Gaming is one of the most intense demands you can place on a PC, stressing the graphics card and CPU in equal measure as you mandate high frame rates, high resolutions, and high detail settings. The only way you can push it further is by diving into professional tasks like video editing, or doing both at the same time. And that’s what game streaming is: your PC is both gaming and transcoding video in real-time while you play.
It Needs to Tick a Range of Boxes
Unlike gaming alone, where a powerful graphics card can shoulder the real load of your demand, streaming and gaming at the same time needs the CPU to really push itself too. Where the GPU and CPU work together to render a game’s visuals, it’s the CPU that has to do the encoding. This means you need additional processor power if you’re planning to stream and game at the same time.
The one upside of transcoding, even in the context of doing it while gaming, is that it tends to scale very well with additional cores and the workload can be split well between them. That’s quite different from gaming, where single-threaded performance can make a much bigger difference to how well it can perform. While you still need a handful of cores to handle the most demanding of modern games, once you go beyond six cores, there are seriously diminishing returns.
That’s what makes the best CPU for streaming and gaming a unique piece of equipment. It needs to have a high per-core performance to handle the games themselves and ensure high frame rates, but it also needs plentiful cores for transcoding. That ensures that you don’t diminish your gaming performance by making demands of cores that are needed to help render the game, but also don’t diminish your viewers’ stream quality, by restricting yourself to transcoding at low resolutions or frame rates.
Best CPU for streaming and gaming on a budget
It might seem difficult to imagine making a budget PC that can both game and stream at the same time, and it is. But it’s not impossible. Chillblast has been making high-performance gaming PCs for almost two decades and that experience lets us wring every ounce of performance from even affordable PCs with high demands.
AMD Ryzen 5 3600
For a PC that can play games and stream without breaking the bank, the only processor really worth considering is the AMD Ryzen 5 3600.
This six-core CPU is a fantastic gaming chip that will pump out high frame rates in Esports and even AAA games if you pair it with the right graphics card. You’ll find this processor in PCs like the Chillblast Fusion Recoil, which pairs it with an Nvidia GTX 1650 Super, 16GB of RAM, and a terabyte of high-speed storage, to make sure that nothing stands in the way of your gaming and streaming performance.
Intel Core i5-10400F
There are a few Intel CPUs that can compete with the Ryzen 5 3600 on gaming performance, with the Core i5-10400F perhaps the best example of that. Like the Ryzen 5 3600, it also has six cores and 12 threads, but actually outputs slightly higher clock speeds. You’ll find it in systems like the Chillblast Fusion Insight Family PC for around £850 which is a great little gaming machine.
Which is The Better Choice?
The reason the Ryzen 5 3600 is so much better for gaming and streaming though, is its support for simultaneous multithreading. That means that even though the CPU has six cores, it can actually address 12 threads at one time.
It’s not the same as having 12 real cores, but it improves multi-threaded performance by a sizeable margin, which is a real boon to video transcoding performance and makes this the ideal chip for entry-level gaming and streaming.
To get comparable performance from an Intel chip, you’d need to spend that bit more for the 10th-generation Core i5 10400F. With hyperthreading, it too has six cores and 12 threads, and thanks to its higher clock speed, it does perform better than the Ryzen 5 3600.
However, it does come with drawbacks. Due to its socket-type, it requires a much more expensive motherboard, ultimately making it less of a budget choice. Though it’s certainly an option if you specifically want an Intel gaming and streaming PC, its performance is close enough with the Ryzen 5 3600 that it makes the Ryzen a much better value pick in terms of price to performance.
If you want to overclock your AMD Ryzen PC too, you can close that performance gap to almost nothing. Chillblast is happy to overclock any CPU in a new PC build we put together. It won’t invalidate your warranty either. Feel free to ask one of our highly experienced system builders about overclocking your new PC, to find out how much extra performance you can get from your hardware for free.
Mid-range gaming and streaming CPU
If you’re more a high-end gamer with a powerful graphics card you want to make the most of or want to guarantee that your stream viewers can watch at higher resolutions or frame rates, a mid-range CPU can make a real difference to your gaming and streaming experience.
Intel Core i5-10600K
Intel’s new king of the mid-range, and arguably the best gaming CPU of its generation, is the Core i5-10600K. It has six cores and 12 threads like the Core i5-10400F, but its individual cores are much faster. With a boost clock that hits 4.8GHz and an all-core boost of 4.5GHz, it is stupendously fast when running at full tilt, and with a high base clock of 4.1GHz, even sustained load or high-temperatures don’t slow this chip down much.
It’s also exceedingly overclockable. Many 10600K’s have been able to exceed 5.0GHz, making them almost as fast as the much more expensive Core i9-10900K in some games.
Intel Core i7-10700K
If you can stretch your budget a little further, an excellent alternative Intel CPU is the Core i7-10700K.
Like the previous generation 9700K, it has eight cores but this time with HyperThreading support, which means 16 threads, making it excellent for multitasking. Using Intel’s Turbo Boost technology, the i7-10700K can also reach up to 5.1GHz in clock speeds, making it one of the most powerful gaming processors ever made, easily outstripping its counterpart in the last-generation – especially if you’re gaming and streaming at the same time.
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X
While those CPUs are great on the gaming front and decent streaming processors too, the real king of mid-range gaming and streaming is AMD’s Ryzen 7 5800X.
It’s a beast of a processor; offering the same eight cores as the Ryzen 3700X, but with an extra 300MHz on the base and boost clocks for a maximum boost of 4.7GHz. With a particular slant towards accelerating productivity tasks where it can bring all of its multi-threaded potential to bear, the Ryzen 7 5800X is such a killer streaming CPU.
