Dedicated streaming PC's are great for console streamers.

Do you really need a dedicated streaming PC?

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If you are a PC enthusiast, gamer, or streamer, then you may have been upset about the news around PC Components. Mass shortages that are expected to continue into 2022 are sapping the ability of manufacturers from being able to keep their products in stock. This fact has made it nearly impossible to source components to build out a dedicated streaming PC.

This then begs the question, do you really need a dedicated streaming PC? If so, are there any ways to get the components you need in a reasonable amount of time without succumbing to a scalper’s eBay fee?

What makes a computer a streaming PC to begin with? Can you use a laptop? How fast does it need to be?

So many questions, let’s get to answering them.

What do you need for a Dedicated Streaming pc?

Do you need a Dedicated Streaming PC?

The very first thing to address is the simple question of what exactly makes a streaming pc what it is. There are certain specialized components that aren’t typically used when building a traditional pc that make up this beast. For some examples: capture cards, a video card with a specific onboard encoder, and various audio devices that allow the use of studio class microphones.

The most important component and the only one you actually need to make a streaming pc work is the Capture card, with the sole exception of using the NDI protocol. This device will clone the video output of a computer, console, or camera, and allow you to send it out to OBS Studio, or your broadcasting software of choice. From there, you can record, or transmit your feed live to a streaming platform like Twitch, Glimesh, or YouTube.

Does a Dedicated streaming PC need a video card?

Do you need a discrete gpu for a dedicated streaming pc?

Right now, one of the hardest components to get your hands on is a modern Graphics card, like the Nvidia 30 series or AMD’s RX 6000 series. Well, fret not, because you don’t actually need a discrete GPU for your Streaming PC to perform well. A CPU with an onboard iGPU is sufficient because you can simply use the X264 encoder on the streaming PC cranked as high as it will go.

Of course, omitting the graphics card from the streaming PC isn’t without it’s drawbacks – Most of the Ryzen CPU lineup does not have integrated graphics processing units. You are limited to the G series of that CPU, which is a fair bit behind the CPU-only models in terms of performance. Intel is in a better spot for this, because most of their cpus do have an iGPU available to be used – and they are respectably fast on some of the modern chips.

Can you use a Laptop as a Dedicated streaming pc?

The next logical question in the line is in regards to a Laptop; If you don’t need a discrete video card, then perhaps a laptop could be a viable option as a dedicated streaming pc? And yeah, you’d be 100% correct – A laptop is a completely viable streaming pc, and in a lot of cases, the only choice if you are streaming somewhere outside of your home.

The main thing to consider regarding laptops is their age, as some of the older Laptop models lack certain CPU features that are needed to start a broadcast. This isn’t a feature that is advertised in the marketing material, but you can be assured that any laptop made in the last 5 years should be capable of it. With that said, the faster the CPU it has, the better it will be able to encode a stream. Bonus points if you source a laptop with a built-in Nvidia 20/30 series card to use the new NVENC encoder, which is almost always better than x264.

You will also need to make sure that the capture card model that you use is connected to the PC via USB, as a laptop does not have any PCI-E expansion slots. Oh, and avoid MacBooks that only have thunderbolt 3 ports unless you also have a thunderbolt to USB hub – there is only a single capture card on the market that can connect directly to a lightning interface, and it isn’t cheap.

Optional Components for a Streaming PC

GPUs with “New Nvenc” EncoderStudio MicrophonesAudio Interfaces
GTX 1650 SuperTonor BM-700 XLR (Side Address)Behringer UMC204hd (My 3 year review)
GTX 1660 SuperSamson Q2U USB/XLR (Front Address)Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
RTX 3060Elgato Wave 3 USB (Side Address)M-Audio M-Track Duo
RTX 3070Rode NT-USB-Mini (Side Address)Presonus AudioBox USB 96 2×2
RTX 3080Blue Yeti USB(Side Address)Steinberg UR22C 2×2
RTX 3090Samson Q9U XLR/USB (Front Address)Motu M2
XLR Mics require an audio interface or mixer – Get in on the Newegg Shuffle for a chance at getting an RTX card close to MSRP

As I mentioned above, the only required component is a capture card, but there are a few other devices that streamers use in the production of live streaming. These are the studio microphones, the audio interfaces or mixers needed to use them, and a discrete video card with a modern dedicated encoding chip built into them.

If you’re considering the Studio microphones, pay careful attention to it’s interface – USB or XLR. If you choose a microphone that only has XLR, then you will need an audio interface to go with it. My personal recommendation in this case is to go for the Behringer UMC204HD, as I have owned this interface for over three years, and can vouch for it.

USB Mics can interface with your pc over USB, as they have a bare bones audio interface built-in.

Why would you need a dedicated streaming pc?

There are two scenarios where you would be required to use a dedicated streaming pc:

  1. You are streaming a console video game that does not have the ability to stream, such as the Nintendo Switch, and all other consoles before the PlayStation 4 and Xbone.
    • You would also be required to get a capture card – NDI isn’t an option on these devices.
  2. The game you are trying to stream is too much for your computer to both render & stream at the same time.
    • Upgrading hardware, or offloading the streaming process onto your GPU encoder is an option for some.

Don’t fall into these categories? Then you do not need a dedicated streaming pc.

Benefits of having a Dedicated streaming PC.

With that said, there are benefits to having a dedicated streaming pc, though you can certainly work around these:

  • You can declutter your gaming pc of streaming programs, assets, and files
  • Fewer processes are running on your gaming pc
    • The result is an fps (frames per second) boost in-game while streaming
  • The X264 encoder can be pushed much further on a dedicated CPU

Drawbacks of having a Dedicated Streaming PC

The drawbacks of using a second pc to stream are pretty numerous –

  • A PC is an expensive device to buy and run.
    • Expect your power bill to rise,
  • A lot of heat – try to keep them in separate rooms
  • Wire spaghetti
    • I have a bad enough time with one PC
  • Circuit overload potential
    • I used to trip my circuit in my older home all the time with a single pc
    • Try to keep them on a separate circuit.
  • Increased bandwidth usage from things like Windows update
  • Can be complicated to route audio.

Is it worth getting a Dedicated Streaming PC?

As mentioned, there are only a few specific scenarios where you would be required to use a dedicated streaming pc. If you aren’t within those cases, and the benefits of such a setup don’t sound useful enough to you, then I would recommend against getting one.

That said, the decision is ultimately up to you – Perhaps you are getting an upgrade anyway, and want to use your old pc as a dedicated streaming pc. This is one scenario where it would make sense, at least to the point of trying it out. If you are lucky enough to have yourself an RTX card though, the New NVENC encoder is more than sufficient for this.

Check out my streaming pc build guide if you are looking to incorporate this into your streaming setup. Good luck in your streaming endeavors, stay healthy and have a great rest of your day!

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