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Streaming is slowly becoming a hobby for many gamers. Why play alone when you can share your gameplay with people from all over the world on Twitch or YouTube? Sounds fun and you also can make new friends. For casual streaming, set at 720p/30fps, with a low bitrate, you can use almost any modern CPU with four cores and eight threads. For semi-pro streaming, on the other hand, you’ll need one of the most powerful CPUs on the market.
If you want to improve your streaming game, you’re in luck. Because today, we’ve made a list featuring the best CPUs for Twitch and YouTube streaming. We have the value, mid-range, and high-end picks, along with an interesting proposition for those on a tight budget.
Now, if you’re a streamer, you’ll probably want to check out our guide for the best RTX 3090 graphics cards. We also recommend our list of the best fiber optics modems and routers to keep your internet connection stable. Finally, visit our guide for the best 1440p 240Hz monitor in case you’re an esports streamer.
1. Intel Core i3 10100F: Best entry-level CPU for streaming
The i3 10100F is a solid CPU for esports games but not great for streaming them. Thus, we recommend this CPU only if you can combine it with Nvidia Turing and Ampere GPUs that will do the heavy lifting. Instead of using the fast or very fast OBS preset and getting subpar image quality, you can use NVENC and get both solid image quality and great CPU and GPU performance.
The Core i3 10100F is, at the moment, the best entry-level CPU for gaming and streaming. The Ryzen 3 3300X is a great CPU, and it outperforms the 10100F. However, its current price is more than ridiculous. So, if you’re on a tight budget, get the i3, pair it with any Turing-based Nvidia GPU or newer, and you’ve got yourself an excellent starting setup for streaming esports titles.
Remember, this CPU isn’t suited for software encoding. Your only viable option is to use NVENC. You can, in theory, use faster (superfast, very fast) OBS presets, but the image quality will look like you’ve recorded the game with a 90’s camcorder.
In case you decide to get the i3, we also recommend getting a budget B560 motherboard instead of a B460 board. The newer chipset allows memory overclocking, which can give you a nice performance boost while gaming and streaming.
If you’re a variety streamer and happen to stream AAA titles, you might want to spend more money and get a six-core CPU instead. If that’s the case, check out our next recommendation.
2. Intel Core i5 10400F: Best value CPU for streaming
The Core i5 10400F is a capable six-core processor that can run any current title at high refresh rates. 1440p high refresh rate gaming is guaranteed, as long as you have a capable graphics card. This makes the 10400F the best value CPU for streaming. Let the GPU do the heavy lifting, and your streamer career may commence.
The CPU could probably manage to output playable frame rates and a steady stream when using the medium preset in OBS, but we recommend sticking to the NVENC and enjoying (much) higher frame rates since the difference in quality between the two is visible but not that noticeable for you to sacrifice CPU performance.
As we already said in the previous section, pair the 10400F with a B560 motherboard and fast DDR4 memory (DDR4-3200 with tight latencies, for instance), and you will see a noticeable performance increase compared to using the CPU with a B460 board. If you want to learn just how much RAM affects CPU performance, jump to our RAM vs CPU guide.
3. Intel Core i7 10700KF: Best mid-range CPU for streaming
Thanks to its competitive pricing, the 10700KF is a better choice for streaming than both the Ryzen 7 3700X and 5800X. The 10700KF, surprisingly, can stream at higher quality via OBS than the 5800X without dropping frames. You will get slightly lower framerates, but we think the small performance hit is worth it, considering just how much pricier the 5800X is.
With that said, the AMD part is better at heavy multi-threaded workloads, but not by that much. The 10700KF is serviceable for video editing. You won’t lose too much time preparing YouTube videos of your streams. At the same time, you will be able to use higher OBS presets and get competitive frame rates in any game you might stream.
Overall, the 10700KF is an excellent mid-range gaming CPU. The 5600X might be a better choice for gamers who don’t stream. But if you’re streaming your games, two extra cores found in the 10700KF combined with almost the same price make the 10700KF much better CPU for streaming than the 5600X.
