Streaming, in the last few years, has taken off big-time. 2 million streamers cater to about 100 million viewers every month. The market size is huge and has enabled a lot of gaming enthusiasts to share their gaming experience with others.
If you’re thinking of streaming — gaming or otherwise — and are looking for a suitable CPU, things might seem a little daunting initially. This is because gaming and streaming require completely different setups.
Gaming performance — be it frame rates or resolution — largely depends on having a powerful gaming GPU. Stream popularity depends on engaging content and getting one of the best webcams for streaming for video quality. And as far as CPUs are concerned, you need a minimum of four cores and the best core strength possible. If you get this much right, you’ve got a great streaming rig.
However, streaming performance doesn’t really depend on your GPU. Here, CPU is king. The reason is quite simple. Streaming and gaming are two inherently different tasks. And both tasks require considerable processing power.
5 Best Streaming Processors
Not until too long ago, if you wanted to stream in high quality, the only way was to use two different computers. One would take care of gaming while the other did all the encoding for streaming.
However, in the last few years, things have changed. AMD has come up with processors that have lots of cores and decent core strength. Intel, not wanting to be left out, has amped up its processors too. As a result of this rivalry, today, we have some seriously powerful processors in the market. Prices of these CPUs have come down as well.
So, if you play your cards right, you can game and stream using just one processor. 🎮 ✨
So, which are these processors? Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to look at. The processors listed below are good for both, streaming and gaming. So, this way, you don’t have to go and spend a ton on multiple processors. If you’re looking for an all-around great pick (value & performance) I recommend you check out the best AMD Ryzen 3rd gen CPUs.
Best Choice: Intel i7 8700k
Pros & Cons
- Designed for gaming
- Respectable core and thread count
- One of the highest clock speeds out of the box
- High power consumption
- Newer models are available
- 6 cores and 12 threads
- Up to 4.7GHz clock speed
- 12 MB cache
- Integrated UHD Graphics 630
- Dimensions: 4 x 2 x 4.6 inches
- Weight: 3.2 ounces
- Required Power: 95 W
- Socket: LGA_1151
Intel i7 8700k Review
There are two reasons why we have the 8700k on the list and not the 9700k. One, it’s $40 cheaper than its successor. Two, buying the i7 9700k isn’t that easy. Thanks to a whole host of issues with Intel’s manufacturing processes, the 9700k is usually not in stock with most vendors.
So, that being the case, the Intel 8700k is pretty much the best processor for streaming today. The 8700k has a no-nonsense 6 core, 12 thread combination. While that might not seem like a lot, it actually is.
Intel cores have excellent IPC (Instruction Per Cycle) scores. This means that the cores have excellent processing power. In addition, the 8700k also has a formidable BCS (base clock speed) set at 4.7GHz. And just for some context, that speed is without any overclocking.
The result is that the 8700k offers fantastic encoding strength. Also, 8700k is built for gaming. One view in the industry is that 2700x is the best processor for streaming. While that’s technically true, in reality, things are a bit different.
Ryzen 7 is indeed better when it comes to streaming. However, you can only stream as well as you play and that is where the 8700k is better. All in all, the 8700k renders games much better than Ryzen 7.
How good is the 8700k when it comes to gaming?
Well, it’s been a few years since it was launched but it’s still among the best Intel processors for gaming. In an industry where things change overnight, the 8700k has stood strong and that should tell you all about its gaming strength. Streaming shouldn’t be a problem either. You can easily stream at 1080p and 60fps.
One last advantage that the 8700k has is that it’s excellent at handling “heavy games”. Basically, games that have very complicated physics, lots of data, AI etc.. So, in essence, with the Intel i7 8700k, you sacrifice multitasking performance slightly. In return, you get excellent gaming performance and more-than-enough streaming performance too.
Now, just so that we’re clear, the i7 9700k — the successor — is better. Though the margins aren’t high, the 9700k is definitely better. However, if you’re one of the many people who just aren’t able to find one on sale, the Intel i7 8700k is the way to go.
