The Best CPU for Streaming in 2021
So you want to be the next famous video game streamer? Now is the perfect time to get in on the booming market. In 2021, the live streaming industry was worth an estimated 10 billion dollars, and that number was expected to grow by 3 billion in 2021.
Amazon's Twitch still leads the way with over 75 percent of the total market share of hours watched in 2021's third quarter, but Google's YouTube Gaming is gaining popularity and is now worth 17 percent of the total market share. Facebook Gaming and Mixer are also worth mentioning, but they both have less than 5 percent of the total market share.
Some of the biggest names in live video game streaming make hundreds of thousands of dollars per month. Ninja reportedly makes $500,000 every month and other streamers like Shroud, Tfue, DrLupo, and TimtheTatman aren't that far behind.
Luckily, you're in the right place to get started! Every live game streaming rig needs a great CPU. From cores to thread counts and clock speeds, your processor is extremely important to ensure a consistent and lag-free streaming experience for your viewers. From AMD's Ryzen to Intel's Core series, finding the perfect processor can be difficult. Luckily, we're here to tell you which is the best CPU currently on the market.
|AMD Ryzen 7 2700x||8||4.3 GHz Max Boost|
|Intel Core i7-8700K||6||3.70 GHz up to 4.70 GHz|
|AMD Ryzen 2700||8||4.1 GHz Max Boost|
|AMD Threadripper 1950X||16||(up to 4.2 GHz with XFR|
|Ryzen 5 2600X||6||4.2 GHz Max Boost|
10 Best CPUs for Streaming
1. AMD Ryzen 7 2700X Processor with Wraith Prism LED Cooler
Base Clock: 3.7 GHz
Max Clock: 4.3 GHz
The AMD Ryzen series is filled with great second-generation CPUs, and the AMD Ryzen 7 2700X leads the way in 2021. With 8 cores and 16 threads, it's capable of handling even the most intense workloads. From 4K streaming to high-load gaming, this chip will perform with smoothness and clarity.
Intel is lagging (pun intended) behind when it comes to streaming CPUs, which is one of the reasons that AMD now boasts 50 percent of the total market share in the industry. AMD fixed their low Instructions Per Cycle (IPC) output with this newer generation, achieving a full 3 percent more IPC than its predecessor.
As far as price considerations go, this CPU isn't the cheapest on the market, but the price-to-performance ratio is unmatched. This chip is well worth the few extra dollars, and your subscribers will thank you later as they're watching a lag-free streaming experience.
This is the best CPU for streaming available on the market.
2. Intel Core i7-8700K Desktop Processor
Base Clock: 3.7 GHz
Max Clock: 4.7 GHz
Socket: Intel LGA
While AMD is cornering the streaming market, Intel is delivering a better overall gaming experience. Delivering a high-quality gaming performance is essential for streamers that are playing data-heavy games with complex AI and heavily-used physics, and Intel does just that with its Intel Core i7-8700K.
Despite having two fewer cores and four fewer threads, this CPU punches well above its weight. Again, sacrificing some streaming performance in favor of gaming performance isn't always a terrible idea. After all, it's impossible to be the best at data-heavy games without adequate load times and a lag-free gaming experience.
Intel's best chip also offers great overclocking ability. You'll need to purchase the best cooling equipment available on the market to get it there, but this CPU is capable of boosting all the way to 4.7 GHz, which is nearly unheard of.
It should be noted that just because Intel focuses on gaming performance over streaming performance and the AMD Ryzen series is better in terms of streaming doesn't mean Intel doesn't offer a high-quality streaming CPU. This chip will still easily record in 4K and up to 60 FPS.
3. AMD Ryzen 7 2700 Processor with Wraith Spire LED Cooler
So, why is the Ryzen 7 2700X more expensive? It comes equipped with better base and boost frequencies, making it slightly faster and better able to handle heavy-load gaming and streaming simultaneously. For those that aren't concerned about a budget, the 2700X is the clear favorite.
However, the 2700X's younger brother is almost as effective and offers a similar price-per-performance comparison. Its multitasking capabilities are still high-end, and it comes with better performance, improved IPC, and AMD's world-renowned Wraith cooler. It can do everything the 2700X can do, but slightly less efficiently.
For novice gamers and streamers, this is the best CPU. It allows you to test out the industry for a cheaper price tag but without greatly sacrificing performance and capabilities. Remember, you don't always need the absolute best model to stream like a professional.
4. AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X Desktop Processor
Base Clock: 4.0 GHz
Max Clock: 4.2 GHz
The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X CPU is a top-of-the-line processor, but it comes with a few drawbacks. With 16 cores and 32 threads, it can handle any multitasking requests thrown its way. Gaming and streaming is a breeze, and both users and viewers can enjoy a completely lag-free experience.