It’s a solid CPU for gaming too, but where the Intel processors have a clear advantage on that front, the 5800X excels when you’re streaming and gaming at the same time. And it’s not even particularly expensive.
If you don’t need RTX 3090-level visuals when gaming, you can get a 5800X-equipped gaming and streaming PC for as little as £1,700 in the Fusion Commando (as shown below).
Not enough for you? Both Intel and AMD do have even more high-end alternatives for you to consider
Intel Core i9-10900K Vs. AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
The two top CPUs of AMD and Intel’s mainstream contemporary lines bring even more cores to the table. The Intel Core i9-10900K has 10, while AMD’s top-tier Ryzen 9 3900X, has 12 – both supporting simultaneous multithreading too for double that number of threads.
They excel at different tasks, with the 10900K holding a noticeable lead in gaming performance, while the 3900X holds a few slim leads in multithreaded applications – like video transcoding – thanks to its additional cores and threads.
Which one is right for you very much depends on your situation. If you’re more interested in your gaming experience looking the best it can, the 10900K is your best bet. The 3900X may let you deliver a slightly improved viewing experience for your audience, but there’s not much in it.
Where you will notice the difference, is the price. The Core i9-10900K is noticeably more expensive, not only because the chip itself is more costly, but because the compatible motherboards for it aren’t cheap either. However, you can get away with a more affordable AMD 400 or 500-series motherboard and still make the most of your 3900X.
A more cost comparable CPU is the 9900K, which can hit similar 5GHz+ clock speeds as the 10900k with overclocking, but with eight cores, it falls behind the 3900X when it comes to its transcoding ability. That gives the Ryzen CPU a significant bang for buck advantage over both Intel counterparts for streaming and gaming simultaneously, even if it can’t take the performance crown.
The Ultimate Gaming and Streaming CPUs
If all you really care about is having the best processor for the best gaming and streaming experience for both you and your audience, then there are a few options that go beyond even AMD and Intel’s best mainstream CPUs.
AMD Ryzen 9 3950X
At the more modest end of the spectrum is AMD’s Ryzen 9 5950X. It can be built on the same 500 series motherboards as all other previous generations of Ryzen CPUs, but it’s a workstation chip in mainstream clothing.
With 16 cores, support for 32 threads, and the ability to boost to 4.9GHz when demanded, it’s one of the best processors ever, no matter what you want to do with it.
As a pure gaming chip, it isn’t quite as powerful as Intel’s 9900K and 10900K, but when it comes to transcoding video while you play, there’s almost nothing better.
You’ll find it inside some of Chillblast’s most powerful PCs, including the Fusion Jumbo Signature Edition. This machine pairs the Ryzen 3950X with the supreme power of an Nvidia RTX 3080, 32GB of high-speed DDR4 memory, and over 3.5TB of storage space – all for just shy of £3,300.
If you want to stream at ultra-high resolutions or edit video when you’re not live with the smoothest of live playback when dealing with your UHD video, then more cores than even the 5950X provides can come in handy. And AMD has a range of CPUs designed just for that.
They’re called Threadripper.
Previous generations of Threadripper CPUs have been amazing multitasking machines, but they fell behind the curve when it comes to gaming. Threadripper 3000 CPUs, however, have no such problems.
The Threadripper 3960X comes equipped with 24 cores, supports 48 threads, and still manages to hit a boost clock of 4.5GHz – an astounding hardware achievement, but also an amazing CPU for gaming and streaming. It far outstrips anything Intel has on offer when it comes to transcoding video – even its expensive HEDT CPUs – and gives you all the power you’d need for a top-tier gaming and streaming machine.
AMD’s Threadripper 3970X and 3990X offer even more cores and threads (32/64 and 64/128, respectively) but such CPUs are often underutilized by modern streaming platforms and you may not be able to make the most of them.
If you’re interested in the unprecedented video transcoding power they offer, give Chillblast’s expert system builder’s a call, and they can walk you through whether they’re the right CPUs for you.
Alternative – Make a Dedicated Streaming PC
If you already have a capable gaming PC and don’t want to perform a huge upgrade just to stream while you play, there is an alternative method some use to take the strain away from their main gaming machine: buy a dedicated streaming PC.
It’s possible to play a game on one PC and offload all of the work of video transcoding to the other. And it doesn’t need to be something supremely powerful either, since it can focus entirely on the streaming part of your workload. If you get a CPU which has a built-in GPU as well, you don’t even need to splash out for a graphics card.
The only caveat is that you may need to pay for a capture card if your gaming PC’s graphics card doesn’t support the necessary encoders to send the footage to your streaming PC over a network connection. Make sure to factor that into any plans you have to create a secondary PC for streaming.
AMD’s Ryzen 3200G would be a fantastic choice for a streaming PC. Its four cores and ability to boost up to 4.0GHz when needed makes it a great chip for such a task. You’ll find that in attractive, compact PCs like the Chillblast Fusion Imp, for just £570.
The Intel alternative for a dedicated streaming PC can be even more affordable. Its last-generation Core i3-9100 is an excellent little CPU in and of itself, but with its onboard graphics, it’s all you need to get a streaming PC up and running. It has four cores and can boost up to 4.2GHz as required.
The only other consideration to make with these entry-level machines outside of the CPU is the storage. It’s a good idea to equip them with enough high-speed SSD storage that all of the footage you’re transcoding has somewhere to reside while it’s being worked on. If you’re looking to transcode anything above 1080p, you’ll want a terabyte to play it safe.
What’s your dream CPU? Let us know in the comments below!