In this guide, we would be amiss not to acknowledge current hardware trends and upcoming releases, more on that below. So, let’s dive in.
There’s no stream without a computer; this is the beating heart of any setup, so we will start here. A good investment here will last for years to come.
For example, speaking as the writer of this article, I managed to eek eight years out of my Sandy Bridge 2600k-based setup with only an upgrade to an Nvidia GTX 980 Ti, 32GB of memory, and more storage space; this was good for 1440p gaming on high-ish settings at 60 fps for most games up until 2021. I was even getting away with 4K on some older games — not to mention my fair share of audio and video editing. While this is an extreme example, and I stayed on top of maintenance, quality and good components do pay off.
The gang features a collection of parts and cases from several vendors. Pokimane sports the fetching NZXT H510 Elite, Shroud with the Maingear Vybe Black and Myth with a very transparent Thermaltake Core P3.
Cases are an important choice concerning aesthetics and performance because plenty of cases out there look great but provide terrible airflow. There’s little point to having high-end components if they constantly thermal throttle due to poor cooling.
Myth rocks team blue, Intel i9 9900k eight-core processors. Meanwhile, Pokimane and Shroud sports team red, AMD Ryzen 9 3950x and 5950x 16 core CPUs, respectively.
When it comes to gaming, single-core performance still counts the most. Where the extra cores do help is with tasks benefiting from parallelism, like video capture and editing.
Higher core counts typically come at the expense of boost clock speeds, but AMD has done amazingly well to counter this with its current
generation of Ryzen. AMD’s chips have been more than a match for Intel and often beating them these last few years both in price and performance. It’s nice to see competition back in this space.
The 12-core AMD 5900x is great value for money and comes in a decent chunk below its 12-core 5950x sibling. Bear in mind that AMD is releasing its fourth generation Ryzen and AM5 socket in Q3 of 2022. This means new, more-performant processors, but we can already see some good discounts on third-generation Ryzen models.
With the exception of Pokimane’s gaming setup, everyone else opted for 64 GB of DDR4 RAM, which is more than enough for a mix of gaming, streaming and video editing. In today’s terms, 32 GB of memory is the new 16 and worth springing for. This is a good piece of future-proofing and offers room to grow.
Nearly everyone is running some flavor of G.Skill TridentZ memory. One thing worth noting is that G.Skill products are much more readily available and competitively priced in the North American market.
The memory space is an interesting one to watch at the moment, as we are currently in the midst of a transition to DDR5. The next generation of Ryzen AM5 and Intel’s Raptor Lake CPUs will support DDR5 exclusively.
Whatever your choice is for you gaming setup, don’t forget to enable the XMP/AMP settings in your BIOS menu, technically UEFI these days, to automatically set the correct timing and voltage settings.
If ever-increasing game installer and patch sizes have taught us anything, it’s that SSD storage is a blessing when it comes to loading times and when deciding how many games to keep installed — not to mention that this adds a lot more redundancy to your data. Anything that’s mission-critical should be backed up.
It’s not uncommon for streamers to run a separate machine to handle their streaming and video editing workflows — storage and computing being two reasons.
The Synology DS1621xs+ is on the high end in both performance and price. The 10 Gigabit Ethernet interface means it can be used for video editing. Its smaller sibling, the DS1520+, supports link aggregation on its 4x 1 Gigabit ports.
Then there is also the question of what to do with all that captured streaming footage, editing drives and archiving. Personally, I have a mix of 2 TB SSD and 2TB HDD drives to handle newer, larger games and older, less load-intensive ones. I use UnRaid as my NAS solution and run a variety of application containers and Virtual Machines on top of it.
A popular practical solution is to use a Network Attached Storage, NAS, for the bulk of storing and archiving. Synology offers an excellent variety of NAS options with as little as two, four, eight bays and beyond. This means that a hybrid SSD and HDD, with support for RAID, configuration coupled with the optional 10 Gigabit ethernet makes for a performant storage solution.
A 10 Gigabit connection is suitable for one or two users to edit video directly from the NAS, provided it has some SSD storage or caching drives.
The monitor space has seen no shortage of innovation. Some of us may remember our first LCD displays with TN panels and all the pains of less-than-ideal viewing angles, ghosting and burn-in. Fast forward to today and curved panels turned out to be an amazing feature, IPS panels are no longer the pinnacle and Samsung’s new Quantum Dot OLED has us questioning reality because it looks so darn good. High refresh rates are no longer exotic, but the norm and also expected in a professional gaming environment.
Key monitor features to look out for are:
- Display size
- Resolution and ratio
- Refresh rate
- Stand adjustability
- Color gamut
Display size, resolution and refresh rate – the display trinity
Finding a monitor with all the features above is easier than ever, with only some wiggle room required around price points and certain features. Size-wise, no one should have a monitor below 27-inches these days. Anything smaller hampers productivity by reducing real estate and making higher resolutions painful to use.
