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Best Streaming Software for Twitch

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In order to produce a quality stream full of effects, transitions, and overlays, you need to use streaming software. Depending on your unique needs, you will want to find software that is relatively simple to use and easy to maintain throughout your stream.

With so many options on the market finding the right software to suit your needs can be a daunting task. A good video streaming software will allow you to pull from several feeds in order to make a professional quality broadcast. You can add overlays, transitions, and special effects to make unique content that will attract an audience. If you’re a beginner to game streaming the ability to use software that is capture card friendly with great video quality and user support is vital.

In this article, we will discuss 10 different software encoders from open source software to web browser based game streaming to find the perfect fit for your computer, console, or mobile device.

What is the Best Twitch Streaming Software in 2021?

The following are our picks for the top ten streaming software in 2021 based on key features, ease of use, and price:

streamlabs logo

1. Streamlabs OBS – Best Streaming Software Overall

Features

  • Gamer-friendly
  • Clean UI
  • Free
  • Large theme library
  • check Auto optimization (x264 settings)
  • check Easy to use
  • check Additional easily integrated features
  • check Website integration
  • check Easy on CPU
  • check Optional Prime to integrate Royalty-free music and premium overlays
  • check Studio Mode
  • close Parts are still in BETA
  • close Windows Only (Mac is in BETA, no news for Linux yet)

Streamlabs OBS (also known as SLOBS) was heavily inspired by OBS (mentioned below). It was created with the intention of re-creating OBS with an easier UI and seamless integration with other Streamlabs widgets and bots. Broadcasters who use SLOBS enjoy the event queue, library of overlays, audio filter, and video editor, which are all easy to plug-in. 

In 2020, StreamScheme found that 63% of community members surveyed used Streamlabs OBS as their go-to free streaming software

When it some to SLOBS vs OBS studio, Streamlabs OBS is customizable and similar enough to OBS that OBS Studio users can quickly make the switch. Those who are new to streaming typically find SLOBS easier to learn and navigate than its predecessor. It is easy to move your webcam-feed and other elements around quickly and easily. 

While performance varies between streamers, many users state that SLOBS uses more CPU and memory than other broadcasting software, but it is always improving. Stramlabs also comes with good customer service, allow you to get help understanding the settings, video, sound, and other studio options.

Streamlabs Go Prime Features

Streamlabs OBS is a free streaming platform, but there is an optional Prime upgrade. For a reasonable monthly fee, you will have access to many features that will easily up your channel quality. With access to 40+ premium apps (including Jingle Punks – a library of royalty-free music), a merch store, and hundreds of overlays, you can add features and update your overall look. You can also create a custom website for your channel through their store. 

obs logo

2. OBS Studio – Best Customization

Features

  • Free
  • Windows, Mac, and Linux
  • check Highly customizable with plugins
  • check Reliable (very few troubleshooting issues)
  • check Low CPU usage
  • check Screen recording capable
  • close Learning curve – can be difficult for beginners
  • close Limited on editing features
  • close No support – community only

OBS (short for Open Broadcaster Software) is considered the industry standard for Twitch streamers. This free and open-source program is very customizable with plugins built by other streamers, gamers, and developers. With a little knowledge and skill, you can create seamless transitions that give your stream a professional quality. 

There are a few inbuilt features and transitions in OBS, but many others can be added. You have the capability to set up hotkeys with every function to ensure your effects are seamless and timely. 

As OBS Studio is a community-produced project, there is no centralized help from the platform. However, with a whole community of enthusiasts, you can almost always find answers to your questions within an hour. The program is reliable and rarely has any issues. It is very customizable and many widgets and add-ons have been created for it. While it isn’t always easy for new streamers to get started, many grow into as they feel more comfortable setting up their stream studio.

Xsplit logo

3. XSplit – Best for Growing Channels

Features

  • Free version (with watermark)
  • Great customer support (24/7)
  • check Professional quality broadcasting software
  • check Has integrated VCam access
  • check Enhanced audio features
  • check Many additional plug-ins for customization
  • close Costs money for the premium program
  • close Windows only
  • close Encoding knowledge needed

XSplit is the first step into pro-level production features. While they are a step up in quality, the UI is a bit different from OBS/SLOBS and it will take a little bit to readjust.

XSplit Broadcaster is highly customizable and comes with all the bells and whistles you need for production. There is a learning curve to get it going, but with excellent customer support, you can have all your questions answered while you work. 

You can use a limited version of the program with a watermark for free or upgrade to a monthly or yearly plan. You can often find trial codes online or when purchasing select Logitech webcams

XSplit VCam

The XSplit VCam is a feature that is included in the program. It allows you to remove or blur your background without needing a green screen. If you have good lighting and some space between you and the wall behind you, this can be a great feature to easily create quality in your production value. You also have the option to replace the background. 

gamecaster logo

4. Gamecaster – Best Software for New Streamers

Features

  • Free
  • Simple UI
  • Gamified achievements
  • check Settings save in the cloud
  • check Low CPU usage
  • check Easy set up
  • check Several customization options
  • close No easy upload of external overlay packs
  • close Some features still in Beta

Formerly an extension of XSplit, Gamecaster has come a long way in its beta phase. Streamers looking for a streaming program that is easy to set up to begin streaming on Twitch will love the studio aspect of Gamecaster.

Created for new streamers to those who are a bit more advanced, Gamecaster has created a gaming experience using an achievement system. The platform also gives you everything you need to get started streaming live. The user interface allows you to easily create scenes that will let you stream content that your viewer base will like. You can import multiple sources to give you just the right look for your genre.

