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Recommended Specs to Build a Mini Encoding PC for Streaming On Twitch or Mixer
Published: May 8, 2020
If you want to game and stream on the same PC, it can be quite taxing on your system and will require a fairly powerful PC if you want to stream at the best quality using what’s called CPU encoding (x264). Encoding video using your CPU leads to the higher quality streams for your viewers compared to GPU encoding (which is more efficient but lowers the quality a little).
Do You Need a Dedicated Streaming PC?
Most streamers, especially casual or novice streamers just getting their feet wet, should just stick to a single PC for gaming and streaming on the same setup, and take advantage of GPU encoding using a NVidia card to take some of the load off the CPU.
But if you’re a more avid streamer wanting to produce the highest quality streams possible for your audience, you might want to consider having a dual PC setup for streaming that includes both your main gaming rig alongside a dedicated streaming PC.
This is what many pro streamers do to maximize efficiency, as you’ll have the dedicated streaming computer to focus 100% on CPU encoding, with your gaming rig also being free to solely focus on getting the highest frame rate at the highest visual settings.
Doing CPU encoding on a single PC is possible, but will require a beefier CPU, as your processor would not only need to do the encoding, but run your game (some of which can be quite demanding on the CPU) and all the other applications that are running such as OBS, audio software, chat software, overlays, and so on.
Another added benefit of a dedicated streaming PC is your stream can still stay live and online if you have to turn off or restart your gaming PC for whatever reason, such as when downloading a game update which requires a restart (or if your gaming PC crashes in-game).
But building or buying dual PCs for streaming obviously takes more work and setup time, and despite your dedicated streaming PC not needing to be too powerful it will still cost you more overall compared to a single PC setup (because you need 2 cases, 2 sets of keyboards/mice, 2 motherboard, 2 sets of RAM, 2 PSUs, and so on – oh and a capture card too).
So make sure you know what you’re getting into, and stick to a single PC if you are on a budget or new. You can always start with that, and then if you’re not happy with your stream quality then you can always easily add a second PC later. That said, building and setting up dual PCs for streaming isn’t that hard, so if you’re interested in doing that let’s move on.
The Best Dedicated Streaming PC Builds (Mini mATX Box)
If you want to build the best dedicated streaming computer using new parts, the following example builds are what we can recommend to stretch your money further depending on the level of quality you’re after (and your budget of course). We’ll clarify our component choices in the rest of this guide if you are interested.
Oh, and these setups can be used for video editing or other work tasks too, as these are not only good dedicated streaming PC builds but good value workstations too (though for a more serious workstation, you would want more RAM as a dedicated streaming setup doesn’t need much).
Swipe to Scroll the Builds:
|Component||Best Cheap Dedicated Streaming PC Build for 720p||Best Budget Dedicated Streaming PC Build for 900p/1080p||Best Dedicated Streaming PC Build for 1080p 60FPS|
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 5 3400G||AMD Ryzen 5 3600||AMD Ryzen 7 3700X|
|CPU Cooler||Stock (included with CPU)||Stock (” “)||Stock (” “)|
|Motherboard||MSI B450M Pro-VDH Max (Micro ATX)|
|RAM||Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB 3000MHz (2x4GB)||Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB 3200MHz (2x8GB)|
|Graphics Card||– (Integrated Graphics)||Gigabyte GeForce GT 1030 2GB Low Profile
Kingston A400 240GB (M.2 SSD)
Crucial MX500 (M.2)
|Power Supply||Corsair CX550M (Bronze)
Thermaltake Core V21 SPCC Cube (1 x 200mm Fan Included)
Cooler Master HAF XB EVO LAN Box (2 x 120mm Fans Included)
|Capture Card||Elgato HD60/other|
|Decent Prebuilt Alternatives||
Lenovo M75Q (3400GE, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD
HP Pavilion TG01 (3700X, RX 550, 32GB RAM)
Swipe to Scroll the Builds
How a Dedicated Streaming Setup Works (Dual PCs)
This is how a dual system setup works in a nutshell:
Your gaming PC renders your game to both your gaming monitor (as usual) and to a device known as a capture card.
Your streaming PC then takes the stream data from the capture card and uploads to the streaming service (such as Twitch or Mixer) as well as renders the stream to your streaming monitor so you can check how your stream is looking in real time as you play on your gaming monitor.
Here’s what you need for a dual PC streaming setup:
- Gaming PC/Console: Used just for rendering the game.
- Gaming Monitor: Where you play your game as you normally would.
- Capture Card: Plugs into both PCs, and relays the video data from your gaming computer to your streaming computer.
