WARNING: A Dual PC Game/Stream Setup is not always the best solution
You all know that I am a Twitch streamer and I have been only doing NES/SNES games for the last 2 years since I started. But now im getting back into PC games and I want to be able to stream the latest games very well at the best quality that I can provide. So hear my story about how I first tried streaming just from my old gaming PC, but then went with a second PC to stream while keeping my gaming PC the same (dual PC setup).
So to start, I had just this gaming PC:
Old PC Gaming specs
I tried streaming some games from it (Portal 2 mostly). So in order to make my stream look smooth (high FPS) along with making the game playable with your average modern PC game I had to use these settings for my stream:
Old gaming PC's Stream Settings
- 2200 Bitrate
- 854x480 resolution
- 60 FPS
- Low compression
I was unsatisfied with the quality. Stream was blurry and a bit laggy. My CPU would hit around 100% usage constantly while streaming and my game still lagged a little sometimes. If I tried increasing the settings any higher, things would go too slow and it would become unplayable/unstreamable.
NOTE: Current Ideal Twitch stream quality for modern PC games is:
- 3500+ bitrate
- 1280x720 resolution
- 60 FPS
- High compression
The stream on just my old gaming rig was just okay and I knew it could get a lot better looking. I was willing to drop a little bit of money into this so my stream would look the best it could. I was stuck with the decision of either buying a cheaper 2nd PC for streaming purposes only, or just upgrading my current PC for both gaming and streaming from the same PC. Everyone on the Internet says a 2nd PC to stream is the way to go. So I listened to the masses and I went with buying a cheaper stream PC only computer to compliment my current gaming PC, and it was this:
Bought this Stream PC
- Intel i7 4790K - 4 cores, 8 threads, 22nm.
- Elgato HD60 Pro Capture Card - Can do 1080p @ 60fps.
- 16 GB Ram - A stream PC really only needs no more than 6GB ram.
- NOTE: GPU's have virtually no use in a stream PC setup only.
I figured everything would work good enough and would solve all my performance problems. but..
Issues with Capture cards in general and how I got the Elgato HD60 Pro Capture Card to work right in my stream PC:
Installing the hardware was easy for me as I have put together around a 100 computers together in the past and Im also A+ certified. The problems started with the software and drivers. Trying to get the capture card to run good with everything was bit of a challenge. I've read that people are having similar problems stated below with other capture cards including the most popular AVerMedia Live Gamer HD. These are the issues I ran into:
Capture Card Issues
- Drivers! Which drivers should I use? I had a lot to choose from. I ended up with the normal drivers for the capture card, none of the beta drivers worked. Use the 32bit driver and not 64bit driver. I had to research this instead of seeing it clearly on Elgato's website. Wasted a lot of time here.
- I could not get the capture card's HDMI audio to sync up with the stream as it would get more unsynced as the stream kept going on. So I ditched the HDMI capture card audio and plugged a stereo cable from the line out of my gaming PC's sound card and then into the Line in of the sound on the stream PC. That did fix the desyncing problem, but then my sound did not sound all that great, it was definitely a lower quality sound. Wasn't horrible, but wasn't great.
- OBS hardly ran well with the capture card, I would get huge lag spikes constantly like every 3 seconds. Xsplit actually performed much better with the capture card.
- Screen Tearing!!! I hate screen tearing and my stream was filled with it. Through research, I found there are some things you can do to minimize this, but in the end, even after tweaking everything, I was only able to reduce that only slightly. Screen tearing was still a huge eye-sore on my test streams. It seems that all capture cards are having issues with screen tearing. Once I learned that I can have g-sync quality video on my stream when I ran my stream directly from my gaming PC made me start to realize how important it is to find a way to stream from the same PC your gaming on. It seems that capture cards have major problems with screen tearing sometimes.
- Desync problems. Trying to get the audio to sync up with the video, mic and webcams was annoying, and I'm sure I never really got it close to a 100% synced right. Syncing things on a single PC is a breeze.
The only thing I really liked about the whole two PC game/stream setup was that my old gaming PC had no extra bottlenecks or any lag while playing even though I was still able to stream it decently. The dual PC setup did let me increase resolutions, bitrates and compression a bit which was nice. The screen tearing and the reduced quality in the audio was actually one of the biggest concerns I had with the dual PC setup. Thirdly being the dysnc issues and the overall frustration I had from it. In the end the dual PC setup was overall only a tad better than just streaming from my same old gaming PC. And after about a week of using dual PC, I switched back to just my single old gaming rig to game/stream from just to make my sound quality better, no screen tearing, no desync issues, and more overall smoothness, even though i lost bitrate and resolution. All this made me start to think about a good way to do this all on one PC.
