Best Graphics Card for Streaming: A Complete Guide

Best Graphics Card for Streaming: A Complete Guide

For the best graphics card options for streaming, the choice is entirely dependent on the expected workload of the computer as a whole. If you want to get into a dual PC streaming setup, the required hardware to have a second computer is insignificant compared to having one expensive system.

The most significant contributing factors to how well a stream looks are the bit rate and the size of the source render. Platforms like Twitch and Kick recommend 1080p or 720p resolutions at 30 or 60 FPS at 4000Kbps to 6000Kbps to keep within bandwidth regulations.  Outliers like Discord have options for nitro members to stream up to 4k, which is handy for community events.

This guide covers everything when picking a graphics card for your streaming-oriented gaming PC.

Best Graphics Cards / GPUs for Streaming

The most prevalent cards on the market for streaming are the latest GPUs from both Nvidia and AMD. While Intel has released some impressive 1st generation graphics cards, they still need to be more potent for single-system streaming and gaming. Here are our picks when it comes to multitasking GPUs for streaming.

Entry Level GPUs

On the market, the most entry-level GPU that can handle streaming in 720p or 1080p while gaming is an RTX 3070 or an RTX 4060. This is a slightly higher bar than other options like the RTX 3060 and 3050 or previous generations like the RTX 20 series or RX 6000 series. However, the quality and performance are significant enough to see a clear distinction.   

With the RTX 3070, higher-quality encoding via the N1 encoding chip allows for high bitrate encoding with minimal performance hit to the GPU when playing games and streaming. The RTX 4060 enables comparable encoding on the N1 platform but has slightly more power than the RTX 30 series of cards. 

Intermediate GPUs

When looking to up the performance on a streaming-oriented PC, the mid to high range in the most recent generations of cards, like the RTX 3080 or RTX 4070ti, leaves much more power for encoding high bitrate streams.

Using standard broadcasting software like OBS and Stream Labs, these cards have significantly fewer issues than entry models multitasking when encoding video. There are other ways to only depend on the CPU, but we will get to that in another section.

High-End GPUs

Reserved for some of the highest workloads, High-end GPUS from AMD and Nvidia like the RTX 4080 and 4090 or the RX 7900XT are capable of not only encoding any source at 1080p but also processing 1080p or 4k camera sources.

This is useful for multi-cam setups, especially if a significant portion of the day needs to be consistently processed and encoded high-resolution sources on screen or through studio cameras.

Other Considerations for Streaming

Here are a few topics to consider when picking out graphics cards when specifically thinking of streaming. 

NVIDIA vs. AMD Graphics Cards           

Regarding streaming, the choice between AMD or Nvidia depends on game content. The performance is similar for most games, depending on which card you get. The only exception is if you want to stream VR games; in this case, you will want to use an Nvidia card as the drivers are better in VR than AMD drivers.

Central Processing Unit Performance 

Regarding streaming, the central processing unit(CPU) performance is vital due to the type of processing that differs from the GPU, where the GPU specializes in hardware encoding(commonly known as NVEC), which uses the GPU as the heavy lifting for stream coding.

An alternative encoding method primarily using the CPU is x264; in recent years, picture quality has been heavily contested between the two methods as artifacts and bitrate will make for some varied image quality. However, in recent years, NVEC encoding has been preferred over x264 as CPU intense workloads like encoding have been falling short.

Committing to a Dual PC Setup

If you are looking for a dual system to handle encoding and gaming separately, there are multiple ways to go about it, depending on your budget. For example, a gaming PC with a mid to high-end CPU and a mid to high-end GPU will perform at max capacity when paired with a capture card and an entry-level system to handle encoding.

Summary of Graphics Cards for Streaming

NVEC encoding has improved significantly with the workload required to generate more precise frames for a modern streaming setup with one or two PCs. The cap for most broadcasting sites is 30 to 60 FPS at a 4000 to 6000 kbps bit rate; however, whether the resolution is 720p or 1080p will ultimately affect the final image on stream.

At Apex Gaming PCs, we value both single and dual PC configurations with AMD, Intel, and Nvidia configurations for streaming and gaming in mind. Multiple associated partners use our PCs for their content creation and streams. Whatever your streaming requirements are, we hope to be of service at Apex!

Written By William Wilson

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