Every pro-streamer needs to have an awesome streaming PC set up. To achieve this, a robust gaming PC is crucial for smooth gameplay and video streaming.
If your equipment is not up to scratch, you can experience game lag, stuttering and buffering while streaming.
A specialised streaming PC is often the best option for many gamers who want to provide the best viewing experience. But how should you choose the best streaming PC for the job? Keep reading to find out how.
What do I need to start streaming on a gaming PC?
Streaming is the process of capturing, encoding, and uploading video and audio information in real-time. It has soared in popularity since the launch of the streaming platform, Twitch Every video stream requires encoding. This is where software or hardware encoders will turn raw information into compressed files that are easily understood by streaming platforms.
To get started, you only need a few things:
- A streaming PC
- Appropriate peripherals
- A steady internet connection
- Access to a streaming platform such as Twitch or Youtube Gaming
- Your favourite games
Your streaming PC set up can be fully customised to suit your gameplay needs and aesthetic tastes. Because of the hardware demands of streaming and encoding, we recommend that you use the top gaming PCs and accessories within your budget.
What specs should a streaming PC have?
If you’re just starting, you’ll likely be running your game whilst uploading the video and audio at the same time. However, many online creators use a more complex setup with two PCs – one for streaming and another for gameplay. Which option you decide on is ultimately down to your personal preference and budget.
Despite your preferred streaming PC set up, many platforms such as Twitch still require a minimum specification. The platform recommends having at least an Intel Core i5-4670 processor (or its AMD equivalent) with a minimum of 8GB of RAM.
As far as the operating system goes, your streaming PC must run at least Windows 7. However, keep in mind that support for Windows 7 ended in January 2020, which may cause your PC to become more vulnerable to security risks. So, if you can push to a more recent Windows operating system, you can not only stream your favourite games but also do it safely. It’s also worth noting that you can stream using IOS on a Mac.
More importantly than your operating system is your internet connection and speed. You’ll want to ensure you have a sturdy internet of at least 3MB per second, so an ethernet cable is often the best option.
Looking at graphics cards, you’ll want to choose an option that supports your favourite games and gives you the quality of gameplay you’re looking for. After all, the whole point is to enjoy playing whilst streaming! Although, it is recommended that your PC should at least be DirectX 10 compatible or upwards.
When it comes to the specification of your streaming PC, keep in mind that these are the minimum recommendations. The more powerful it is, the better it will perform.
The quality of your accessories is a personal choice. Many creators will happily stream their games with an entry-level HD webcam and microphone headset. This is because Twitch PC streaming does not support 4k video. Having said this, numerous gamers like to create complex streaming setups, including elements such as LED lighting, green screens and branded backdrops. Again, the choice is yours.
In terms of audio, you will see a noticeable difference in your gameplay as you work your way up the specifications. Particularly if you jump from an entry-level headset to one with surround sound. While this will impact the quality of your gameplay, it won’t have any effect on your video stream. Therefore, your accessory choices come down to the experience you want to give your viewers and your budget.
How much is a decent streaming PC and its accessories?
Gaming PCs come in a wide range of prices. As a rule of thumb, the more you can comfortably invest, the better the output will be.
There are a variety of decent entry-level gaming PC set ups which come in at around £450. Many of these will meet the basic streaming specifications and give you reasonable performance. Entry-level PCs are ideal for streaming low-demand games at 1080p or more taxing games at 720p. With cheaper options, you’ll likely need to lower your graphical settings and use hardware encoding.
Moving upwards to medium-spec PCs, you’re looking in the region of £850-£1,500. You will notice the difference between an entry-level and mid-range PC in terms of smoothness, speed and overall output. These gaming PCs are ideal for streaming most modern games at high settings of 1080p or 720p, using both hardware or software encoding.
Looking at a pro-level gaming PC with the highest quality performance will set you back roughly £2,200 upwards to around £5,000! These PCs are for streaming the most intensive and demanding games at the absolute highest quality possible.
Peripherals come in all shapes, sizes, and colours. As we’ve already mentioned, your choice of accessories is ultimately down to your gameplay preferences. This is because the streaming requirements from platforms such as Twitch are fairly low. A basic HD webcam will cost you around £20-£30 and will be ample for your live stream.
Looking at microphones, you have the option to purchase integrated headsets with built-in microphones or a stand-alone unit. Clip-on microphones are extremely cheap at around £5, with tripod mics coming in slightly more expensive at £35-£50. Just like a PC, as you work your way up the price brackets, the quality of audio increases with top-end microphones coming in at £150 upwards.
Audio-wise, this is where you will probably see the most difference as a gamer rather than a viewer. You can play PC games using any headphones, including over-ear or in-ear. Many streamers play with standard in-ear headphones, whilst others like to use state of the art gaming headsets. Entry-level headphones will set you back around £20-£50. This price bracket will get you decent audio with reasonable comfort for short periods. But it’s likely that your headset won’t have surround sound, which can be very useful when playing combat games such as Call of Duty and Fortnite.
Medium-range headsets will be noticeably different in comfort, as well as audio performance. These typically cost between £60 and £150. Within this price range, you’ll surround sound products and other desirable elements such as breathable gel cushioning for longer gameplay or even LEDs.
At the top of the pyramid are the pro-headsets. These will provide you with the ultimate in audio gameplay, comfort and aesthetic features. Pro-level headphones are often £150-£200 upwards.
Just like your gaming PC set up, the more that you can comfortably invest in your peripherals, the better your gaming experience and the experience given to your subscribers.
So, what PC is best for streaming?
In summary, the best PC for streaming is one that makes your stream as smooth as possible, but most importantly, allows you to have fun and enjoy the online community. By carefully choosing the hardware and investing in your streaming pc setup, you can ensure better performance and a smoother stream.
Emily Walton is a Content and SEO Specialist for Digital Marketing Agency Tillison Consulting. Writing for a broad spectrum of online clients sees Emily experienced in lifestyle, music, art, design, business and digital marketing related topics. When Emily is not crafting content she is actively driving organic traffic to client sites with her SEO expertise. Find Emily on Twitter @Tillison_Emily