Premium Pick: Intel i9 9900k
Pros & Cons
- Hyper-threading performance is impressive
- Excellent gaming performance
- Up to 5GHz clock speed
- Works very well in both, single and multi-threaded scenarios
- Is not shipped with a cooler
- Power-hog. Uses a lot of power
- 8 cores and 16 threads
- 3.6GHz to 5GHz clock speed
- 16 MB cache
- Overclocking enabled
- 16 PCIe lanes
- Dimensions: 2.91 x 4.41 x 4.61 inches
- Weight: 0.74 lb
- Required Power: 95 W
- Socket: LGA_1151
Intel i9 9900k Review
If money is no issue to you and you want the very best CPU for gaming and streaming available, the Intel i9 9900k will be perfect for you. Having 16 threads and 8 cores, it’s perfect for those who want to have the most powerful gaming setup possible.
All those fancy numbers basically mean this: The Intel i9 9900k is the fastest gaming CPU. Period.
For us, as customers, one of the benefits of this whole “AMD-Intel” rivalry saga is that we’re getting a lot of cores from Intel. It wasn’t too long ago that the maximum number of cores that Intel offered was 4.
Now, that number has increased by 100%. The 9900k has 8 cores and that means streaming is easy to handle. What’s more, single-core speeds and multi-core speeds have gone up too. Additionally, the 9900k uses STIM (Solder Thermal Interface Material) which helps keep the temperatures down, even when you’re streaming.
All this basically means that the Intel 9900k is the best gaming and streaming processor that you can buy today. However, it’s important to note that the 9900k doesn’t massively outperform the i7 9700k or the i7 8700k. There’s a difference, yes. Is that difference worth an extra $100? Debatable.
Best Value: AMD Ryzen 7 2700x
Pros & Cons
- CPU cooler and cooler installation software included
- Up to 4.3 GHz clock speed
- Overclock enabled
- Backward compatible with 300 series
- Power Consumption
- Slower clock speeds than Intel.
- 16 threads and 8 cores
- 3.7 GHz base clock and 4.3GHz boost clock
- New StoreMI technology
- Dimensions: 1.6 x 0.3 x 1.6 in
- 1 Lithium-Ion Battery required
- Works on DDR4 SDRAM
AMD Ryzen 7 2700x Review
Over the years, the relationship between AMD and gamers has been…erm… complicated. AMD offered more cores and threads but gamers wanted a higher core strength so that they could game. For years, this never happened. AMD kept pumping out processors with high core number but mediocre core strength. As a result, gamers stuck to Intel.
In the last couple of years, however, AMD has started to listen and it has changed. The Ryzen series of processors were the first indication. The 2000 series confirmed it. Some of the best AMD processors for gaming had arrived. The inherent advantage of having a Ryzen gaming processor is that it already has everything you need to stream.
Before getting into the details, it’s important to understand that streaming isn’t one task. There’s a bit of encoding and a bit of playback. Also, streaming in the real world doesn’t really happen exclusively.
Streamers usually have multiple programs (Steam, Twitch, etc.) running in the background. For all these programs to run effectively and smoothly, multi-core performance is crucial. This is where, thanks to all those cores, Ryzen processors do so well. And amongst these processors, the Ryzen 7 2700x is pretty much the best of the lot.
Related: Downloading Twitch VODs
The 2700x sports an 8 core, 16 thread configuration and runs at a base clock speed of 3.7GHz. Depending on the load that the processor is under, the clock speed can go up to 4.3Ghz. Mind you, we haven’t even started overclocking the processor yet.
All these features and characteristics make the 2700x an excellent processor for streaming. So, what about gaming?
Well, before the second-generation Ryzen processors were launched, the situation was different. At the same resolution, 1080p, the Intel processors provided almost double the frames per second, compared to first-gen AMD counterparts. When it comes to more demanding resolutions, 1440p or 4K, for example, the CPUs performed similarly.
What about today?
Compared to before, there’s a 25% improvement, streaming-wise. Still, the 2700x is about 20% “worse” than Intel CPUs of equivalent power. However, this doesn’t mean anything in practice, as streaming performance is top-notch on various resolutions.
Also, it’s important to understand that gaming performance is primarily controlled by the GPU. So, if you pair a good enough GPU to the 2700x, you should be covered as far as gaming is concerned.
