The best streaming programs take your video feed and transcode it to a streaming format. A good encoding 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
In this article, we will discuss 10 different programs and compare the pros and cons of each so that you can pick the right one to use as you stream to Twitch, Facebook Gaming, or YouTube Gaming. After setting up your software, don’t forget to look for a good Twitch chatbot to help moderate your chat and interact with your viewers.
Best Twitch Streaming Software of 2021
The following are our picks for the top ten streaming software in 2021:
|OBS||Intermediate||Free||Win, Mac, Lin||Customization|
|Shadowplay||Intermediate||Graphics Card||Windows||GPU Encoding|
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 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.
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.
Note: In a survey of 228 new, intermediate, and partnered Twitch streamers, we found that 63% of people used Streamlabs OBS as their go-to free streaming software.
Streamlabs OBS [SLOBS] – Best Streaming Software Overall
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 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.
When it some to SLOBS vs OBS, 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 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 [Open Broadcaster Software] – Best Customization
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 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 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 – Best for Growing Channels
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 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.
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.
MelonApp – Best Software for Tradesmen
Pros of Melon
- Low CPU usage
- Easy set up
- Simple UI
- Invite other streamers
- Multi-stream capable
Cons of Melon
- Very basic features on the free version
- 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.
Lightstream – Best for Console Streamers
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. The platform is also perfect for console broadcasters as they learn to stream on Xbox or PS4.
Gamecaster – Best Browser Software for Gamers
Pros of Gamecaster
- Low CPU usage
- Easy set up
- Simple UI
- Lots of customization options
- Gamified achievements
Cons of Gamecaster
- No overlay customization
- Limited branding
Formerly an extension of XSplit, Gamecaster has come a long way in its beta phase. Streamers looking for a streaming program that is browser-based to stream 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.
Twitch Studio – Best for CPU on Twitch
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, 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 – Best for 4K Streaming
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.
Wirecast – Best for Professionals
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.
Nvidia Shadowplay – Best for GPU Encoding
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, 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.
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.