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Do you need a dedicated streaming PC for Twitch?

If you care about squeezing every bit of video quality you can out of the limited bit-rate of twitch or mixer, you are not alone. But do you really need a dedicated streaming PC to do it? Well… It depends.

Do you need a Dedicated Streaming PC?

Picture of a large CPU heat sink being installed onto a motherboard.

If your stream features a gamer personality, where you play video games and react to things with an audience, then the platform you game on matters. For example, if you stream on a PlayStation 4, Switch, or Xbox, it is a necessity in order to have access to overlays, professional audio equipment, and control. You also need a capture card in order to make use of these things.

We recommend the AVerMedia Live Gamer HD 2 for 1080P capture. Note: This capture card does not accept resolutions higher than 1080p. If you need 4k capture, The AVerMedia Live Gamer 4k will do the job.

Another very strong contender is the Elgato H60, which has a small flaw of needing to disable HDCP mode on your PS4 for it to work properly. we’re unsure if other capture cards have this flaw. Let me know in the comments down below if you have any information regarding this!

Laptop users can utilize the Elgato H60s, which is the same hardware as the Elgato H60, just in a USB format. For 4k capture, you can use the AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra, but be aware, you need a USB 3.1 Gen 1 type C port, or a type c to type A adapter for this one to work.

Do PC streamers need a second dedicated streaming PC?

Picture of Razer Mouse.

The Quick answer? Nope.

You can stream on your main rig, but having a dedicated streaming PC has several advantages over single PC use. Of course, there are costs to these advantages, and only you can decide if these advantages are worth it to you.

Console streamers are an exception

While a dedicated streaming PC for PC users is optional, it is a different story for console streamers who want to use overlays.

A number of features that make up a professional stream environment are not available strictly to a console.

  • You aren’t able to use an audio interface or mixer that requires drivers to function
    • Some interfaces and mixers will work fine, but if you happen to buy one that isn’t compatible out of the box, it can be quite the hassle
  • No Advanced Scene manager provided by OBS
  • No VST Filters on your mic(Meaning no noise suppression or noise gates unless you have a hardware solution.)
  • You don’t have access to a number of third-party integrations like discord into your stream

In short, without a PC to act as the intermediary to your channel, your options and quality will be limited in various ways. It is for these reasons that we typically recommend a dedicated streaming pc, budget allowing.

Benefits of a dedicated streaming PC:

  • It is a separate environment from your gaming PC or console
    • Separate drives are especially useful in organizing your hard drives on both PCs.
    • Gaming PC needs only your games and input devices while streaming pc needs only the audio and a way to control the scenes in your streaming software of choice.
  • You can encode at medium or even slow with a dedicated CPU for X264 encoding. This means that there are small but noticeable gains in image quality. There is a large processing overhead for encoding, and having the CPU able to focus entirely on encoding will yield better results.
    • You also release the CPU overhead on your gaming pc, freeing up resources to your game, resulting in better FPS
  • Overall greater video quality output to twitch from the processor not needing to be occupied with rendering. To an extent.
Quality Analysis of  X264, Is  slow worth it? By EposVox.
You decide if it is worth it. EposVox felt that the “Slow” preset was not worth using.
  • No requirement for a dedicated capture card. NDI is not a perfect solution, and it will not be an option for console streamers at all.

Drawbacks of a dedicated streaming pc:

  • Cost:
    • The huge upfront cost of buying a (second) PC
    • Extra cost on your power bill
    • Slightly more bandwidth usage from things like windows update in the background
  • Complexity:
    • You need to engineer a way to get your audio sources from your gaming pc or console to the streaming pc.
    • All audio-related devices, such as microphones, headphones, etc, should be handled entirely by the streaming pc. The only source that should be leaving the gaming pc is the game audio.
  • A larger footprint is taken up in the room.
  • May need to be plugged into an outlet wired to a different circuit from your main PC, to avoid tripping a breaker.
  • More noise from more fans, making it harder to acoustically treat.
  • An additional source of heat in the room, making it potentially uncomfortable unless the second pc is in another room and connected via NDI or a very long HDMI cable/wall pass-through
  • You will need to build it yourself as it has different needs from a gaming pc.

You need to decide if it is something that you need and can afford.

Putting together a streaming PC can be daunting for those who have never done it; however, it is not difficult and is significantly cheaper than a gaming PC. It can also be very rewarding to be able to use something every day that you personally put together.

We recommend this video for first time builders:

How to build a Gaming  PC by Paul's Hardware
This guy used to do Newegg’s videos. He is an amazing source of info. If You’ve never built a PC before, this is the video you’ll want to watch.

Ram prices have FINALLY started to dip back into normality, but GPUs(Graphics cards) have been surging in price. Luckily, a streaming box does not need a powerful GPU, a GTX 1050 ti even would suffice. You only need to be able to drive the monitor to launch the stream and modify layouts.

The expense of the streaming PC lies in the CPU, and SSD drives. You don’t need a large quantity of ram unless you plan to do some rendering for YouTube.

Check out our other article about “The best budget streaming PC parts in 2020“.

If you have any questions, you can leave a comment below, or join the Streamer’s Haven Community discord.

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