Then there’s the biggest selling point. Price. The AMD Ryzen 2700x is about $100 cheaper than its Intel equivalent (Intel i7 9700k). So, if you’re new to streaming and want to test the waters, get the 2700x.
Best Budget for Graphic Design: AMD Ryzen 5 2600x
Pros & Cons
- Backward Compatibility
- Shipped with a cooler
- High value for money
- Effective heat management
- Overclocking calls for serious cooler backups
- Single-core performance not as good as Intel counterparts.
- Twelve threads and six cores
- Overclocking enabled to 3.9 GHz
- Utilizes StorMI tech
- Weight: 1 pound
- Required Power: 65 W
- Socket Model: AM4
AMD Ryzen 5 2600x Review
When an AMD processor has an ‘x’ after it’s model number, it means that it’s considered a flagship CPU. These bad boys are utilizing XFR, Precision Boost, and have sky-high clock speeds complemented by huge overclocking capabilities. Also, they are more expensive than regular Ryzen models.
While the majority of PC users don’t overclock at all, it’s a nice feature to have. Gamers, on the other hand, often do this. If you’re the one to shock your CPU into overdrive, then you must know that getting a set of powerful CPU coolers and a strong enough PSU is a necessity.
With the BCS being set at 3.4 GHz, overclocking will bring Ryzen 5 2600x to 3.9 GHz. The base speed alone is more than enough for gaming if the rest of your rig is equally powerful. Combine all this with the fact that 2600x’s price tag is just under $200 and you got yourself an awesome budget gaming CPU.
That being said, it’s important to note that there is a marked difference between the Ryzen 5 2600 and the Ryzen 7 2700x. You will see a noticeable dip in gaming performance — both in terms of resolution and frames.
However, the advantage is that streaming should be smooth with 2600. It has 6 cores and 12 threads. Multi-core performance has always been an advantage for AMD processors and 2600 is no exception.
So, it’s safe to say that 2600 is more of a “streaming CPU” than a “gaming CPU”. But, if you’re not a professional streamer and you’re just trying it out, for now, 2600 is an inexpensive way to get into streaming.
All in all, the AMD Ryzen 2600 is an excellent processor for both, gaming and streaming at its price point.
Most Cores: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950x
Pros & Cons
- Good price per core
- 64 PCI Express Lanes
- Excellent multi-threaded performance
- As good as Intel’s Skylake, which is expensive.
- Consumes more power
- No Cooler.
- 16 cores and 32 threads
- 3.5 GHz base frequency and 4.4 GHz boost frequency
- Zen+ Architecture.
- Quad Channel memory controller.
- Dimensions: 3.1 x 2.2 x 0.3 in
- Required Power: 180 W
- Model Socket: sTR4
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950x Review
The first thing you need to know about Threadripper 2950x is that it isn’t necessarily a gaming processor. In fact, at times, it can be quite bad. However, there’s a very good reason to consider the 2950x very seriously.
When it comes to gaming performance, the Threadripper 2950x can suffer because of how many cores it has. Besides Civilization and other CPU-intensive titles, most video games don’t use more than four cores. Sometimes only two, even.
Also, AMD processors usually have lower core strength and this is true with the 2950x too.
However, this is not an issue you can’t solve. Using AMD’s Ryzen Master 1.4 control panel, you can enable “Game Mode”. This way, the 8 cores of your Threadripper are completely killed off, making it an 8-core processor that’s just perfect for gaming. However, if you plan to work later, make sure to reenable the “dead” cores.
So, what’s the big deal then?
Well, some gamers dislike the Threadripper heavily because your system needs to be restarted every time you want to enable or kill the eight notorious cores. If you’re an extremely patient person (unlike me), you will be able to get the most out of this CPU.
If you’re serious about streaming, you know that it’s not all about streaming alone. There will be times when you’ll have to edit videos, add music to your videos and whatnot. In those tasks, there is really no better processor than the 2950x.
So, in reality, at what resolution and frame rates can you stream? With a decent GPU, 1080p at 60fps shouldn’t be too hard to achieve.
