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Do It Yourself Streaming Series: Mac Or PC? What Specs Do I Need In A Streaming Computer?

Jacob Braunstein

Mac Or PC? What Specs Do I Need In A Streaming Computer?

Mac vs PC, Toyota vs Honda, Pepsi vs Coke, it’s just preference on the machine… right? Well, not exactly.

When it comes to choosing a streaming computer, there are several things you are looking for.

  • Processor Speed (and brand – AMD vs Intel)
  • Graphics Card (and brand – Nvidia vs AMD)
  • Storage
  • Networking Adapters
  • Expansion & I/O (PCI Express Ports, Thunderbolt, USB 3.1)
  • Operating Service (MacOS vs Windows) 

All of those options come together and encode/transcode/process your information differently then the other option, but most importantly, your production software might not support it.

If you’re looking to stream with your webcam, then I would say it doesn’t matter what computer you have. Mac vs. PC, cheap vs. expensive, but which of them will hold up? Your workflow and production needs will quickly determine the computer you need.

 

First off, Macs are more expensive than PCs, it’s just a fact. You're paying for design and form factor, rather than components. MacOS does an amazing job with speed and virus protection for general, day to day tasks. But the components in most Macs under $2,000 are nothing special and when you’re using production software that only cares about the components inside your device, then you’re going to want a Windows PC.

Let’s pretend your church wants 3 cameras mixed & encoded (all IP based), while using ProPresenter to integrate lyrics and graphics on the screen. We’re basically talking about 4 different inputs at this point.

Let’s say that you just purchased a powerhouse PC with an i7-9770K processor, GTX 1080 TI, with a 2TB SSD drive (this is the computer I’m using right now while I type this blog post). 

Let’s say that each of your 3 PTZ Cameras’ 1080p30fps stream at 8192kbps bitrate, which takes up around 15% CPU usage on your computer (15x3 = 45% CPU Usage just on ingesting the cameras). Your NDI ProPresenter source takes up an additional 10% usage (now totaling 55% CPU). The rule of thumb is you want to have at least 30% CPU usage free from your production workflow, so that means you have 15% CPU usage to spare. Good thing we have the Nvidia GTX 1080 in there! We can now offload what would have been at least 15% CPU usage of encoding CPU usage to the GPU completely. So we finish our production with 55% CPU usage, while offloading your encoding to the GPU.

Here’s the problem with Mac vs PC. Since we had our PC with both intel and Nvidia processors, we were able to handle this 4 input production. Macs can be more complicated. Some don’t use intel (but AMD) and the newest Macs now run on their own branded M1 chips (which no streaming production software currently handles at the time of writing this blog).

The conclusion is that when it comes to the streaming world, PCs are easier, cheaper, and have more options (also vMix is only compatible with PCs). It’s not impossible to do it on a Mac, just be prepared to have a $3,000+ machine.

 

At LiveControl, our encoder is designed to be the all in one solution for our remote video production services. Since we use this device to switch and control all the cameras, ingest audio and graphics, encode and record, while allowing our videographers to connect in remotely, every piece of hardware is specifically designed for reliability and production optimization. We cram some pretty powerful components (along with a full Nvidia graphics card) into our small form factor encoder. Our streaming experts constantly tweak and push updates to make sure our machine stays online and is a frustration free experience for our clients.

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