When picking a streaming PC, there’s often a lot of things you need to consider. Power supply, GPU, CPU, etc. Did you know there’s a way to have a cheap streaming PC without resorting to purchasing a prebuilt at a premium, AND saving a huge amount of space?
As you’ve probably guessed already. The answer is a mini PC! Not sure what mini PC to pick? Read on for our perspective on this potential part of your streaming setup.
What is a Mini PC?
We’ll not re-tread ground too much here, as the bulk of what a mini PC is, and what a mini PC can do, is covered in our Essential Mini PC & NUC Buying Guide. To recap for those not in the know, however…
A mini PC is, as the name implies, a PC that is miniature in size. These PCs break the standard ITX conventions, and feature customized motherboards wherein all the essential components are embedded onto the board.
Because these components are embedded and non-customizable, it allows manufacturers to maximize the usage of all available space and provide a device that, while isn’t much larger than your hand, contains all the essential features and functions of a desktop computer.
Do you need a powerful PC for streaming?
In short, it depends.
Streaming, contrary to popular belief, isn’t as inherently taxing as one might assume. You do not need a cutting edge top-of-the-line PC to comfortably stream video on Twitch, Youtube, or really wherever else you decide to stream.
The core of any streaming PC is the CPU. As the brains of the PC, the CPU handles all the processes that enable you to stream. From encoding the video to handling any additional software that may be running at the same time, such as chat bots.
The more things you’re trying to do at the same time, as you stream, the more compromises you will have to make on more fronts. If you’re looking to both stream and play games from the same PC simultaneously, you may have to lower settings.
At the minimum, we would recommend no less than a AMD Ryzen 5 “Zen 2” series processor, or an 8th Generation Intel i5 series processor for any PC you use for streaming, if you are using a discrete GPU alongside it. This should comfortably allow you to stream most things at 720p.
What is a dedicated streaming PC?
A dedicated streaming PC is as the name implies. It is a PC that is exclusively used for streaming content. This includes handling the encoding of the stream footage/audio, and uploading it online.
No processing power is spent on rendering the content it is streaming. Instead, this content is forwarded to the streaming PC through the means of an external capture card. This allows you to encode the stream at higher framerates and resolutions.
This generally means that a dedicated streaming PC does not need a discrete GPU, because you’re not actually playing games with the PC.
With this in mind, mini PC’s are an EXCELLENT solution for a dedicated streaming PC. They take up very little space, meaning their footprint in your streaming setup is minimal. The performance of their processors (particularly the higher end models) are also very notable.
Reccomended Streaming Mini PCs
As of September 2021, these are what we would consider to be the best PCs for streaming available on the market right now.
MinsForum X400 – A Desktop-power Streaming PC
Why you should buy this: It’s the best Ryzen Mini PC available right now.
Who it’s for: People looking for a no-fuss dedicated streaming PC.
Our Reasoning: The X400 comes in at the high end of MinisForum’s current offerings for desktop computers. Being one of the rare few models that features a desktop processor. The AMD Ryzen 5 4650G.
Because it is a desktop processor, the throughout of the system is overall much higher than you would find on contemporary mini PCs, which typically use laptop processors as a way of keeping heat and power consumption reasonable. This allows the X400 Ryzen 5 PRO to stream at higher framerates and resolutions than its siblings.
This does mean that it is a bit more noisy than some other models, due to the open-vent design and larger fan. But it is not significantly so. Plus, if you’re willing to invest in a dedicated streaming PC, you would be wise to invest in a decent noise-cancelling microphone as well.
Interested? Check out our MinisForum X400 review for more info.
Beelink GT-R – A Storage-centric Cheap Streaming PC
Why you should buy this: It’s the best cheap mini PC for storing data, videos, etc.
Who it’s for: People who plan to store stream recordings for longer amounts of time
Our Reasoning: The Beelink GT-R features a respectable Ryzen 5 3550H APU, allowing it to handle a variety of tasks without much issue. Including streaming.
The selling point of the GT-R is the gigantic array of ports it features. With six USB 3.0 ports PLUS a USB-C port for high speed peripheral connections (streaming microphones, stream decks, and so on). It also features two gigabit ethernet ports for the network-savvy.
The GT-R also uniquely features space for two 22*80mm M.2 SSDs (one SATA, one NVMe) on top of the usual 2.5-inch drive bay. Meaning you can store hours of high quality footage without increasing the system’s footprint.
DroiX Stheno F5 – A Powerhouse Gaming PC for Streaming
Why you should buy this: It’s the best gaming mini PC available currently.
Who it’s for: People looking for a mini PC that can game and stream at the same time.
Our Reasoning: The DroiX Stheno F5 is an oddity among our lineup of mini PCs. In a good way, mind you. It is the only model at this point in time to feature a dedicated graphics card. A NVIDIA GTX 1650.
Despite the processor being average (an Intel i5-9300F), the presence of a dedicated GPU makes the Stheno F5 an extremely competent gaming PC, leagues ahead of anything else at a similar size.
Even if you’re not gaming on the Stheno F5, the presence of a discrete GPU means you can also take fuller advantage of hardware encoding, maximizing it’s functionality as a streaming PC as well.
Check out our review for the DroiX Stheno F5 for more information on this powerhouse PC.