Pokimane, Myth, and Shroud have all opted for 27” displays with 2560 x 1440 QHD resolutions and refresh rates starting at 144Hz for their gaming setups. These are all 16:9 ratio monitors, AKA widescreen. Note that in all their gaming setups, they use at least two monitors, and in Myth’s case, three.
These will not be mastering-grade monitors by any stretch of the imagination. Myth’s ASUS ROG Swift offers full sRGB coverage. In the case of High Dynamic Range (HDR) monitors, HDR in Windows can be hit or miss; there is even more color range; however, your mileage will vary.
Last but not least is the ability to move and adjust the monitor to a height and viewing angle that suits your needs. Ergonomically, you don’t want to be straining your neck to look up or down. The same goes for side to side; adjust your monitor distance and height accordingly to comfortably fit your field of vision.
For better or worse, this can be a problem for some displays, for example, not offering enough tilt. Fortunately, plenty of VESA mount arms are out there to help solve this. Another bonus is that raising or lifting the monitor off the desk frees up space and makes everything look cleaner overall.
GPUs occupy their own section because they are the most likely part upgraded over a computer’s lifecycle. Pushing the resolutions and refresh rates of the monitors just listed takes a powerful graphics card, not to mention the stream encoding overhead.
Shroud is the only one of the group using a current generation Nvidia RTX 3090, with Pokimane and Myth sticking with the Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti. While the 2080 Ti is no slouch, we were somewhat surprised given the world of sponsorships and endorsements, chip shortage and all. The RTX 3000 series was a significant step forward. And, of course, because more frames equal better.
The Nvidia RTX 4000 series is on the horizon and expected somewhere in Q3 2022. These new graphics cards are expected to bring significant performance increases over their RTX 3000 predecessors.
It would be unfair not to mention AMD’s most recent offering in the form of the 6900 and 6950 XT models, which have reduced the gap to the RTX 3090 in gaming performance. Albeit still coming slower in rendering workflows. While these are high-end models, they can still be found for $1,000 less than the competing RTX 3090 models.
With the chip shortage finally easing and GPU prices coming down closer to their MSRP, our advice is to hold out if you can. There are new models from both Nvidia and AMD coming soon. Lest we forget, Intel’s ARC desktop graphics cards are expected to hit the market later this year. The GPU space is about to experience the most competition in over a decade.
Keyboards and mice
Mechanical keyboards today are a way of life, especially for gamers. Their robust tactile and auditory feedback is synonymous with gamers and programmers alike. The market has never been alive with more choices on input devices. General qualities to look for in mice are whether you prefer a lighter or heavier mouse, wired or wireless, programmable buttons and sensitivity. There are plenty of ambidextrous models catering to left and right-handed users.
Lighter mice contribute to less fatigue over time but might not be to everyone’s taste. Mice with adjustable weights do exist, and I personally love the feature and being able to find a happy medium between gaming and graphics. Mechanical keyboards are a world of their own with various switches, keycaps, responses and even how you like your clicks and clacks.
What does matter is finding the time to try some of these products in person, see if there is a discernible difference and what feels best to you. Here’s what the gang uses:
- Shroud’s gaming setup benefits from a personalized edition Logitech G303 wireless mouse and Logitech G Pro X keyboard
- Myth uses a variant of the Logitech G Pro mechanical keyboard and pairs it with the Logitech G703 mouse for his stream gaming setup
- Pokimane’s HyperX affiliation brings us the HyperX Alloy Origins 60 keyboard and HyperX Pulsefire Dart wireless mouse
While not necessary for streaming PC content, capture cards come into their own when streaming content from external sources like game consoles and passing video through.
Next up, making the stream look good.
Just like microphones, bigger camera bodies allow for larger sensors and higher overall image quality. Pairing high-quality audio and video together makes for a more appealing stream. There is no point streaming in potato vision.
The now discontinued Sony A6000 is still popular and in demand and worth keeping an eye out for any used deals.
The Sony Alpha A6000 reigns supreme with Pokimane, Shroud and Myth. Even after being released five years ago and facing discontinuation, the A6000 remains sought after by amateur photographers and streamers alike. With support for interchangeable lenses and robust software support, it has aged with grace and stayed relevant.
The long-term goal is clear and that is to look for a camera with a good sensor, interchangeable lenses and reliable software support. We are far less inclined to recommend the slew of 4K capable webcams that have been hitting the market, mainly due to their smaller sensor sizes and reliance on digital zoom and panning. With that said, everyone needs to start somewhere, even if that is Logitech C920 webcam. At least it supports 1080p. Streaming is about passion, no amount of equipment can conjure that.
Good room and backlighting contribute to a more natural and less ghostly appearance. The majority of off-the-shelf bulbs don’t output an even light spectrum, particularly in the red frequencies, causing each video to look different and for skin tones to appear unnatural.
The Elgato Key Light and Ring Lights are common features for that reason and while not the only products in this category, their popularity is hard to deny.
