Single PC Streaming or Dual PC Streaming, Which is better 2022?

Is Dual PC Streaming dead with the release of new NVENC Single PC Streaming?

Short Answer: No, but for the majority of streamers single PC setups are more than enough. Unless you are a platform partner (Twitch, YouTube, Facebook) or play really CPU-intensive games there’s almost no reason to pursue a dual PC setup as it’s probably overkill for your quality output (nonPartnered bitrate limitations) and tends to create many issues to constantly troubleshoot.

Another thing to consider is to reflect exactly what your streaming content is about.
Are you streaming IRL or Just Chatting? Then no, a dual PC setup would not make sense.
Are you streaming Apex Legend or Call of Duty Warzone? Then yes, a dual PC setup would make sense.

Single PC Streaming

Single PC Streaming has been evolving and improving each and every year. Now the latest technology from Nvidia allows new NVENC encoding that is quite comparable to Fast/Medium x264 presets at a much lower system impact.

PROS

  • Easy Setup
  • NVENC Quality is comparable to x264
  • Could be a cheaper setup than a dual PC

CONS

  • PC crashes stream goes down too

Nvidia NVENC

To make Single PC Streaming competitive to Dual PC Streaming you must be utilizing Nvidia’s encoder NVENC. NVENC runs on a dedicated physical section on the latest two GPU generations (RTX 20 and 30 series) which means the GPU will operate normally regardless of streaming or not. If comparing to CPU encoding (x264) then NVENC performs better than x264 Fast and comparable to x264 Medium. It should be noted that the majority of dual PC streams run x264 Medium, so to have this quality in a Single PC stream without extra hardware is amazing. Below shows a 1080p, 60 fps comparison from a Nvidia study comparing new NVENC against Dual PC x264 Medium and Single PC x264 Fast and VeryFast presets.

Quality compared against NVENC, Dual PC x264 Medium, Single PC x264 Fast, and Single PC x264 Very Fast
Source: Nvidia Broadcasting Guide

The takeaway from the chart above is that for Single PC Streaming the new NVENC is the best solution. It is much more efficient than Single PC x264 encoding and, best of all, is very comparable to Dual PC Streaming x264 Medium!


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Dual PC Streaming

Dual PC Streaming uses the latest technology combining the power of two PCs utilizing separate CPUs and Graphic Cards for the gaming and streaming needs. This gives your stream an extra boost in quality perfection as you could utilize x264 encoding on a higher preset while also gaming on the best settings. The main problem with single PC streaming setups is that once you start reaching your system’s limits it can create lag, stream delay, skipped frames which take away from your viewer immersion.

PROS

  • Best Quality/Performance Potential
  • Less Gaming Lag
  • If gaming computer crashes stream stays up

CONS

  • Complicated Setup
  • Possible screen tearing issues
  • Tends to be more expensive
  • Busy – more cables, extra mouse/keyboard
Diagram of a typical dual PC streaming setup.
Standard Dual PC Streaming Setup

Dual PC Streaming setups will require at least two monitors, two PCs, and a capture card.
As far as component allocation between the two:

Gaming PC

  • Better GPU
  • Ram: 16 GB
  • Microphone

Streaming PC

  • Better CPU
  • Capture Card
  • Ram: 8-16 GB
  • Webcam

One positive take on dual PC streaming setups is that the initial start-up can be relatively cost-effective. Most streamers starting out will simply upgrade their gaming PC and then take the old components and install them in their streaming PC. So if you’re upgrading your gaming PC with a new CPU and GPU you can simply buy a budget case, motherboard, ram, and power supply and have a streaming PC ready to go.

One should pursue Dual PC Streaming when looking to encode at x264 Medium or higher. If your streaming PC cannot handle encoding at those presets it would be better off sticking with a Single PC stream using new NVENC.

Conclusion

Simply put, if you are starting out or a small community streamer then Single PC Streaming is probably enough to fit your needs. Unless you have a spare PC laying around the efforts of purchasing extra components and the technical troubleshooting of setting up a dual PC stream is not worth it. Single PC Streaming is more than adequate to stream video quality using NVENC for comparable x264 Fast or Medium preset visuals.

Now if you are a more advanced streamer with sponsorships and a management team then sure a dual PC stream could make a lot of sense to you and bring a new level of quality to your viewership. Again, Dual PC Streaming is the go-to for pushing video quality to x264 Slow or Slower presets.

Got your stream setup now? Looking for streaming tips to be successful?
Check out our Top 5 Tips to be a Successful Streamer