What Is A Really Good CPU for Gaming And Streaming?
So this is a really fun question to answer, since the onset of ESports and streaming that gameplay. But before I answer it, we need some technical background first!
Games typically use a small number of CPU threads (generally 4 at the most), and some are more CPU-reliant than others (Counter Strike: Global Offensive vs Assassins Creed 2).
Additionally, as the resolution increases, more of the rendering and computation shifts from the CPU to the GPU. That being said, we don’t advise gaming with an i3 at 4K resolution.
Streaming those games though, requires rendering video on the fly, and that requires more CPU power than just gaming. Rendering/exporting video is typically heavy on CPU threads, and overall CPU horsepower.
Keeping A Few Things Constant
We’re going to assume a few constants before we delve further.
Anything played with stock visual settings (no mods!) at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K, is generally perfectly fine with a high-speed CPU like a Ryzen 5 2600X (afl).
This chip has 6 cores and 12 overall threads, and has a decently high clock speed (which is still important for gaming+streaming situations).
There are a wide array of CPUs that do well in gaming+streaming environments, such as the Ryzen 5 1600X, Ryzen 5 2600X, i7-7700K, and i7-8700K, though I’ve tried to also put a price-to-performance filter on as well.
More Powerful Gaming+Streaming CPUs
For example, the i7-8700K (afl) is widely known as the best CPU for gaming overall, but it comes at the cost of $330+, and requires a hefty CPU cooler, as well as an expensive motherboard to hit the high boost speeds it’s known for.
The Ryzen 5 2600X (afl) by comparison, has the same number of overall threads, and while it has a slower clock speed by a moderate amount, it costs about $140 less (you’ll still need a nice aftermarket CPU cooler, as this CPU still has a TDP of 95W).
Dual Systems for Gaming and Streaming
Sometimes, you see users with two separate systems; one for gaming, and one for streaming. The gaming system might use something like an i5-8600K, and the streaming system will use a Ryzen 5 2600X. The gaming system will have more money spent on the GPU, and the streaming system will have more money spent on the CPU and SSD (more on that in a different article).
Having dual systems allows for each system to focus on what it does best, and not share resources with the other side.
At the really high end, you see setups with an i7-8700K/i9-7900X pair, or even an i9-7980XE. These systems are gaming and streaming at 4K, and are extremely powerful.
There are a large number of CPUs below, between, and above those two models, and we’d be happy to help you figure out which CPU is best for your specific application.