Does Streaming Use CPU Or GPU?

By Krasimir Hristov

Your CPU must juggle multiple tasks when streaming, such as encoding and gaming (which can be quite CPU intensive), streaming software such as OBS, and other programs. But does streaming use CPU or GPU?

A strong graphics card can ease this strain, helping with video encoding, freeing up memory space, and improving streaming experiences overall.


CPU stands for central processing unit and it handles many tasks on your computer quickly. For streaming purposes, its task of encoding video takes up significant CPU resources, slowing performance when overburdened with tasks. But there are ways you can reduce CPU use when streaming.

Hardware encoding can alleviate some of the strain on your CPU by offloading some of its responsibilities to your GPU. While this method may take longer than software encoding, its higher image quality makes up for it in terms of image quality and more vibrant colors compared with software encoding. You’ll find this option within the settings of your streaming program if your older CPU cannot keep up with high-quality stream encoding requirements.

If you want to enhance your video encoding experience, investing in a faster GPU could also be the solution. Doing so will allow you to encode videos much more rapidly without compromising gameplay; additionally, an advanced GPU provides smoother viewing experiences.

Your choice of CPU and GPU depends largely on the games you intend to play and budget constraints, though at minimum a quad-core processor and sufficient RAM should be essential. Furthermore, an internet bit rate sufficient for streaming should also be taken into consideration.


A graphics card (GPU) is a hardware component used for processing and displaying visual content on the screen. Also referred to as an adapter, video card, graphics controller, or accelerator. These devices are ideal for tasks that require large amounts of computation – such as gaming and machine learning.

The GPU is an essential element of any streaming setup. It helps ease CPU strain, boost video performance, and provide an improved streaming experience; and plays an essential role in compositing and displaying webcam overlays for OBS and XSplit streaming platforms.

Those creating dedicated streaming PCs should invest in an NVidia GPU capable of GPU encoding (which is free). This will reduce CPU load while increasing video quality. Furthermore, purchasing an expensive CPU would also be advantageous.

In streaming, GPUs are commonly used to encode video and create the bitstream. While historically CPUs were responsible for this task, modern GPUs can often do it more efficiently than older CPUs; especially when using software encoders. A good way to assess a GPU’s performance is through its number of CUDA Cores or AMD stream processors – the more CUDA Cores/stream processors you see, the faster its GPU will be.

Software Encoding

Encoding takes up much of a PC’s processing power; however, by employing graphics cards and specific encoding software this process can be split among CPU and GPU to be more efficient and save resources.

Gaming and streaming require different approaches for encoding video files; one such approach involves using software encoders that make use of the CPU to do their work.

A CPU is an impressive computer processor which can make gaming and streaming enjoyable, especially when used with dedicated graphics cards. Modern Intel and AMD CPUs offer ample performance; for optimal results, it is best to choose one with multiple cores and high multicore frequencies.

Another option for encoding video content is using a hardware encoder utilizing GPU. Though more expensive, this solution can significantly decrease CPU utilization during streaming while simultaneously improving video quality. NVIDIA and AMD both provide such encoders such as their NVenc or QuickSync programs to do just this.

Decisions concerning which streaming method you employ are critically important because they determine how much of your computer’s processing power is consumed during streaming. A rule of thumb states that an average-quality stream should utilize approximately 25% of one Intel CPU core; hence why a fast CPU should be prioritized for optimal streaming results.

Hardware Encoding

When streaming games online, encoding of video from your gaming computer must occur so viewers can watch in real time. This encoding process may use either your CPU or GPU (depending on what’s available to you) for optimal results; many gamers choose hardware encoding since it’s much faster and more efficient than software encoding; however, a dual PC setup with software encoding still can deliver excellent results.

Graphics cards’ primary purpose is to perform fast mathematical calculations. Thus, GPUs are excellent at rendering 2D and 3D graphics quickly as well as mapping textures quickly – essential tasks necessary for playing games. A powerful graphics card can greatly improve a gaming PC’s performance and run smoother than less equipped versions.

An excellent graphics card is essential for streaming as it can significantly improve video and audio quality. To maximize performance, aim for at least 8 cores or 16 threads on the card you purchase.