Streaming, capture and editing software is a matter of personal choice and taste. It is a Windows world out there, but you already knew that if you’re a gamer. The bulk of auxiliary software for components, including the GoXLR and RGB lighting, are Windows only — the exception being video editing software and pro-audio-oriented interfaces having broader support for environments like MacOS.
We all know the adage of poor audio ruins a good video. Voice makes up a massive part of a stream if users can’t clearly hear or understand a streamer because they will go elsewhere.
The microphones on display here include the Electro Voice RE20 and RE320, Blue Microphones Mouse and the Audio Technica AT4040. The major difference between the RE20 and RE320 is that the latter is assembled in the US with foreign instead of locally manufactured components. It was interesting not seeing a single Shure SM7B, but at the same time nice to see some variety.
Pokimane uses the dynamic cardioid RE20. The upside to a dynamic microphone is that streamers can be more spontaneous, shouty, and at less risk of distorting the input channel. Shroud and Myth go with the Blue Microphone Mouse and AT4040 routes, respectively; both are condenser cardioids and more sensitive.
The takeaway is that these are all large diaphragm condenser microphones with directional cardioid patterns that are great broadcast and streaming solutions. Directionality reduces background noise and adds to ease of use.
While these technically fall under the guise of gaming headsets, these are most often used for their headphone capabilities. Most streamers opt for dedicated microphones because of the massive leap in vocal fidelity.
Shroud and Myth both opt for the Logitech G PRO X for their gaming setups, with only the wireless and wired options to split between them. And Pokimane rocks the HyperX Cloud Alpha wired headset.
Wireless options have come a long way on battery life and fidelity; however, for marathon streams, a wired headset is the safest bet. Plus, all wireless headsets become wired when charging them during gaming sessions and save money along the way.
In terms of audio quality, gaming headsets possess a frequency response that is far from flat. Making music playback somewhere along the lines of tolerable, with some adjustability via EQ and software presets. Their strengths lie in video game sounds and voice.
What you should judge a headset by is its overall build quality. Quality features include a solid metal frame and hinges that reduce the overall flex and stop the dreaded sounds of creaking and flexing. User comfort benefits from good build quality, especially around adjustability. No one likes having to constantly readjust a headset, all the while causing a creaky racket. The comfort features to look for are breathability and leaving enough room to accommodate ears of various shapes and sizes. Headsets should not be painful to wear, leaving your ears sweaty and feeling like you have come from a boxing match. Where possible, try before you buy.
Audio interfaces and mixers
We must say that the GoXLR by TC Helicon is a lovely piece of purpose-built kit designed for streamers. The blend of four-channel support, motorized faders, programmable buttons and attractive design explains its popularity. This is totally a mini broadcast board with ease of use in mind. The only criticism is the inclusion of only a single XLR input.
Other options seen here include the venerable Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 used by Shroud. The only major hurdle here is that most of the controls are bound to software, and there is not much in the way of tactile controls. In fairness, these types of interfaces are primarily designed for audio recording software.
Myth has opted for the Yamaha MG10XU for his gaming setup, which offers a USB audio option and, in this case, is a must. This is probably the most old-school, hands-on approach, and we can’t help but praise his choice and choosing to tackle signal flow head-on.
Myth and Shroud have, in my opinion, gone the best route by opting for a high-quality office chair with the Herman Miller Embody.
With Pokimane sporting a Noblechairs EPIC in white, which, in a way, makes me want to say, “SecretLab send Pokimane a new chair.”
SecretLab deserves a mention, given how well their chairs hold up over time and the videos out there to back it up.
There is an ongoing debate around high-end office chairs versus gaming chairs regarding ergonomics, breathability and posture support.
That isn’t to say that all gaming chairs are bad per se, but many out there are rebranded and marked-up versions of models from generic manufacturers. Gamers Nexus has a great test video on this topic. Ultimately, the choice and definition of comfort are yours, but it is worth exploring your options, and as the old adage goes, “buy cheap, buy twice.”
Presentation, backgrounds, and dioramas
Set dressing can sometimes feel like an afterthought. A clean, well-decorated room and backdrop speak volumes about a streamer’s character and style. Pokimane absolutely stole the show in this area with just how well her room balanced work and life, the overall cleanliness and the awesome anime-themed diorama and wall art. Yes, she has since moved to a new house, but it’s still worth mentioning her design choices in general.
One last thing before we wrap up, we can’t stress how important cable management is — we’re looking at you Pokimane. YouTuber PewDiePie makes a pretty big deal about and talks of the lengths he went to organize and hide his cabling. Not only is this great from a visual perspective, but also from a functional one. It shows planning and intent and makes upgrading and troubleshooting equipment so much easier.
Learn what you can from your favorite streamers’ gaming setups; however, know that it’s okay if you don’t have the budget to get everything they have. Everyone starts somewhere. What matters most is to have gear that supports the type of content that you want to make and to slowly build your gaming setup as you go. So, if you’re considering going live, here are five reasons you should.