Unfortunately, the Threadripper 1950X is very expensive both in terms of its overall price and power usage. It is nearly impossible to run this CPU with a standard setup. Streamers will have to invest in a high-end motherboard and basically their own hydroelectric power plant to keep this processor up and running. At 180 watts, its energy consumption is almost unparalleled in the industry.
AMD's high-end processor blurs the line between prosumers and enterprises by increasing core count and maintaining a reasonable IPC. It'll be a very difficult challenge to overheat this monster, as it'll easily handle running Twitch, YouTube, a high-load gaming environment, chats, search engines, and more all at the same time. Basically, it can run more programs and applications than you could possibly focus on.
For professionals that earn thousands of dollars per month, the AMD Ryzen Threadripper could be the best option.
5. AMD Ryzen 5 2600X Processor with Wraith Spire Cooler
Base Clock: 3.6 GHz
Max Clock: 4.2 GHz
The AMD Ryzen 5 2600X CPU is the most cost-effective processor on this list. It works great as a standard gaming CPU, but unfortunately, its lower price tag also comes with lesser performance with regard to streaming.
It works fine for 1080 streaming and gaming, but with only 6 cores and 12 threads, it lacks the efficiency and some of the capabilities of its Ryzen 7 series counterparts. Both the Ryzen 7 2700X and 2700 are significantly better than the Ryzen 5 2600X.
That said, for novice gamers and streamers, this CPU makes a lot of sense. It's a low-power, low-cost option that allows beginners to get started without breaking the bank. The AMD Ryzen 5 still has high-level performance and most of the built-in bells and whistles that come with most AMD products, including good base and boost frequencies. It can boost clock all the way to 4.2 GHz. Oh, and it comes with a cooling fan!
Its gaming and streaming performances don't measure up to its higher-end AMD or Intel industry peers, but operating on a budget can be difficult. You can always upgrade as your streaming fanbase increases, and this CPU lets you jog out of the gate before you sprint.
6. AMD Ryzen 5 3600X Desktop Processor with Wraith Spire Cooler
Base Clock: 3.8 GHz
Max Clock: 4.4 GHz
The AMD Ryzen 5 3600X is slightly more advanced that its 2600X younger brother. With a slightly higher price tag, it offers a few additional features that can boost streaming and gaming performance. At over 100 frames per second for heavy-load games, this processor is one of the best on the market.
The advanced-level caching capability makes data retrieval quick and efficient, and with a 6-core, 12-thread CPU loading speeds are never a concern. Unfortunately, the 3600X does require a bit more power wattage than the Ryzen 7 3700X (see below), and with similar performance specs to the 2700X, this is an option that only those unconcern about budget will benefit from.
7. AMD Ryzen 7 3700X Desktop Processor with Wraith Prism LED Cooler
The Ryzen 7 3700X desktop processor delivers all of the same benefits of the 3600X, but requires significantly less power, making it one of the best 2021 AMD CPUs on the market. While it does come with a Wraith Prism LED cooling system, purchase options include bundles with a Corsair air cooler, X570-E gaming ATX motherboard, and X570 AORUS pro WiFi. Each item is between one-and-a-half to two times the price of the standard 3700X CPU.
According to Fnatic, "to meet [the company's] world-class hardware requirements, [it] needs a processor that offers high-quality, high-FPS gaming performance [it] can trust. AMD helps deliver that need with Ryzen processors."
As one of the industry's leading Ryzen products, the 3700X is one of the best CPUs available on the market for both gaming and streaming. Not only does this advanced-level CPU deliver a great gaming experience, audiences around the world can simultaneously watch you stream that incredible gaming experience in a lag-free environment.
8. Intel Core i9-9900K Desktop Processor
Base Clock: 3.6 GHz
Max Clock: 5.0 GHz
Socket: Intel LGA
The Intel Core i9-9900K desktop processor is the best CPU Intel currently offers. With its 8-core, 16-thread processor, there is no need to worry about speed or efficiency. Though it does have a low base frequency, this monster of a CPU boosts up to 5.0 GHz. Like most Intel products, the cache is low, but the power consumption is reasonable.
As one of the fastest processors in the industry, gaming is a breeze. It can handle even the most intensive RPG-style gaming experiences, but it isn't as good as AMD when it comes to streaming. Streaming relies more heavily on multitasking, and while this processor can definitely multitask, AMD processors around the same price tag do a better job. Of course, this processor would crush the Ryzen 5, but probably not the Ryzen 7 or 9.
Before the newer Ryzen series released, this CPU was hands-down the best on the market. Now, it competes against similarly priced processors with higher base frequencies and better caching ability. However, if Intel is your preferred company as far as processing chips are concerned, it doesn't get much better than this. Just watch out for the excessive price tag.
9. AMD Ryzen 9 3900X Desktop Process with Wraith Prism LED Cooler
The AMD Ryzen 5 3600X might be cheaper, but the Ryzen 9 3900X is absolutely overkill in the gaming and streaming industries. With a ridiculous 12-core, 24-thread processor, it can handle any task you throw its way. It is great for heavy-load gaming, simultaneous streaming, and more.