- Streaming PC: The dedicated PC receives the data from the capture card, and encodes the data to a compressed format to upload to Twitch, Mixer or YouTube.
- Streaming Monitor: If you have a second monitor, you can output your stream to it so you can monitor your stream in real-time. Highly recommended.
Choosing the Best CPU for a Dedicated Streaming PC
You want a good CPU for streaming, but since your rig will only be used for streaming it also doesn’t need to be the greatest CPU around as it obviously won’t be needed to process your games (many of which these days can be quite demanding on the CPU).
In other words, a good mid-range CPU like the Ryzen 5 3600, 3600X, and Ryzen 7 3700X is more than enough for a dedicated streaming PC build, with your choice depending on the quality and resolution of your stream.
If on a budget, even cheaper CPUs are totally fine if your streams aren’t going to be 1080p 60FPS. For example, for 720p 60FPS/30FPS streaming, a cheaper budget CPU like a Ryzen 5 2600, 1600 AF, or even the 3400G is all you likely need. But for the ultimate 1080p 60FPS stream quality, you’ll need a very good CPU like the 3700X which is the best CPU for a dedicated streaming build right now based on what different streamers report on Reddit and elsewhere.
Anything more powerful than a 3700X, such as a 3900X, 3950X, or a Threadripper – that’s overkill and unnecessary (though definitely handy for an all-in-one single streaming/gaming PC but that’s besides the point). If you’re perhaps buying used to save money, the 2700X is another good choice that will provide excellent streaming performance for a dedicated rig (as is the 1700).
Intel vs AMD for Streaming (CPU Encoding/x264)
As for Intel, any modern i5 or i7 is going to be just fine, though we recommend Ryzen as they provide better CPU encoding performance. Check our the 3700X and 3900X blitzing the Intel field here. Brutal stuff; the 3900X eats the 9900K for breakfast, and even the 3700X beats the 9900K. Same goes for building a single PC for gaming and streaming – AMD is our top pick for that, too.
How Much RAM Do You Need for a Dedicated Streaming PC?
Because its sole purpose is to encode and stream, all you really need for a PC dedicated to streaming is a good CPU and then a very basic list of supporting components. You might want to have a good amount of RAM if you’re doing other things on the PC such as video editing, but if it’s just building this PC for streaming then 8GB is absolutely fine. If you’re choosing an AMD Ryzen processor, try to shoot for 3000MHz or higher to make the most of your CPU, as Ryzen takes advantage of faster RAM (more so than Intel CPUs do).
Do You Need a GPU for a Dedicated Streaming PC?
You also don’t even need a graphics card for a dedicated streaming rig, as you can just use integrated graphics if your CPU has that (though not all do). But if your CPU doesn’t have built-in graphics, or if you’re also doing some video editing or other graphics-related production on your dedicated streaming setup, you should get a basic video card such as the GT 1030 or better depending on how much video editing you’re doing (a good video editing PC build does require a better GPU like a GTX 1650 or above).
Then put in a simple no-frills motherboard, a decent power supply, a 1TB HDD (or bigger if you plan on saving tons of footage, and an SSD if this is a video editing rig), a basic case that can house all your parts (most people will want a small “box” style build so it doesn’t take up much space as is reflected in our recommendations above), a basic monitor, and that’s basically it.
Do You Need a Capture Card for Streaming?
For a single streaming and gaming PC build, you don’t need a capture card, but you need one for dedicated streaming PC setup to relay information from your gaming PC to the streaming PC. Choosing the right capture card is actually a fairly important choice, because if you simply get a cheap capture card you’ll end up with similar (or even worse) quality than if you simply streamed with your gaming PC which kind of defeats the purpose of the dedicated streaming PC in the first place.
You should stick to well-known, quality brands such as Blackmagic, AverMedia, Razer and Elgato, and try to avoid portable capture cards as they can be lower quality. Also keep in mind that when using a capture card there will be a delay between your gaming PC and your streaming PC but it isn’t a big deal as it doesn’t affect the quality or smoothness of the stream. We’ll cover choosing capture cards in a future guide.
That wraps our dedicated streaming build guide and hope it helps your research. Remember that we don’t recommend building a dedicated streaming PC unless you’re unhappy with a single gaming and streaming PC build, as it obviously requires time and money to invest in a dual PC streaming setup.
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Indie programmer currently working on my first game release (after years of hobby projects), an atmospheric story-driven VR FPS/adventure built with Unreal Engine to be announced once I’m ready here and here (for anyone into VR FPS’s). Also likes writing about tech, which helps to fund development of the game.
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