What are the advantages of using a dedicated streaming PC?


When it comes to PC Game streaming, I’ve always kept it simple: I have a powerful gaming rig and I stream directly off it. But I read an article, buried over in the archives over at IGN, that said most Pro streamers use a dedicated streaming PC. So that got me thinking. Why would they bother with a dedicated streaming setup? What are the advantages to using a second dedicated streaming PC? Thinking the payoff to use a dedicated rig must be big for the pros, I set out to discover the advantages.

What are the advantages of using a dedicated streaming PC? A dedicated streaming PC removes the extra load that encoding a live stream places on your gaming PC. This helps your Gaming PC to play games at its full potential and maximise performance.

We know that using a dedicated streaming PC can help you achieve higher frame rates on the gaming PC. But what other benefits do you get from building a dedicated streaming rig? Let’s explore some of these questions in more detail.

What are the benefits of having a dedicated streaming PC?

Ok so you’ve got a monster gaming rig. But Streaming on it is causing problems. Your games are crashing when they weren’t before. Your frame rate is tanking in the wrong places. And you’ve got a load of stuttering.

As soon as you stop streaming all that disappears and your PC is running silky smooth again.

What gives?

Your sporting a monster Rig: 8 CPU Cores, 16 threads, Nvidia Titan power. Yet, when you start streaming your PC doubles over begging for mercy.

Unfortunately, you’ve discovered that streaming and gaming, don’t always play nice with each other.

Which is ironic considering without gaming Twitch streaming wouldn’t be a thing.

You see, streaming is quite an intensive process that gives your PC quite a work out. Think of it like this.

Your PC when playing games is like going for jog. You can do it easily enough. Run a few miles with no problem. Now, try doing that Jog while doing shoulder presses with 10KG dumbbells.

It wouldn’t matter how good you are at running or how how strong your shoulders are. You’ll struggle doing both at the same time.

Now, I know you know that makes perfect sense.

But this is exactly what you’re asking your PC to do every time you stream and play games at the same time.

You’re asking your gaming rig to lift dumbbells while it jogs! And it can then do neither well. No matter how much power your PC has, it’ll still struggle. It’s not about raw processing power, it’s about juggling between two things that your PC needs to give it’s full attention too. And it fails miserably at it.

So how do you get around the problem? What are your options?

Well you can build yourself a dedicated streaming PC.

What’s a dedicated streaming PC I hear you cry… Well it’s just a normal PC but it’s used to do all the streaming stuff.

It doesn’t have to be very powerful. Heck, it doesn’t even need a proper graphics card. All your streaming PC needs is a decent quad core CPU. Then you’ll be able to stream at 4K @ 60 fps.

Nice!

So what are the benefits to having a dedicated streaming PC? Well, I have a handy ready-made bullet point list with all the idea written down::

  • Increases FPS on gaming rig
  • Decreases stutter
  • Decreases crashes
  • Lowers power usage of PC components
  • Decreases wear on PC components as they are not running flat out
  • Dedicated PC let’s you configure that PC very carefully for streaming
  • Streaming PC can by very small and discreetly stored out of the way
  • Streaming PCs can be build very cheaply
  • You can use old laptops if they have the right connectors and are powerful enough.

Let’s look at each in a little more depth.

Increased FPS

Every PC gamer wants better FPS. Anybody who says otherwise is lying to you. That’s why Nvidia shifts enough graphics cards every year to sink the Titanic. And then use their Tensor cores to figure out how to rise her again.

It’s why AMD sells shipment crates full of Ryzen CPUs every month.

Simply put, we are obsessed with frames per second. And some people will pay nearly anything for the fastest speed possible.

So gamers care about playing their games at every increasing frames per second. But if you choose to stream at the same time while gaming, depending on the game, your FPS could go all Titanic on you and hit a rock bottom.

Your game’s fps suffers because modern PCs, for all their multitasking prowess, actually aren’t very good at multitasking when dealing with heavy loads. Who would have thought. They swap between each task every so often, getting confused which one to concentrate on, ending up doing neither well.

So building a Dedicated streaming PC will remove this problem.