The drawback to Gamecaster is that you can’t upload your own branding. While this free streaming software gives you everything you need as far as multiple overlays, alerts, and scene options, they don’t allow you to upload your own graphics. You can customize your streaming setup using the variables built into the system.

lightstream logo

5. Lightstream – Best for Console Streamers

Features

  • Free
  • Bbrowser/cloud-based
  • check Low CPU usage
  • check Customer support through chat
  • check Easy set up
  • check Simple UI
  • close Issues with sound quality
  • close Very basic features
  • close Best at 720p streaming

Don’t have a capture card? Lightstream is a browser-based stream program, making it the perfect option for streamers who are always on the go and use their phone or different devices to stream. You won’t have to rebuild scenes every time you download the software and you don’t have to worry about your CPU.

Lightstream also allows you to broadcast with multiple people on the same stream, allowing you to easily do talk shows or play with other steamers. The platform is also perfect for console broadcasters as they learn to stream on Xbox or PS4.

melonapp logo

6. MelonApp – Best Software for Easy Set-up

Features

  • Free
  • Browser/Cloud-based
  • Simple UI
  • check Low CPU usage
  • check Easy set up
  • check Invite other streamers
  • check Multi-stream capable
  • close Very basic features on the free version
  • close No overlay customization

Born out of the Covid Pandemic, Melon was Streamlabs’s answer to the sudden need for a simple-to-use browser-based system for professional tradesmen who needed to transition to live streaming for their livelihood. With Melon, anyone can easily set up professional-looking scenes for your streams, interview other broadcasters through an invite system, and multi-stream to Twitch, Facebook, YouTube, and other streaming platforms.

The Melon App has two packages available. The first is completely free and allows you to start live streaming to one platform, talk with one other broadcaster, interact with your chat, amongst other features. The premium package allows you to have access to their advanced features that will give you everything you need to succeed as a streaming tradesperson.

twitch logo

7. Twitch Studio – Most CPU Friendly

Features

  • Free
  • Easy to set up
  • check Customizable
  • check Integrated into Twitch
  • close Still in Beta
  • close Limited options for alerts and overlays

The BETA for Twitch Studio was released in late 2019. As it is built into the streaming platform, you can stream without having to sync your software. Users have reported less latency than other software due to its platform integration.  

You can create your own scenes and alerts from within Twitch studio, though some options are still very limited. As it gets closer to the official launch, we expect there to be improved options and more customization, so that you can pick graphics that go well with the game you want to be live streaming. Twitch Studio is a no-cost program for Twitch users. 

vmix logo

8. vMix – Best for 4K Streaming

Features

  • Built-in templates
  • Good customer support
  • check Professional production
  • check NDI compatibility
  • check Integrated professional features
  • close Price tag
  • close System requirements

With vMix, you choose the options you want and only pay for those. The base package is free (with a watermark) and when options are added, your price will fluctuate between $60-$1,200. There is also a 60-day free trial on the package. 

vMix has a lot of professional features including 4K encoding, 1920 x 1080, and 1000 inputs. If you are ready to take your stream to the next level, vMix will get you there.  Just be sure to have a good internet connection.

wirecast logo

9. Wirecast – Best for Professionals

Features

  • Good support
  • Professional UI
  • Professional functions and features
  • check 3D animated titles
  • check GPU accelerated coding
  • check Compatible with both Windows and Mac
  • check Frequent updates with new features
  • check Can be used on over 30 platforms
  • close Expensive
  • close High system requirements

Wirecast is a professional program that will give you access to tools not available on other software, such as 3D animated titles, instant replays, and video conferencing. You can also have up to 250 layers on a scene, meaning you can customize things as much as you wish without limits. 

Made by Telestream, this software is continually being updated with new and improved features. Despite its advanced functions, the UI is very intuitive and easy to manage. One drawback is the price point for new streamers, especially since it doesn’t currently support 4K streaming. 

nvidia shadowplay

10. Nvidia Shadowplay – Best for GPU Encoding

Features

  • Encodes in GPU
  • check Minimal CPU usage
  • check Included in GeForce Drivers
  • close Better for recording, not streaming
  • close No option to have a picture in the picture
  • close No streaming features
  • close Must have Nvidia graphics card

While Nvidia Shadowplay technically has broadcasting software capabilities, it is better suited as a screen recording program. If you only want to stream your gameplay and nothing else, you can use this software. However, those who want overlays, stream alerts, webcam feed, and other features won’t be able to use them with Nvidia Shadowplay. 

One great feature of this program is that there is a shortcode you can use to record the last several minutes of gameplay. This way, you won’t have to worry about losing important milestones that you can review later on. 

You must have an Nvidia graphics card in order to use this software. 

Conclusion

While every streamer’s needs are different, we wanted to make sure that we had a proper ranking system for the streaming software we covered. Our goal was to find the programs that give a rounded set of features that the majority of streamers could easily use for their needs. For instance, most streamers don’t need 4K capabilities and would rather use software that is more affordable. There may be a learning curve to setting up your streaming software, but as you pick it up, you’ll be able to find unique ways to create transitions and effects that will set your stream apart. 

About the Author

Chris

Chris is a digital marketer with a strong background in small business and influencer branding. He applies his knowledge of content and promotional strategies to design actionable advice for new and intermediate streamers. When he’s not busy crunching analytics, he can be found in the salt pits of League of Legends.

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