Streaming PC Components
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Technically speaking, streaming is a complex process that involves several factors: hardware such as powerful graphics cards, stable internet connection, appropriate streaming software, as well as several essential accessories.
Of course, one of those all-important factors is CPUs for streaming and the number of cores they possess for everything to run as smoothly as should.
In this article, we’ll reveal all the ins and outs of this topic and discover how many cores do you need for streaming comfortably and without glitches.
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What Are CPUs and Cores?
Even the most casual users – including the complete laymen – have heard the terms such as CPU, cores, threads, etc.
However, not all users possess in-depth knowledge about this topic which will enable them to get the bigger picture about how the streaming process functions and why all these things are so important for optimal streaming conditions.
That’s why, if we want to provide an answer to a million-dollar question – how many cores do I need for comfortable streaming – we first have to take a look at the bare essentials.
A central processing unit – processor in short – or just a CPU is an essential piece of computer hardware.
It is directly responsible for interacting with virtually all programs and applications you have installed on your computer.
Moreover, it also takes care of calculating, decoding, running programs, delivering output, and performing various other key actions. In layman’s terms, you can think of it as the brain of your computer.
The speed, smoothness, and efficiency of all these various processes depend on the power of your CPU, its so-called clock speed, and also on the number of its cores.
Now, what are CPU cores, and why are they so important for complex processes such as streaming?
Basically, the core acts as a processing unit of the CPU. In the early days of the IT revolution – more precisely in 1971. when these technologies were in their initial phases – all CPUs had only one core.
In practice that meant that they could only manage one specific task at a time. And while that might be appropriate at that time when requirements were less severe than nowadays, today that would be completely unacceptable.
Nowadays most average home computers have CPUs equipped from 2 to up to 8 cores.
This is no accident, nor is it a mere matter of some fashionable trend, but a necessity. Each core is usually designed to be especially adept at a particular type of computing task.
In practice, that means that each core of your CPU will be able to simultaneously execute its task – or sets of tasks – independently of other cores.
This feature of modern multi-core CPUs allows them great multitasking abilities. This is known as parallel processing.
The more cores a CPU has, the more different tasks it’ll be able to perform at the same time, which considerably increases the overall efficiency of your system.
Of course, the number of the physical cores isn’t the sole factor that determines and regulates the parallel processing capacity of your CPU. Some CPUs also can split their existing physical cores into virtual cores.
These virtual cores are known as threads, and this whole process of dividing actual cores into virtual ones is known as simultaneous multithreading, or – in the case of Intel’s processors – hyper-threading.
No matter how you call it, this process allows the number of existing cores to be effectively doubled, thus increasing the overall speed and efficiency of the CPU and its performance, while eliminating lagging and buffering.
As you’ll soon find out, all of these traits are crucial factors in the streaming process.
The Importance of Cores for Streaming
As we’ve mentioned in the previous sections, stable, glitch-free streaming has several requirements, from a sufficiently fast internet connection, through appropriate hardware and accessories to software – some kind of OBS (Open Broadcast Software) for instance.
Of course, a technically complex process such as streaming can be rather taxing on your computer’s resources, especially since some sort and level of multitasking will certainly be involved.
That’s where multi-core CPUs come in as a pivotal factor that’ll ensure that everything goes smoothly as it should.
We already stressed the key role of CPUs and their cores – whether physical or virtual – in the overall architecture of your computer and why is their multitasking ability so important for performance.
Why is that? Naturally, the precise answer will largely depend on the type of streaming you’ll be engaged in, the complexity of your content, and the various types of media involved in the whole process.
However, keep in mind that streaming essentially means that your computer will be forced to do multiple tasks at the same time, which can be extremely taxing on its system. That’s where multi-core CPUs come in.
Imagine that you’re a gamer who wants to broadcast his playthrough of some AAA FPS game on Ultra settings.
You naturally want that your live recording is in pristine video and audio quality and, just to raise the whole experience to a higher level for the sake of your audience, you’ll be commenting all the while.
If you want to achieve all this at the same time and in sufficient quality, you’ll need a powerful multi-core processo.
That will allow you to play the game, while it simultaneously streams your gameplay, processes video and audio components of your performance, sustains required in-game resolution and stable framerate and does the software encoding.
To properly achieve all this, your CPU will have to multitask and efficiently utilize all its cores to the max.
QUICK OVERVIEW: Best CPU
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How Many Cores Do You Need for Streaming?
In the previous sections, we’ve explained the role of the CPU and its cores as one of the key factors for successful, smooth, and glitch-free streaming.
Now, let’s attempt to answer the main question of the day – how many cores do you need for streaming?
Unfortunately, as you might expect, there’s no simple answer to this question, since much will depend on the type of your streams and your requirements as a streamer.
However, here are some general guidelines that’ll put you on the right track, based on our own experience and countless benchmarks we’ve studied.
For a long time now, single-core processors are completely outdated, even when it comes to CPUs used in smartphones, so we’ll leave them out of our consideration.
Nowadays, dual-core CPUs are a budget-friendly option that will allow you some basic multitasking options.
You’ll be able to use them for some basic programs and perhaps even modest low-res gaming, but they are simply insufficient for any type of streaming.
Quad-core CPUs represent a step in the right direction when it comes to the increase of the overall performance of your computer.
With them, you’ll be able to use a bit more advanced programs and features.
But for more complex actions such as rendering, video editing, graphics design, let alone serious streaming, you’ll be better served with a more powerful processor, not to mention other pieces of the computer hardware.
In comparison to previous examples, hexa-core processors represent a quantum leap.
With them, you’ll be able to tackle more advanced software, since they are not only considerably faster but, thanks to their six cores and their innate multitasking abilities, they will allow you to run several programs at once.
That also means that hexa-core CPUs are also more than a solid option for streaming since prospective streamers will be able to simultaneously play the game, stream, and perform other required actions – in most cases without any noticeable degradation of the speed or the quality of the stream.
With their capabilities, computers armed with octa-core CPUs are robust devices, that are more than capable of tackling serious tasks such as programming, graphic design, architecture projecting, engineering, 3D rendering, video editing, visual effects, pro gaming, and, of course, streaming.
And if you have a CPU capable of splitting itself into virtual cores, i.e. threads, your machine will be that much more effective and powerful.
For most situations, this type of processor is the best processor for streaming and gaming, with an excellent balance of quality and affordability.
Of course, this is only a part of the picture. As the technology advances, there will be CPUs with even more cores.
Today we have groundbreaking CPUs with no less than 64 cores, such as the awesome AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X.
And although at present we can comfortably make do with far less core power, who knows what the future may bring us and what kind of technical advances and requirements we might face.
We’ve tried to provide an answer to an elusive and complex question, “how many cores do I need” for comfortable streaming, gaming, and other CPU-taxing activities.
And, although, as you might’ve seen, there isn’t a simple answer, the rule of the thumb is – the more cores the better.
In any case, without at least four cores don’t even think to try streaming. We recommend that you shouldn’t go below a hexa-core CPU.
Ideally, for comfortable streaming, you should opt for an octa-core or even a 16-core CPU.
And, of course, for some future challenges, be on the lookout for even more.
Related: How Much RAM Do I Need for Streaming