In this article, we will discuss 8 different programs and compare the pros and cons of each.
Streaming Software Review Process
While every streamer’s needs are different, we wanted to make sure that we had a proper ranking system for the broadcasting 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.
We looked into the following metrics when creating this list:
- Ease of use – streamers are responsible for setting up their own software and creating transitions.
- Quick set-up – how quickly can you set up the software in order to go live for the first time.
- Troubleshooting – are there ongoing issues? How difficult is it to fix the program in the event that there is a crash?
- Extra Features – what stream-related features can be integrated to bring your production to the next level?
- Price – cost is a key factor for many streamers who are just starting out and sticking to a budget.
Best Twitch Streaming Software of 2020
- Streamlabs OBS [SLOBS] – Best Overall
- OBS – Best for Plugins
- Twitch Studio – In-built software, Best for Quick Set-up
- vMix – Best for 4k Streaming
- Lightstream – Best for Mobile and Low CPU
- Nvidia Shadowplay
Streamlabs OBS [SLOBS]
Pros of Streamlabs OBS (SLOBS)
- Auto optimization (x264 settings)
- Easy to use
- Clean UI
- Additional easily integrated features
- Large library of themes
- Website integration
- Eay on CPU
- Optional Prime to integrate Royalty-free music and premium overlays
- Studio Mode
Cons of Streamlabs OBS
- Parts are still in BETA
- Windows Only (Mac is in BETA, no news for Linux yet)
Streamlabs OBS (also known as SLOBS) was heavily inspired 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 the video editor, which are all easy to plug-in.
Streamlabs OBS is customizable and similar enough to OBS that OBs 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 less CPU and memory than other broadcasting software.
Streamlabs Go Prime Features
Streamlabs OBS is free to use always, 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 [Open Broadcasting Software]
Pros of OBS
- Windows, Mac, and Linux
- Highly customizable with plugins
- Reliable (very few troubleshooting issues)
- Low CPU usage
- Screen recording capable
Cons of OBS
- Learning curve – can be difficult for beginners
- Limited on editing features
- No support – community only
OBS (short for Open Broadcasting Software) is considered the industry standard for Twitch streamers. This community-build 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 is a community-produced project, there is no centralized support. However, with a whole community of enthusiasts, you can almost always find answers to your questions within an hour.
Pros of Twitch Studio
- Integrated into Twitch
- Easy to set up
Cons of Twitch Studio
- Still in Beta
- 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. Twitch Studio is a free program for Twitch users.
Pros of vMix
- Professional production
- NDI compatibility
- Good customer support
- Built-in templates
- Integrated professional features
Cons of vMix
- Price tag
- 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.
Pros of Lightstream
- Low CPU usage
- Customer support through chat
- Easy set up
- Simple UI
Cons of Lightstream
- Issues with sound quality
- Very basic features
- Best at 720p streaming
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.
Pros of XSplit
- Two software options for gamers
- Professional quality broadcasting software
- Free version (with watermark)
- Has integrated VCam access
- Enhanced audio features
- Great customer support (24/7)
- Many additional plug-ins for customization
Cons of XSplit
- Costs money for the premium program
- Windows only
- 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 offers two different versions of streaming software: Broadcaster and Gamecaster.
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.
XSplit Gamecaster gives basic features that allow streamers to quickly set up a stream for their channel. There is minimal customization, but it’s very easy to understand.
You can use a limited version of XSplit with a watermark for free or upgrade to a monthly or yearly plan. You can often find free trial codes online or when purchasing select Logitech webcams.
The XSplit VCam is a feature that is included with XSplit. 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.
Pros of Wirecast
- Professional functions and features
- 3D animated titles
- Good support
- GPU accelerated coding
- Compatible with both Windows and Mac
- Professional UI
- Frequent updates with new features
- Can be used on over 30 platforms
Cons of Wirecast
- 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.
Pros of Nvidia Shadowplay
- Encodes in GPU
- Minimal CPU usage
- Included in GeForce Drivers
Cons of Nvidia Shadowplay
- Better for recording, not streaming
- No option to have a picture in picture
- No streaming features
- 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, 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 the Nvidia graphics card in order to use this software.
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.