We’re testing gaming while streaming on the R5 1500X & i5-8400 today, both CPUs that cost the same (MSRP is about $190) and appeal to similar markets. Difficulties stemming from stream benchmarking make it functionally impossible to standardize. CPU changes drastically impact performance during our streaming + gaming benchmarks, which means that each CPU test falls closer to a head-to-head than an overall benchmark. Moving between R5s and R7s, for instance, completely changes the settings required to produce a playable game + stream experience – and that’s good. That’s what we want. The fact that settings have to be tuned nearly on a per-tier basis means that we’re min-maxing what the CPUs can give us, and that’s what a user would do. Creating what is effectively a synthetic test is useful for outright component comparison, but loses resolution as a viable test candidate.
The trouble comes with lowering the bar: As lower-end CPUs are accommodated and tested for, higher-end components perform at lower-than-maximum throughput, but are capped in benchmark measurements. It is impossible, for example, to encode greater than 100% of frames to stream. That will always be a limitation. At this point, you either declare the CPU as functional for that type of encoding, or you constrict performance with heavier duty encoding workloads.
H264 ranges from Ultrafast to Slowest settings, with facets in between identified as Superfast, Veryfast, Faster, Fast, and Medium. As encoding speed approaches the Slow settings, quality enters into “placebo” territory. Quality at some point becomes indistinguishable from faster encoding settings, despite significantly more strain placed on the processor. The goal of the streamer is to achieve a constant framerate output – whether that’s 30FPS or 60FPS – while also maintaining a playable player-side framerate. We test both halves of the equation in our streaming benchmarks, looking at encode output and player output with equal discernment.
“Good for streaming” – a phrase almost universally attributed to the R7 series of Ryzen CPUs, like the R7 1700 ($270 currently), but with limited data-driven testing to definitively prove the theory. Along with most other folks in the industry, we supported Ryzen as a streamer-oriented platform in our reviews, but we based this assessment on an understanding of Ryzen’s performance in production workloads. Without actual game stream benchmarking, it was always a bit hazy just how the R7 1700 and the i7-7700K ($310 currently) would perform comparatively in game live-streaming.
This new benchmark looks at the AMD R7 1700 vs. Intel i7-7700K performance while streaming, including stream output/framerate, drop frames, streamer-side FPS, power consumption, and some brief thermal data. The goal is to determine not only whether one CPU is better than the other, but whether the difference is large enough to be potentially paradigm-shifting. The article explores all of this, though we’ve also got an embedded video below. If video is your preferred format, consider checking the article conclusion section for some additional thoughts.
Intel’s past few weeks have seen the company enduring the ire of a large portion of the tech community, perhaps undeservedly in some instances -- certainly deservedly in others. We criticized the company for its initial marketing of the 7900X – but then, we criticize nearly everyone for marketing claims that borderline on silly. “Extreme Mega-Tasking,” for instance, was Intel’s new invention.
But it’d be folly to assume that Skylake-X won’t perform. It’s just a matter of how Intel positions itself with pricing, particularly considering the imminent arrival of Threadripper. Skylake-X is built on known and documented architecture and is accompanied by the usual platform roll-out, with some anomalies in the form of Kaby Lake X's accompaniment on that same platform.
Today, we're reviewing the Intel Core i9-7900X Skylake X CPU, benchmarking it in game streaming (Twitch, YouTube) vs. Ryzen, in Blender & Premiere rendering, VR gaming, and standard gaming.
Video on demand has become ubiquitous. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and even ISP-bound options offer some form of movies or TV in exchange for service charges. It is no longer the “future of TV” – it is TV. This is the reality of the modern, cable-cutter era, and it is only a matter of time until all traditional cable services are axed in favor of streamed-via-internet options. Cable television will die.
The same could be true for gaming. The data is bigger, the latency demands are greater – but these problems are conquerable and will only diminish as high-speed internet proliferates. Input latency is the most critical. The time from button-press to photon-on-screen dictates whether a game is playable; it's more significant even than frametimes. Long poll times or slow frame encode/decode will create a mismatch between the player's actions and the perceived outcome, resulting in frustration that we've all experienced at some point with server lag in traditional gaming.
