The CPU is one of the most important components within a new custom streaming PC build. Choosing the correct one can be a pretty daunting task. In this article, I will discuss the main features to look for when purchasing a new streaming CPU and my opinion on the best CPUs, including budget CPUs.
CPU Requirements for Streaming
For streaming on Twitch, the general rule of thumb is to get a CPU that has at least 6 cores. One of the most popular options on the market right now is the AMD Ryzen 5 3600, which is unrivalled at its price point. If you have a bit more money to spend, I would go with the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X or the Intel Core i9 9900K. Both of these CPUs have 8 cores, which is more than enough for streaming.
3 Best CPU for Streaming
If you are very serious about streaming or even considering streaming full-time or as a professional career, these three CPUs are the best choices for you, regardless of budget.
AMD Ryzen 9 3950X
The AMD Ryzen 9 3950X is the best streaming CPU on the market right now but it is extremely expensive. Unless you are a professional streamer or a YouTuber, it is probably worth saving some money and getting another CPU on our list and investing money towards a GPU instead. The AMD Ryzen 9 3950X has a whopping 16 cores and 32 threads. It has a clock speed of 3.5 GHz, which can be overclocked to 4.7 GHz. Even at its hefty price tag, this CPU does not come with a cooler. This means that you need to dish out more money to buy one. Nevertheless, it can be used for gaming, streaming, video editing, and any other task you throw at it.
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
The AMD Ryzen 9 3900X CPU is significantly cheaper than the aforementioned CPU, but it is also extremely powerful. It boasts 12 cores and 24 threads, which is better than the vast majority of CPUs on the market. It also runs at 3.8 GHz and can be overclocked to 4.6 GHz. It comes with the Wraith Prism LED cooler, so you don’t have to worry about purchasing a CPU cooler. This CPU can also easily handle 4K resolution gaming.
Intel Core i9 9900K
The Intel Core i9 9900K is the best Intel CPU for streaming in a market that is completely dominated by AMD. Although this is not the best value for money, it is great for streaming. It has a base clock speed of 3.6 GHz and can be overclocked to 5.0 GHz. It has 8 cores and 16 threads, but no cooler, so that will have to be purchased at an extra cost. However, it does have Solder Thermal Interface Technology, also known as STIM, which helps with efficient heat transfer from the CPU to the cooler and allows for higher overclocking speeds.
3 Best Budget CPU for Streaming
If you cannot afford the high end CPUs for streaming, here are three budget options that are fantastic alternatives:
AMD Ryzen 5 3600
The AMD Ryzen 5 3600 is perhaps the best bang-for-your-buck CPU on the market right now, especially for gamers and streamers on a budget. At only $240, you get a 3.6 GHz processor with 6 cores and 12 threads. This CPU also can be overclocked to 4.2 GHz if you need the extra speed. In addition, it comes with the Wraith Stealth cooler. Its AM4 socket is compatible with many motherboards on the market right now.
AMD Ryzen 3 3300X
For those who are unable to spend on the AMD Ryzen 5 3600, the AMD Ryzen 3 3300X would be a great entry-level alternative. This CPU might have a more difficult time encoding video while streaming, but if you get an Nvidia GPU that can handle the encoding, you’re good to go. This CPU boasts 3.8 GHz speeds with 4 cores and 6 threads, can be overclocked to 4.3 GHz, and can also be purchased with the Wraith Stealth cooler.
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
The AMD Ryzen 7 3700X processor costs slightly more than the other two budget CPUs on the list, but it is also a great bang-for-your-buck CPU. The AMD Ryzen 7 3700X is better than the similarly priced competitor, the Intel i5 10600K. This CPU provides great gaming performance and even better streaming performance. On top of that, it is great for video editing, which is perfect for YouTubers. It boasts 3.6 GHz, can be overclocked to 4.4 GHz, and has 8 cores and 16 threads. Another advantage is that it comes with the Wraith Prism LED Cooler.
What You Should Look For in CPU
The features to look for in a CPU depend on what you’re using your PC for. For the purposes of this article, I will discuss the main features necessary in a CPU geared towards streaming video games.
1. Number of Cores and Threads
This is perhaps the most important feature to search for when purchasing a CPU for streaming. Most CPUs nowadays come with two to eight cores. Some even come with a whopping 16 cores. The more cores your CPU has, the more efficient your CPU is since it can split tasks more easily. This is especially crucial if you’re gaming, streaming, using Discord, and have other applications open, all on the same PC; different cores will handle different tasks. Threads are similar to cores. The more threads on the processor, the better the CPU can perform.
This is the speed of the processor, usually measured in gigahertz (GHz). In general, the higher the number, the faster the processor is. However, other factors within the CPU affect its performance too, so sometimes a higher frequency does not necessarily mean a faster processor.
3. Cooling Power
Gaming and streaming at the same is quite CPU-intensive. Therefore, it is important that the CPU comes with an adequate cooler so that the temperature doesn’t rise too much and overheats the CPU. If the CPU doesn’t come with an adequate cooler, it might be a good idea to purchase one.
The processor must be compatible with the motherboard socket that it is being installed into. A great website that many people use to verify the compatibility of the entire PC build is pcpartpicker.com.
What Does CPU Affect in Streaming?
The CPU mainly affects the encoding of your video. It takes all your different inputs, including game video and audio, webcam, alerts, and overlays, and combines them all into one video that can be streamed on platforms such as Twitch or YouTube. The more cores and the faster your CPU is, the more stable the encoding process will be. Many new Nvidia GPUs can also take care of the encoding. If you have a powerful GPU, you should let it handle the encoding process. This will result in a better, smoother stream.