Decreases stutter

Stutter, to some gamers, can be bigger annoyance than a low FPS. Even if you game at 30fps on your PC, with the right graphical tweaks, the game can feel smooth.

However, all that get thrown out with window if every second or two the game freezes. This is the dredded stutter.

Now this is problematic. Everything on screen stops for second. Like something out of Matrix (You’ve seen that film, right?). Time, for you anyway, seems to stand still.

But unfortunately, time hasn’t stopped at all. What’s actually happening is the game play has stopped moving but everything else, like the game world or other players bullets, are still freely wizing around.

So you could find yourself in the unfortunate position of your game unfreeze to reveal yourself dead.

Why does this happen?

It’s because you’re gaming rig is trying to balance calculating two high resources process simultaneously: The game and encoding the game stream.

On paper, your PC should easily be powerful enough to cope with doing both tasks at the same time.

But, just like you are physically capable of eating a burger easily or going for a nice swim. If you combine those two activities you’ll quickly learn that you’ll do neither well. Believe me, I’ve tried.

And again, this can be remedied by using a seperate streaming rig.

Lowers power usage of components.

Ok, so modern PC’s use a lot of power. That’s just the way it is. None of us are going to be winning ‘Save the Earth Day’ awards. My current PC, for example, has a draw of about 600 Watts per hour. Many meaty gaming PCs can easily double that amount as they, one FPS at a time, destroy our lovely and only I might add, planet.

But your PC rarely hits its maximum power draw, even when you’re gaming. You may not realize it but if the game is limited to, say, 60fps, 60% of your graphics card and CPU will literally be sitting around doing nothing for a good chunk of your gaming session. Problem is, the parts of the CPU that have decided to call in sick for the day are still using power.

So maybe you think you can use that extra horsepower to stream! Yeah, that’s probably logicalidea. Until you get all the problems listed on this here list.

It’s not that your PC can’t handle this load. I’m sure it’s a fine strapping lad of a gaming rig that you’ve put together.

The thing is, your PC shouldn’t have to bear this load. You’re literally burning away electricity and destroying the earth with your gaming. Ok, that might be an exaggeration but you get me, right?

By getting yourself a dedicated streaming rig you could be saving electricity, saving cash and saving the Earth. And Greenpeace will love you for it.

Decreases wear on PC components

Again, lowering your component usage has another unexpected positive side effect. Avoiding running at MAXIMUM GAME (Thank you Crytek) all the time, means your saving your components.

Shocking as it may seem, your PC components actually do wear. They age, and eventually die. Sometimes horrible deaths… Like this time when the smell of burning metal assaulted nose and I looked down to see sparks flying around the inside of my PC…. Sorry, it’s too difficult to talk about.

Regardless, you’ll be doing your gaming rig a service by offloading the streaming to a dedicated streaming rig.

A Dedicated streaming PC let’s carefully configure it for streaming

Ok, as you know, I’m new to the whole PC streaming, let’s make money from gaming, arena. I’m like you, I’m learning.

I don’t know as much about the different software that powers PC streaming as much as I should.

However, I do know a lot about software in general. And one thing that software likes is to be configured. You know what I mean. All PC enthusiasts like to tickle the options don’t they hehe ;-).

And I’m no different.

Streaming software needs to be configured for your CPU, your RAM, your streaming card, your, well, pretty much everything.

By providing a stand alone streaming rig, you can tinker away ‘till your heart’s content without worrying about wiping your hard drive or deleting something important like the Windows Registry.

A dedicated machine will give you the room to explore and to experiment. Not something you really want to be doing on your multi thousand dollar/pound PC.

Dedicated streaming PCs can by very small and discreetly stored

You only need a basic quad core CPU with onboard graphics to stream at 4k @ 60fps. The fact that you can dump the Giant GPU blade is great. Saves you a huge amount of space. But dumping the graphics cards means you don’t need as much power. This means you can also drop the black box power unit that seems to have found a home in every modern gaming PC. And this will save you even more space.

Instead you can concentrate on lower power components. Components that don’t need a massive amount of cooling. Components that don’t need a huge amount of space.

