CPU vs GPU for Streaming: Which One to Choose?

It’s no secret that streaming content is on the rise. From live sports to weekly dramas, more and more people are streaming content on their devices instead of watching it on television.

This has led to a boom in streaming services, which has led to a boom in CPU and GPU-intensive tasks. If you’re wondering whether streaming CPU or GPU-intensive tasks is worth it, read on for answers.

Is streaming CPU or GPU intensive?

There is no definitive answer to this question, as it depends on the application and settings used. However, streaming CPU-intensive tasks can be less taxing on a system than streaming GPU-intensive tasks.

In general, streaming CPU-intensive tasks involve reading large amounts of data from disk or other sources, while streaming GPU-intensive tasks involve drawing graphics data from memory.

Streaming CPU-intensive tasks will generally use fewer resources than streaming GPU-intensive tasks. This is because CPU cores can handle repetitive tasks more efficiently than a video card can handle unpredictable and graphic-heavy tasks.

However, there are exceptions to this rule – particularly when it comes to media playback – so it’s always important to test an application’s performance before relying heavily on it.

Why do streaming applications use CPU or GPU?

Streaming applications use CPU or GPU to process video and audio data due to the massive amounts of information that need to be processed in real-time.

CPU processing is usually more efficient when handling small chunks of data, while GPUs are better suited for quickly handling larger chunks of data. Streaming applications rely on complex mathematical algorithms, and graphics processing units (GPUs) are best suited for these tasks.

How to choose the right streaming application for your needs

Remember a few things when selecting a streaming application for your needs. First, consider the type of content you’ll be streaming.

If you’re primarily interested in watching movies and TV shows, then a streaming application like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video may be your best option. These applications use relatively little CPU power compared to other options available, like Twitch or YouTube Gaming.

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If you want to stream video games, however, your computer may need more horsepower than a streaming app can provide. Some of the most popular games, like Fortnite, require good graphics hardware to run smoothly.

If your computer doesn’t have the necessary specs, streaming those games using an application like Twitch will likely be CPU-intensive rather than GPU-intensive. In this case, it might be worth investing in a gaming-specific streaming application like Nvidia Shield TV or Sony PlayStation Vue.

Another thing to consider is how frequently you’ll use the streaming application. If you only plan on using it occasionally to watch a movie or TV show while lying in bed at night, then an app like Netflix may be manageable on your computer.

However, if you plan on using it more often – say every day – then an app with more graphics horsepower (like Twitch) might be better for your needs.

Ultimately, the best way to decide which streaming application is right for you depends on what kind of content you’re interested in watching and how frequently you plan on using the application.

What Causes Streaming CPU and GPU Intensive?

If you are using your computer to stream video or play a game, you may experience high CPU or GPU usage.

CPU and GPU-intensive tasks occur when either the CPU or the graphics card is working hard to process data. The computer can quickly become overloaded when these tasks are performed in quick succession.

There are a few factors that can cause streaming CPU and GPU-intensive tasks:

  1. Your internet connection could be faster. If your internet connection is slow, it will take longer for the streaming application to load and process the data. This will result in more CPU and graphics card work.
  2. You are streaming multiple videos at once. If you are streaming multiple videos at once, the graphics card will have to keep track of all the different windows that are open and processing the data. This can quickly overload the graphics card and lead to high CPU usage.
  3. You are playing a demanding game or using a powerful video editor. Games and powerful video editors can require a lot of processing power from the CPU and graphics card to run smoothly. If you’re using these applications frequently, they may quickly start bogging down your computer’s performance due to heavy workloads.
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Ways to Reduce Streaming CPU and GPU Intensive?

There are a few ways to reduce streaming CPU and GPU intensive. The first is to use a lower-quality stream.

This will result in a smaller file size and less data being sent over the network, but it may make graphics appear choppy. If you’re using a lower-quality stream, be sure to adjust the playback speed so that it matches the viewing speed of your viewers.

Another way to reduce streaming CPU and GPU intensive are to use multicast streams. Multicast streams send data to multiple receivers instead of just one, which can greatly reduce the amount of data that needs to be sent over the network.

Multicast streams are usually more expensive than traditional streams, but they may be worth it if you have a large audience that you want to reach.

Lastly, reduce the number of simultaneous players in your stream. If too many players run simultaneously, it can cause a significant slowdown on the CPU and GPU. You can limit the number of simultaneous players or disable them if you don’t need them for your content.

Factors that Impact Streaming CPU or GPU Intensity

There are a few key factors that influence streaming CPU or GPU intensity. The first is the video codec being used. Streaming CPUs are more intensive when encoding H.264 or AVC video, while GPUs are more intensive for decoding those formats.

However, other codecs can be quite demanding on either the CPU or GPU, so it’s important to check the specs of each stream before committing to using one format over another.

The second factor is the resolution of the stream. Streaming at high resolutions, such as 4K, 8K, and even 10K, becomes more taxing on the CPU because all the additional pixels are processed.

In contrast, the GPU generally handles most of the processing work when streaming at lower resolutions, such as HD or SD resolution. If you’re targeting a primarily mobile audience with lower-resolution streams, use a GPU instead of a CPU for encoding/decoding.

The last major factor is how smooth your video playback experience will be. If your viewers experience choppiness or lag during playback, they will likely see an increase in CPU or GPU intensity as they try to watch your stream seamlessly.

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How Streaming CPU and GPU Intensive Affects Gaming Performance

Streaming CPU and GPU-intensive tasks can hurt gaming performance. If your computer is doing a lot of work streaming video or rendering images, it may need help to keep up with the demands of a game.

For example, when playing an action game like Call of Duty, the computer constantly processes graphics and audio. If too many streaming tasks are happening at once, the computer may not be able to keep up and produce smooth gameplay.

It’s important to note that this only applies to CPU-intensive games. GPUs are much more powerful than CPUs, so they don’t tend to experience as much slowdown when streaming multimedia.

If you’re playing a graphics-heavy game like Grand Theft Auto V or Destiny, you might see some slowdown due to the concurrent streaming tasks.

What are the benefits of streaming CPU over streaming GPU?

There are many benefits to streaming CPU over streaming GPU in gaming.

Streaming CPU doesn’t require as much bandwidth or processing power, so it can be used on lower-end systems without sacrificing performance. This means more people can enjoy high-performance gaming without investing in expensive hardware.

Another benefit of streaming CPU is that it allows for more complex game logic and graphics solutions to be run simultaneously.

Games can feature more detailed environments and characters without taxing the hardware too much. Overall, streaming CPU offers several advantages over streaming GPU regarding gaming performance, making it an ideal solution for those on a budget.


Streaming CPU or GPU-intensive content can have a significant impact on the performance of your computer. For example, your computer will need help to keep up if you are streaming a video with a high CPU load.

Conversely, streaming a video with a heavy GPU load can also cause your computer to slow down significantly. To help determine which type of content will have the biggest impact on your PC, it is important to understand what each stream is doing.

To do this, you can use programs such as MSI Afterburner or Catzilla to see how much work each stream puts on your system. By understanding what is causing your computer to slow down, you can make adjustments and avoid any potentially problematic streams.

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Matt Wilson
By Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is a PC gaming and hardware expert with years of experience. He's a trusted tech product reviewer for gamers and tech enthusiasts.

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