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Gaming And Streaming: Which CPU Is Best For Both?

Final Analysis

AMD democratized access to high core counts with an attractively-priced Ryzen portfolio. In a way, we can thank the company for Intel's newfound interest in competing on a $/core basis. Just look at the difference in our results from Kaby Lake to Coffee Lake. As a result, high-quality software encoding on a gaming PC is becoming more realistic to mainstream gamers.

Our testing is indicative of general performance trends. Given enough time and energy, you could almost certainly improve upon our results. Part of that is by design: we're using these settings to compare large groups of processors against one another on a level playing field, as opposed to wringing the most performance out of any one processor. While we can't use our benchmarks to make definitive statements about the possibilities with each chip, we can draw some fair conclusions about how certain architectures behave.

Encoding is a parallelizable workload. If software encoding is your primary goal, you'll definitely want to seek out CPUs with lots of cores and simultaneous multi-threading capabilities. Intel's quad-core Kaby Lake models illustrate how chips that once offered class-leading gaming performance can fall apart during streaming. You can boost their performance by using less intensive quality presets, lowering the streaming frame rate, or sacrificing some quality with GPU acceleration. However, competing processors offer much more performance than Kaby Lake at the same presets and roughly the same price.

Many streamers place video quality over maximizing the frame rate of whatever game they're playing, so your own priorities will largely dictate how you tune your system. In fact, turning on v-sync may be a good way to balance streaming and gaming performance.If you seek the highest in-game performance while you stream, Intel's Coffee Lake-based Core i7-8700K is a good fit. The Ryzen 7 1800X is also competitive and tends to offer better streaming performance. Using our settings, the 1800X also had more CPU headroom leftover for more taxing encode settings, if desired. Granted, some of that extra horsepower is due to the 1800X's lower gaming performance, which means there are fewer frames to encode.

Two extra cores on the Coffee Lake-based Core i5 certainly help its standing, but the lack of Hyper-Threading has a definite impact on streaming performance. In the end, a six-core Core i5-8600K is forced to battle the 12-thread Ryzen 5 1600X, which offers a more balanced profile. Overclocking does help Intel somewhat. It can't overcome the advantage AMD gets from a more thread-heavy architecture, but it shrinks the gap somewhat in streaming workloads.

If you're really serious about streaming and gaming at the same time, the highest-end desktop CPUs are an option. Just expect to pay dearly for them. Most enthusiasts are better served by mainstream processors. Intel's Core i9 models generally provide better performance than the Threadripper 1950X, but they cost more, too. The 1950X is a solid value choice that also offers a diverse range of capabilities.

There are plenty of other solid options for gaming/streaming, and this introductory round of tests only focused on high-end models from each family. We'll expand our testing to locked SKUs as we work through coming CPU reviews.


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  • SonnyNXiong
    Core i7 7700k is the best, can't get any better than that except for a high OC speed and high core clock speed on that core i7 7700k.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    This benchmark will need a do-over once the patch for Intel's critical ring-0 exploit comes out and slows all of Intel's CPUs from the past ~10 years by 5-30%.
    Reply
  • mcconkeymike
    Sonny, I disagree. I personally run the 7700k at 4.9ghz, but the 8700k 6 core/12 thread is a badass and does what the 7700k does and better. Please do a little research on this topic otherwise you'll end up looking foolish.
    Reply
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    20553340 said:
    This benchmark will need a do-over once the patch for Intel's critical ring-0 exploit comes out and slows all of Intel's CPUs from the past ~10 years by 5-30%.
    Yeah. It'll be interesting to see the impact on Windows. Phoronix ( https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=linux-415-x86pti&num=2 ) shows a heavy hit in Linux for some tasks, but apparently almost no hit in gaming ( https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=x86-PTI-Initial-Gaming-Tests )

    Although gaming in Linux, seriously?! C'mon! ;-)
    Reply
  • ArchitSahu
    20553303 said:
    Core i7 7700k is the best, can't get any better than that except for a high OC speed and high core clock speed on that core i7 7700k.

    What about the 8700k? i9? 7820X?
    Reply
  • AgentLozen
    What a great article. It really highlights the advantage of having more cores. If you're strictly into gaming without streaming, then Kaby Lake (and Skylake by extension) is still an awesome choice. It was really interesting to see it fall apart when streaming was added to the formula. I wasn't expecting it to do so poorly even in an overclocked setting.
    Reply
  • Soda-88
    A couple of complaints:
    1) the article is 10 months late
    2) the game choice is poor, you should've picked titles that are popular on twitch

    Viewer count at present moment:
    BF1: ~1.300
    GTA V: ~17.000
    ME - SoW: ~600

    Personally, I'd like to see Overwatch over BF1 and PUBG over ME: SoW.
    GTA V is fine since it's rather popular, despite being notoriously Intel favoured.

    Other than that, a great article with solid methodology.
    Reply
  • guadalajara296
    I do a lot of video encoding / rendering in Adobe cc premier pro
    It takes 2 hours to render a video on Skylake cpu. would a Ryzen multi core improve that by 50% ?
    Reply
  • salgado18
    20553388 said:
    20553303 said:
    Core i7 7700k is the best, can't get any better than that except for a high OC speed and high core clock speed on that core i7 7700k.

    What about the 8700k? i9? 7820X?

    Please, don't feed the trolls. Thanks.
    Reply
  • lsatenstein
    To be able to respond to Paul's opening comment about reputability testing, the rule is to have at least 19 test runs. The 19 runs will provide a 5 percent confidence interval. That means or could be understood to be 19/20 the results will be within 5 percent of the mean, which is about 1 standard deviation.
    Reply