The only real disadvantage with the 2950x is its price. If you’re just starting your streaming adventures or don’t really need the massive encoding power that the 2950x offers, getting a cheaper model might be the right thing to do. However, if you understand your system well enough, the AMD Threadripper 2950x can be a brilliant all-round streaming processor.
CPUs For Streaming: Buying Guide
Now, there’s no need to spend all of your money on a CPU right away. First, it’s important to know a few things. You won’t make a mistake if you decide on any of our aforementioned CPUs. However, you might end up buying a processor that you don’t really need. So, we’ve created this buying guide for you. This way, you know exactly what to look for and what does a CPU do for gaming.
If you’re new to streaming, just know that you don’t require the highest-priced processor to get started. While it’s definitely true that high-end processors are powerful and can handle software encoding with ease, the fact is that everyone doesn’t need that power.
If you’re just starting a channel and building a base, you really don’t need much more than a simple Ryzen 7 2700x. It’s more than enough. In fact, a Ryzen 5 would be fine too. Make sure that you know exactly what you want from your CPU. This way, you won’t spend more on features and power that you don’t really need. Alternatively, you can get a high-quality capture card and take the pressure of your CPU and GPu.
Understand Different Aspects of Streaming
While Twitch streaming is mostly just about streaming, there are plenty of platforms where there’s a lot more to do than just stream. You will have to do a lot of video and audio editing. Even when you’re streaming, there are multiple programs that you need to run simultaneously. All this puts pressure on the processor.
AMD gaming CPUs are usually very good at handling multiple programs at once while Intel gaming processors render games very well.
Expensive processors are expensive to maintain
Flagship CPUs utilize a lot of power. Just know that you will see a difference in your power bill. Also, high-end processors get very hot. You will most probably need high-end coolers to maintain temperature levels. These coolers are expensive.
The basic idea here is that you can’t just use one awesome component in a computer. All the components depend on each other to work optimally. So, if you have just one high-performing component, it’s pretty much useless.
So, make sure that you’re building a computer in which all parts complement each other. In streaming, for example, your CPU and GPU must be similar in terms of hierarchy. You can look at CPU hierarchies and GPU hierarchies to decide the combination.
Frequently Asked Questions
Given the popularity of streaming right now, we get a bunch of questions thrown at us all the time. We answer the most popular ones here.
Is AMD better than Intel for streaming?
Unfortunately, there’s no “Yes or No” answer to this. It all depends on your system. We go over this in more detail in our Intel and Ryzen comparison guide. However, here’s how you can look at it:
Intel builds better gaming better processors than AMD. AMD processors are much better at a multi-threaded performance. So, there’s a tradeoff with both the brands. However, the lack of gaming performance can be rectified with a good GPU, whereas the lack of multi-threaded performance can’t really be rectified.
If you’re looking for a super-cheap way to stream decently, choosing an excellent AM3+ processor might be the way to go.
Can I use older CPUs for streaming given that they are cheaper?
Yes, you can. But – and it’s a big but – know that you are going to notice a considerable lack of processing power if you go too far back. The 1000 series of AMD Ryzen processors are really bad when it comes to gaming. So, avoid them altogether. 7th and 8th generation Intel processors aren’t too bad as long as you make sure that you’re buying a processor that was built with gaming in mind.
Do I need HEDTs for streaming?
For those of you who don’t know, HEDT stands for High-End DeskTops. No, you don’t need a HEDT for streaming and anyone who says you need it is straight-up lying. Let me put it this way. Even professional streamers (think upwards of 10 million subscribers) don’t use a HEDT.
Are there exceptions?
Of course. However, most people have no use for a HEDT. If you’re new, start small.
When it comes to PC building, many amateurs are in the dark regarding what’s more important for streaming: GPU or CPU.
CPU is king when it comes to streaming. However, the problem is that GPU is important for gaming. If you’re a gaming streamer, you need both. But specifically for streaming, CPU is the most important component. If you’re going to stream games, make sure that you have a combination of both, a good GPU and a capable CPU.
If you want to learn more about current processors and what they are capable of, you should take a look at the complete CPU hierarchy list and see what’s on the market.
If you’re a new streamer, start small. Also, make sure that you get both your GPU and your CPU right.