4. Intel Core i9 10850K: Best value high-end CPU for streaming
The Core i9 10850K is the best value CPU for streaming if we’re looking at pricier gaming CPUs. A perfect choice for streamers who want to use software encoding. The CPU, which is a 10900K with a slightly lower overclock potential and boost clocks, trades blows with the 3900X when it comes to streaming performance.
The thing is, the 3900X is noticeably pricier than the 10850K at the moment. The pricing situation makes the Intel CPU a better choice for gaming and streaming. On the other hand, the 5800X is priced about the same, and it is a faster gaming CPU.
But when it comes to CPU-based streaming, two more cores on the 10850K make a huge difference. The 5800X is worse at gaming + streaming even than the 10700K, making the 10850K a better choice at the same price bracket.
5. AMD Ryzen 9 5900X: Best high-end CPU for streaming and video editing
The Ryzen 9 5900X is a beast of a CPU, and, if you ask us, the best CPU for streaming, overall. It can handle any game with OBS slow [email protected] turned on and with a high bitrate. Even the infamous Ashes of the Singularity will run smooth, without a single dropped frame.
And the best thing of all is that the 5900X is also an immensely powerful processor for serious work. You can use it for video editing, and you’ll create and export videos for YouTube in no time. If you want the best, the 5900X is the way.
Combine it with a mid-range motherboard, and you’re set. Our list of the best B550 motherboards includes multiple boards that should be a perfect pairing with the 5900X. Now, if you have the cash and you want an even faster CPU for heavy multitasking, check out our next recommendation.
6. AMD Ryzen 9 5950X: Best flagship CPU for streaming
If you want the best CPU for gaming and streaming, get the Ryzen 9 5900X. But if you have the cash and can use all 16 cores found on the Ryzen 9 5950X, feel free to get it over the 5900X. This is the most powerful mainstream CPU you can get at the moment, and, for most users, it’ll be overkill.
Even if you’re streaming @1080p with a high bit-rate. However, if you’re doing a lot of 4K video editing, you could save a considerable amount of time by getting this 16-core behemoth. One of its redeeming qualities is that the 5950X doesn’t require a high-end motherboard to fully spread its wings, so that’s something.
But at the end of the day, the 5950X is expensive as hell. Again, we don’t recommend it for gamers who just want a CPU for streaming. If that’s the case, get the 5900X and invest the price difference in a better monitor or a faster GPU. But if you can harness 100 percent of its power, the 5950X is an amazing choice.
7. AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X: Best workstation CPU for streaming
The Ryzen Threadripper 3960X is a premium workstation CPU with a price to match. If you need its 24 cores for serious video editing or rendering workloads and have money to burn, get it, it’s a beast. But if you need a CPU just for gaming and streaming again, the 5900X is the best buy at the moment.
Yes, you can use a Threadripper with the best OBS presets, but they bring diminishing returns. It’s better to increase bitrate than to go from medium to slow preset if you want to increase the quality of your stream. And that means faster internet, not faster CPU with more cores.
The 3960X has an advantage when doing extremely demanding workloads. Stuff like simultaneous streaming and rendering and similar, ultra-demanding multi-threaded workloads. If you plan to use the 3960X for something like that, get it.
Using Nvidia Turing & Ampere GPUs for streaming
Nvidia’s NVENC hardware accelerated video encoding engine received a slew of upgrades on the Turing graphics cards. This includes GTX 1650 and 1660 models and their sub-variants, as well as Ampere GPUs (RTX 3000 series). This means that, in theory, you don’t need a fast CPU with tons of cores anymore to have excellent video quality while streaming at high bitrates.
The reality is a bit different. While proving better at low bitrates and when run against the OBS X264 Fast preset, video quality was below the OBS X264 Medium preset. Now, the thing is that you cannot use the X264 medium preset with CPUs that have four or six cores since their performance will tank. Those CPUs have too few cores for the medium preset. If you have one, it’s better to use an Nvidia Turing GPU for encoding.
Nvidia graphics cards are also better in case you have poor internet and cannot stream in high bitrate. At low bitrates, the NVENC beats both X264 fast and medium presets in OBS. And this is just what our budget CPU picks need to provide. Competitive performance and high framerates in eSports titles while at the same time allowing for a watchable quality of your stream. You only lose five to ten percent of frames while getting a pretty good video quality.
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