The Ryzen 9 overclocks like a champion with a top boost of 4.6 GHz, and its huge 70MB caching system allows it to easily track down previously stored data. If money and power considerations are not important to you, this is the best processor on the market. However, it doesn't offer the most value for its price tag.
Not many gamers and streamers need a processor this fast and effective, and most can't afford the 105 watt power requirement. For standard gaming and streaming, the Ryzen 5 product is likely a better deal, but if the best possible gaming and streaming experience is important to you, look no further.
10. Intel Core i5-9400 Desktop Processor
Base: 2.9 GHz
Max Clock: 4.1 GHz
Socket: Intel LGA
The Intel Core i5-9400 is one of the cheaper Intel products. Its 6-core, 6-core processor doesn't offer much in terms of multitasking and efficiency compared to alternatives, but it will work for standard gaming and streaming. If you're looking for a cost-effective Intel product, this is the CPU for you. That said, the Ryzen 5 series simply performs better.
Choosing the Right Streaming CPU for You
Finding the perfect CPU for streaming is exactly the same as finding the perfect gaming CPU - the perfect processor only exists for you. Everyone has different goals and setups, which require different processors with more or less cores, higher or lower thread counts, and faster or slower clock speed. Finding the best CPU requires you to know your goals and understand how elements like cores and threads will better help you reach those goals.
Is the CPU Really That Important for Streaming?
When it comes to gaming, you might skimp on a gaming CPU in favor of the GPU, but as far as streaming is concerned, the CPU is king.
Multi-core processing is essential for streaming because the CPU has to process various applications at once. In order to avoid on-screen lag, which is very important for your viewers when streaming, you'll need a high-speed, high-quality processor.
As important as a gaming CPU is for ensuring that the gameplay doesn't freeze up, a streaming CPU has to do that and more, unless you have a split-computer setup, of course. If that's the case, your budget is likely not a concern, and a more expensive CPU shouldn't be a problem.
How Many Cores Do I Need for Streaming?
This is a rather open-ended question, but a single-core performance isn't going to cut it. The number of cores you need for streaming depends on a variety of factors, but 4 or 6 cores is rather common with 8 cores being slightly excessive. Of course, 8 cores will mean a more powerful and multifaceted performance, but it comes with a price tag. For those that must remain fiscally concerned, there are a few cheaper 6-core CPUs available.
All in all, 4 cores is a must, while 6 cores seems to be the industry standard for low-profile streamers. Some of the more advanced, well-known streamers will use 8 or 16-core processors to ensure optimal performance for both gaming and streaming.
Are More Cores Better for Streaming?
Simply put, more cores are almost always better for streaming, yes. There is a minor caveat. The more cores a processor has, the lower each core's clock speed will be, which might reduce single-core performance. However, more cores increase multi-core performance, and streaming is hard to accomplish without great multi-core performance. The drain on single-core performance tends to be minimal for the better CPUs, so generally speaking, more cores is better.
Don't forget, a lot of games are currently optimizing around multi-core processors, so having more cores will help with gaming performance, as well.
Do Thread Counts and Clock Speeds Matter?
Thread count can definitely be an important aspect of a great CPU, but the debate over cores and threads is still at the center of a lot of gaming and streaming arguments. Threads help the CPU's cores operate more efficiently. Consider a conveyor belt. The actual belt, or machine, is the CPU. The threads are the workers organizing the objects that go onto the belt. Neither one works without the other, and the belt can be much more effective if the objects are organized properly. However, without a fast enough belt, it doesn't matter how efficiently the objects are placed on it.
Since gaming and streaming at the same time does require an efficient organization for the cores to operate properly, thread counts do matter. If you were simply gaming, thread count isn't that important. If your budget allows for it, consider a multi-threaded or hyper-threaded CPU.
As far as clock speeds are concerned, increasing the clock rate per core can be important, but it isn't nearly as essential as cores and threads. Every core has a maximum clock speed, and lower-core CPUs generally have higher clock speed per core. However, there are some expensive exceptions to the rule. Again, if money isn't a concern, go for the highest possible number of cores, highest thread count, and the best clock speed. If money is a concern, the order of importance is cores, threads, and then clock speed.
Is Ryzen or Intel Better for Streaming?
A few years ago, Intel might've been winning the race for the best streaming CPU, but in 2021, Ryzen is the new king.
As far as high-end processors are concerned, the Intel Core i9-9900K used to have a stranglehold on the market, but with the release of the third-generation AMD Ryzen processors, the Ryzen 7 3950X is at least as good as the Intel 9900K.
Generally speaking, Intel does a better job of providing pure gaming performance, while Ryzen offers the best streaming and gaming combination CPU experience. The Intel Core i7 8700K mentioned above thrives in heavy-load gaming situations, while Ryzen, even the highest-end processors, are better suited for multitasking, thus making them better for streaming, which requires frequent multitasking.