NVENC vs x264 in 2023: Which is the Best Quality OBS Encoder?

Which option should I select? NVENC or x264? What exactly is an encoder? As you all know, live streaming has become incredibly popular lately, but that doesn’t imply that setting up a live stream is technically simple. One aspect that numerous new streamers may have been pondering about is the encoding capabilities of your streaming software like OBS or Streamlabs. 

This article will delve into the process of selecting your encoder based on your PC specifications and determining the optimal choice. Furthermore, we’ll assist in comprehending how they function and the disparities between them.

NVENC vs x264: GPU vs CPU Encoding

Source: Venturebeat.com 

The first question that might arise within you is, perhaps, “What are the real differences between NVENC vs x264?” The big difference between these encoders is how they use your PC’s resources. In simple terms, NVENC encoding relies on your graphics card’s (GPU) computational power, while x264 emphasizes your processor (CPU). 

So, when it comes to picking the better encoding option for your next streaming adventure on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook Gaming, or even Kik, it’s pretty straightforward.  If you’ve got an NVIDIA GPU, going for the NVENC encoder is a smart move. It lets your processor handle other tasks while you’re live streaming, giving you that extra processing power. 

But what if you’ve got a beefy CPU but no GPU to match? Well, in that case, choosing x264 encoding would be more beneficial for you. Now, here’s the million-dollar question: What if you’ve got both a powerful graphics card and processor? Which one should you go with? Let’s break down the pros and cons of each encoder and find out.

NVENC Encoder: Best Encoder for NVIDIA Graphic Card User

GPU Encoding (NVENC)Utilizes GPU for encoding, relieving CPULimited performance on older NVENC models
Allows CPU to focus on other processes during gameplayLimited frame rate and resolution in older models
Improved game and stream performanceFewer options for fine-tuning the encoding process
High-quality video encoding with modern Nvidia GPUs
Superior rendering of fast-paced games with rapid image changes

Nvidia’s Nvenc encoder utilizes the GPU for encoding, freeing up the CPU for other tasks. This improves game and stream performance. The new Nvenc, especially with RTX cards, produces high-quality frames at a high frame rate, surpassing other encoders.

Nvenc vs x264 specs

Source: NVIDIA.com

It excels in rendering fast-paced games with intricate details and produces sharper video quality compared to x264. Moreover, Nvenc accurately renders in-game text, ensuring legibility, while x264 may result in dropped frames and illegible text. Nvenc is the superior choice for achieving professional stream quality.

x264 Encoder: OBS Default Encoder That Utilizes Processor

x264Renowned for consistent performanceOther encoders perform better in certain areas
Compatible with OBS settingsCPU can become overloaded with multiple processes
Differentiates better between bright and dark colorsNuances may not significantly impact stream quality
Free and open-source
Highly configurable

The x264 encoder has a reputation for consistent performance, but it faces competition from Nvenc in the gaming and streaming industry. Unlike Nvenc, which utilizes GPU for encoding, x264 relies on CPU. While this CPU encoding method is considered reliable for transferring precise frame data and works well with OBS settings, it can strain the CPU when running multiple processes during streaming.

This strain can significantly lower the quality of the stream, particularly in games with high-motion scenes. However, if you have a powerful CPU, x264 can achieve similar performance to Nvidia Nvenc. It excels in differentiating between various shades of colors, making it suitable for capturing nuances in-game environments. Nevertheless, GPU encoding is generally more efficient for gameplay streaming, especially at lower bitrates.

More on Eklipse Blog>>> How to Choose YouTube Streaming Bitrate, Encoder Settings and Resolutions

Nvenc vs x264: Which One is Better?

Nvenc and x264 are both video encoders, but they have different strengths and weaknesses, especially when it comes to live streaming. 

Livestreaming Performance:

Nvenc’s main advantage for live streaming is its minimal CPU impact. It utilizes a dedicated chip on your Nvidia GPU for encoding, leaving your CPU free to run your game smoothly. Unlike x264, which relies on CPU processing, Nvenc prevents encoding from competing with your game for resources, reducing the risk of stuttering or frame drops.

Speed and Efficiency:

Nvenc’s hardware acceleration also means much faster encoding compared to x264. This speed is essential for real-time processing required for smooth live streaming. While x264 can produce excellent results, its slower processing, especially at higher quality settings, might not be ideal for the fast-paced world of live streaming.

Image Quality Considerations:

Nvenc excels in handling rapid scene changes and motion due to specialized algorithms. However, at high bitrates, x264 can achieve similar or slightly better quality. x264 shines in capturing details in bright scenes and sudden flashes, offering more control over image quality adjustments. Text can appear slightly sharper with x264 compared to Nvenc at the same bitrate.

Choosing the Right Tool:

For live streaming, Nvenc’s low CPU usage, fast encoding, and motion handling make it a top choice. If you prioritize image quality, especially in bright scenes, or need full control over encoding for recordings, x264 is a solid option. However, for most recording needs, Nvenc provides a good balance of quality and performance. The best encoder depends on your needs and hardware setup. Trying both can help you find the best fit.

Final Thoughts

In summary, choosing between NVENC and x264 for live streaming depends on your hardware and preferences. NVENC offers low CPU usage and fast encoding, ideal for smooth streaming with Nvidia GPUs. x264 provides better control over image quality, particularly in bright scenes, and is suitable for those prioritizing precision. Experimentation with both options is key to finding the best fit for your needs.

Now that you know which encoder delivers high-quality streaming, take the next step to boost your social media presence with Eklipse. This AI highlight generator automatically clips your live stream and converts it into TikTok videos. Don’t miss out—sign up now and watch your content go viral!

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  • OBS
Jackson Monroe
Jackson Monroehttps://eklipse.gg/
Tech writer, gaming, streaming, gadgets. A decade's experience. Informative, engaging. Featured in web publications. Reviews new products. Loves gaming, tinkering.

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