The answer to an Outstanding PC game stream:
One Kick Ass Computer
I was unsatisfied with the performance of the stream PC, so I went ahead and returned it back to Amazon to get this:
|CPU:||Intel Core i7-5960X||This was the real answer to my entire problem really. This is the CPU to get for gaming and streaming from one PC at the same time. The Haswell extreme series CPUs are amazing when it comes to x264 video encoding, with 8 cores (twice as many as my old gaming or stream PC). With this I am able to stream and game from the same PC with no performances issues and the stream looks amazing. You can even easily get by with getting a 6 core CPU as well for cheaper with similar results, but I went ahead and got something more future proof and that will also allow me to stream virtual reality games soon (I wanna speedrun VR games).|
|CPU Cooler:||Noctua NH-D15||I ended up getting an air cooler instead of water cooling. From my research this heatsink/fan is just as effective at cooling as a top of the line AIO water cooler. And this air cooler works better with the case I got than using a water cooler. Plus i'll never need to worry about leaks and water evaporating overtime. This is also quieter than a typical water cooler.|
|Graphics card:||MSI Geforce GTX 970||This MSI card has great airflow and cooling compared to other brands. I am planning on upgrading this to the new upcoming GTX 1080 board soon.|
|Mainboard:||Asus Sabertooth X99||Great mobo with good heatsink over the entire board.|
|RAM:||Corsair Vengeance 16GB DDR4 3000MHz (4GB x4)||Corsair makes great RAM and 16GB is plenty right now.|
|Sound:||SoundBlaster Z||From experience I have definitely noticed that Sound cards do make a difference over onboard sound. The SoundBlaster Z card I have has many options and sounds great with my 5.1 surround sound setup.|
|Case:||NZXT H440 Mid Tower Case (Black/Red)||This is one bad ass case. Made for silent operation and decent air flow at the same time. Lots of features and room in the case. There is no 5.25 drive bays, so no cd/dvd-rom slots, but that's no big deal, I just got a separate external cd/dvd drive in case I ever need it.|
NOTE: The only items I transferred from my old gaming PC to this new one is the graphics card and the sound card. You can see more of my entire gaming battle station here.
Benefits of using only One PC to Game/Stream From
- No additional screen tearing issues - Sending an image over to a capture card usually results in a bunch of nasty screen tearing. I use g-sync monitors for gaming on, and you can transfer that same g-sync quality graphics right to your stream with using only one PC.
- Much better audio - No need to transfer the game audio over to the stream PC (which will most likely lose quality in the process). On one PC setup the audio remains untouched.
- No desync issues - Capture cards bring a lot of desync issues. Trying to sync up your mic, audio, webcam, and game video all together even close to 100% perfect is really annoying. With One PC no issues with desyncs.
- Compatible with more Stream programs - Streaming from the same PC has no issues with either Xsplit or OBS. Capture cards will work better or worse in certain stream software.
- My keyboard hotkeys work nice with my stream program on one PC. With dual PC setup, I couldn't use my stream hotkeys to change scenes etc.
- No need to worry about capture card driver updates.
- More compact and simple.
- No hassles & troubleshooting issues.
- Uses much less electricity overall (will save you money in the long run).
But remember in order to make a single PC stream setup work very well, you need one really good computer.
So as you can see from my own experience, you can get a much better stream by focusing your money on just one good PC and avoid using a 2nd PC stream setup. A 2nd PC stream setup is only useful in the following condition:
Pros of using a 2nd Stream PC
Overall a 2nd stream PC is just a cheap alternative to the one massive game/stream PC. If you are on a budget and you happen to have a 2nd PC laying around not doing much, then using it for a stream PC can give you a better stream overall without impacting the performance of your current gaming PC. You still have to buy a capture card (preferably a PCIe capture card) which will run you around $180 or more. I only have experience with the Elgato HD60 Pro, but there is also the AVerMedia Live Gamer HD.
In the end though, this is not a huge pro, a single PC will save you money on electric bills overtime and you wont need to buy a capture card. Plus one good PC will let you be ready for high quality Virtual Reality as well. So keep this in mind!
If I had the choice to game & stream from one i7-5960X or a two PC setup, both using i7-5960Xs', I would still easily go for just the one i7-5960X PC.
If you are serious about having your stream look the best it can with modern PC games, then I would highly consider just using one good PC over using a dual PC setup. I have seen some streams that say they use a dual PC setup and some look very nice, but you might need more expensive equipment along with more research than what I did to make that happen. Personally I think it's a lot more simpler, easier, and more efficient to just use one PC to stream and game from.
The latest Intel i7 Haswell Extremes are the best right now for accomplishing this. Ever since I got the i7-5960X my stream quality kicks the snot out of the 2 PC setup I tried and gaming on it has virtually no performance issues. The concept of streaming from a 2nd PC to save on your gaming PC's performance is a great idea and it may improve overtime as they get much better drivers and find a way to fix a lot of those issues above, but right now you can't go wrong with one good PC game/stream setup.
My Other Articles:
WARNING: A Dual PC Game/Stream Setup is not always the best solution - Most of the articles out there will tell you that a dual PC setup is ideal for gaming and streaming from, im here to warn you about dual PC setups.
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