In fact, you can build a tiny PC using the mini-ITX motherboard standard. A motherboard that is only 15cm by 15 cms in size.

This tiny size lets you build some extremely compact PCs without sacrificing too much power.

And being small means the micro PC can be stored anywhere. I’ve even stored micro PCs using really strong velcro on a wall!

Dedicated Streaming PCs can be build very cheaply

Ok, I know every time the word ‘cheaply’ is used it should have the word relatively proceeding it. You’re not going to build a dedicated streaming PC for $50 new.

However, it is possible to build one, with the right components, for well under $250. That $250 dollars would get you a PC case, a PSU, a hard drive, the CPU with built in graphics, the RAM, and a copy of Windows 10 for a fiver (Wisper: Check eBay).

Get all that and your set to rock!

And you can do it even cheaper if you don’t mind buying used parts. My current gaming rig is actually an experiment in buying used parts. And my PC has been humming along for the past two years with no problems at all.

Here’s a quick list of the components it packs. I’ve got an Intel Core i5-6400, 16GB 2400 DDR4 RAM, 2 SSDs, a 750 watt PSU and an Nvidia GTX 970. It it cost me around £280 in total to build. And £130 of that was for the GTX 970!

So if you can build an out and out gaming PC from used parts, you can build a dedicated streaming PC.

You can use old laptops if they are powerful enough

Another cool bonus, if you decide to go down the dedicated streaming root, is you can use an old laptop.

Now, I’m not saying you can use a crusty old Pentium 3 or, even worse, a Celeron laptop. You will need something with a bit of go.

However, if all you want to do is stream at 1080p, you’ll get away with a dual core CPU. Ok you won’t be streaming at 4K. But if you’re just starting out, then 4k isn’t going to matter a huge amount. Just doing the streaming matters.

So putting that old laptop to use would be a good idea.

Or even buying an old ex office laptop off ebay would be a good idea. You can readily pick old dual core laptops up for well under £100. So that’s a good option too.

However, a word of caution. To set up a dedicated gaming PC or laptop you need some specialized hardware to pass through the signal from the gaming RIg into the Streaming PC.

That means you need a bit of hardware that lets you insert a HDMI going from your gaming rig. And HDMI cable going out to your monitor. If a laptop doesnt have a means to output a  modern digital video signal you’ll find that laptop hard to use.

Fortunately, with modern technology and the help of Elgato you don’t have to worry. You can hook up the Elgato HD60 s to give you all the needed HDMI sockets to start streaming.

Conclusion

Ok, by now you should have a pretty good understanding that building a dedicated streaming PC is a good idea.

Some of the key reasons I touched include the fact that you’ll no longer experience decreased FPS or stuttering while gaming. Your gaming PC can concentrate on what it does best: Gaming.

We then took a look at how they can save on electricity.

Then we swiftly moved on to how you can build streaming PCs cheaply and put them in very small mini-iTX cases. Great for keeping them out of the way. You can even buy one of those Intel NUC mini PCs. If you fancy burning some of your cash.  

So there are many benefits to using a dedicated streaming PC.

Join us next time as I talk you through building the ultimate budget dedicated streaming PC.

Related Questions

Is game streaming really a viable career option? Yes. Becoming a game streamer really is a viable career option these days as the barriers for entry are so low. Take a look at our in depth article on 20 reasons why professional gaming is viable career option.  

Are there any tips or tricks for training yourself to become a pro gamer? First, you should play your pro game of choice as often as you can. However, it’s also important to think like a professional sports person. You need to include targeted training in your gaming regime. Similar to how a tennis player will strike 1000 balls a day just with a forehand to train that shot. We’ll be writing our first guide on this soon so stay tuned.

How long should I stream? When it comes to game streaming, you should aim to stream for as long as possible without neglecting other important areas of your life. Check out my in depth article here on how long you should be streaming for.

Nick Sinclair

Having played games since the golden age of the Commodore 64, Nick finally took the plunge and studied Creative Game Design in university. After 3 years of "Study", Nick co-founded a games company where he soon discovered his true calling: writing about games. 11 years later Nick writes about a tower of topics, but gaming is always stacked neatly at the top.

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