much most processors today either by Intel or AMD can help significantly.
However, threads within X264 which is a parameter that is set automatically or by the user can have a huge effect on the quality of the stream.
By default, threads=0 is the default setting for X264, but increasing it too much can impose a latency penalty, and will hurt the quality in constant bitrate mode and near-constant bitrate mode.
threads = logical threads * 1.5, so if you have a 6 core 12 thread processor, you will end up with 18 workers (X264 Threads).
The threads value set within X264 can be seen as workers, and the workers are referred as to being “dumb or stupid”.
This is because the threads/workers do not cooperate together in a productive manner, this is because they are unable to share information with each other.
How Many Cores For A Dedicated Streaming PC?
For a dedicated streaming PC or a dual streaming setup, having a processor with at least 6 cores should be sufficient.
The goal behind a dedicated streaming PC is to offload the encoding and CPU intensive tasks to a different system, this is beneficial for gamers that don’t want to sacrifice performance.
Due to the fact that the dedicated streaming PCs’ entire focus is to encode data, you won’t need as many cores as all the computer’s resources will go towards streaming.
The main downside to a dedicated streaming PC is that it’s more expensive, and it requires more equipment. So the whole setup process can be tedious, but the benefits can be huge.
Why Not Encode VIA Hardware?
Hardware encoding has made huge developments, and if you’re a gamer, it’s recommended that you use NVENC as it can save you a ton of FPS.
You can experience nearly 56% more FPS in games as streaming is offloaded onto a chip located on the GPU, so none of your CPU cores are being utilized for streaming.
So if you have one one the latest RTX graphics cards, there’s really no reason for you not to use NVENC as it saves a ton of resources resulting in more performance overall.
The only downside to using NVENC is that the final product won’t have as much clarity as if you were to encode with X264.
You will only need around 6 cores which is the recommendation for gaming if you choose to encode with NVENC. X264 is only worth it if you have a dedicated streaming PC, or a high core count processor.
In conclusion, 6-8 cores should be enough for streaming via a software encoder, but this is only recommended if you have a high core count CPU, or don’t have an NVENC enabled GPU.
Streaming via X264 can be taxing on the CPU, and games will have to share resources with the CPU which means you will often see lower frame rates while streaming.
If you wish to save frame rate, a dedicated streaming PC, or an NVENC enabled GPU can save you a ton of frames in games.