System Integrator (SI) CyberPower launched its new Two Computers, One Case gaming PC at CES 2016, dubbed the “Pro Streamer.” The multi-system amalgam is housed within the Phanteks Mini-XL enclosure, a case outfitted with dual-motherboard mounting points for single-PSU operation of two complete computers. Outside of building an internally-housed NAS, local media server, or streaming pre-buffer rig, use cases are relatively slim for the Mini-XL. In this instance, the streaming rig is a sensible fit.
Four SKUs of Pro Streamer boxes exist, but we’re mostly talking about the lowest SKU, as that’s generally the differentiating factor between system integrators; if there’s a weak point, it’s always the lower-end SKUs with haphazard specification listings. For the Pro Streamer 100, CyberPower’s equipped the primary gaming PC (micro-ATX) with a Z170 motherboard, GTX 970 4GB card, 2x8GB RAM, CLC, and an i5-6600K; the secondary buffer machine is outfitted with a more modest Core i3-6300 CPU and stock cooler, 2x4GB RAM, and AverMedia Live Gamer HD capture card (a $200 device). These two builds are installed in the same Phanteks Mini-XL, landing the final price at $1900.
That’s the point of pain: $1900. For a single PC, $1900 easily affords a GTX 980 Ti (or two) and Core i7 processor, but the Pro Streamer setup is a two-PC solution with an ancillary capture card, adding substantially to build cost. This is effectively two computers.
The GTX 950 launch somewhat overshadowed a simultaneous GeForce Experience announcement. NVidia’s GeForce Experience platform promised the addition of new direct-to-friend game streaming, game sharing (pass controls to a friend), and an improved ShadowPlay overlay for Twitch streaming. As of today, GFE has shipped a beta version of its “Stream” and sharing functionality (naming is still subject to change, we’re told), both briefly discussed below.
Now that tax season is upon us, many of you may have some extra money to put towards upgrading or building a new PC. Let's put that extra cash to good work.
Since our last $511 Budget HTPC Build focused on getting the best SFF system for the least amount of money, this time around we decided to put together an SFF build with a lot more to offer. With an i5 processor and GTX 970, this build will be able to play most games out at ultra settings and will make for a great video editing and rendering rig.
At just over $1000, this mid-range gaming PC build plays Battlefield: Hardline at near-max settings (1080p) while offering room for growth. The system is built for use in living room environments (small form factor, optional controller) and is capable of editing and rendering videos. At its heart, that makes this build a versatile beast for YouTubers and high-end gamers who seek portability.
With the launch of the GTX 960 now firmly under way and our benchmarks posted, we've had enough hands-on time with the GPU to get a feel for its place in the world. The GTX 960 is firmly designed for 1080p gaming, an environment where it outputs impressive performance for the TDP.
This gaming PC build for under $1000 makes use of the new GTX 960, targeting 60FPS at high settings for most games. Our full GTX 960 review and benchmarks can be found over here, though some are embedded below.
During our NZXT office tour back in September, we spotted a tiny box in the corner of a conference room – something that wouldn't be given a name or explanation “until further notice.”
Last week's CES tour saw a revisit to NZXT, whereupon the company showcased its strikingly familiar “DOKO” streaming box. The unit serves as an input passthrough between a gaming rig and a living room gaming setup, effectively forwarding USB signals from the box (like gamepads or keyboards) to the LAN-connected PC.
Amazon announced Monday that the company negotiated a deal to purchase Twitch.tv for the small sum of $970 million. Google (YouTube) had been in negotiations since May to acquire Twitch, but were unable to close the deal. This gives Amazon the most popular avenue for game streaming. Although Google owns YouTube, Twitch reaches a very different market, and this can't be seen by Google as anything other than a slap in the face. It will be interesting to see if Google rises to the challenge and duels it out with Amazon – hopefully bringing their YouTube streaming service to a more complete status (corporate blood sport, how wonderful).
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