Is hardware encoding better than software encoding?

  • If you are a streamer, you need to understand that there are two main types of encoders available out there to consider. They include hardware encoders and software encoders. Most streamers don’t have a clear understanding about the differences between these two types of encoders. That’s why we thought of sharing the differences in detail.

    What exactly is encoding? 

    Encoding is the process where you compress streamed media in your preferred format. Compression algorithms will be able to help you with that. The exact device that is responsible for processing these compressing algorithms is known as the Encoder. When you deep dive and take a look at an encoder, you will notice that it has both video and analog audio inputs. They will help to encode content as per the desired format. Then it is possible to end up with getting the preferred encoded IP as the output.

    RTMP streaming is powered up by the encoders. However, you should decide whether you are going to use hardware encoders or software encoders as per the specific preferences that you have.

    What is a software encoder? 

    Software encoders are by far the most used form of encoder. This is due to the fact that some of the most popular software encoders are completely free.

    Open Broadcaster Software is one of the most widely used software encoders (OBS). This open-source software package exemplifies some of the benefits offered by several software encoders. It's not just free, but it also performs more than simply encoding. OBS is a complete video multi-source switching solution. It lets you set up several cameras, add graphics and music, and do anything else you need to create a professional-looking live broadcast. Furthermore, it encodes and broadcasts your video.

    What is a hardware encoder? 

    Serious streamers and professional streaming facilities employ hardware encoders because they are strong, dependable instruments.
    Hardware encoders aren't cheap; most start at approximately $600 and go up into the hundreds of dollars. They usually just perform one thing: encode and stream over the network, and they do it very effectively and with great dependability. Hardware encoders, unlike computers, don't become bogged down with multiple programs running since they only perform one thing.

    They usually don't have multiple inputs or switching capabilities, so if you want to utilize several cameras, graphics, etc., you'll need to connect video switching/mixing equipment or software to the encoder. 

    They might be the greatest option in the event of a network outage. Many encoders, such as Live U's LU210 and LU220 hardware encoders, can communicate across a variety of networks, including wi-fi, satellite, and cellular. They can make full use of each network's capacity to provide you with the greatest possible streaming connection.

    What are the advantages and disadvantages of software encoders?

    But that's the extent of their resemblance. Both are fundamentally different, which implies that each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. If you want to make a solid buying selection, you need get acquainted with them, so let's go a little more into them. It is better if you can carefully take a look at these options and then make the right choice. Then you can end up with getting the best possible encoding experience. 

    Software encoders do not include any hardware. They rely entirely on the processing capacity of their host computer's CPU. You probably feel that there will be a problem with it sometime down the road, and you're correct. For the time being, let's simply state that some encoders allow you to employ hardware encoding to distribute workload between the CPU and GPU.

    The following are the major characteristics that made software encoders so popular:

    •    Affordability, since even the best do not come without a price tag.
    •    They provide versatility since they can ingest several streams while also acting as switchers, effects, and other functions.
    •    Customizability, as they allow you to choose the bitrate and encoding type.

    Software encoders, on the other hand, aren't all roses because of their:
    •    They have a high reliance on the host, and they're only as good as the machine they're operating on.
    •    Due to the slower encoding, there is a higher delay.
    •    Overall, performance is reduced, particularly on lower-end systems or while multitasking.

    There are faults with software encoders. The excellent ones, on the other hand, may give a surprising amount of bang for your money, and they can even help you be more creative owing to a variety of customizing choices. Still, when it comes to quality and latency, it's difficult to envision a high-end software encoder beating a high-end hardware encoder.

    What are the advantages and disadvantages of hardware encoders?

    Hardware encoders have everything you need in a small package. There will be an encoding algorithm as well as a powerful processing unit dedicated to running the encoding method. Typically, there will be some form of interface where you may select between choices, such as the encoding codec or the stream's destination.

    The following are some of the advantages of employing a hardware encoder:
    •    Excellent performance, particularly when exceedingly high-quality streaming is required.
    •    Given that they're created with just one goal in mind — to encode — they're very dependable.
    •    Lower latency due to faster encoding speed.

    Hardware encoders, on the other hand, have certain drawbacks, including:
    •    The expense since their prices begin at a few hundred dollars and rise from there.
    •    Because of the lack of functionality, you'll need to purchase supplementary equipment to do tasks such as switching.
    •    Upgrades are difficult, particularly when compared to software encoders.

    So, there you have it: hardware encoders in their purest form. They encrypt, and that's all there is to it. The excellent ones can do it in a flash, but they'll charge you an arm and a leg. However, if you can justify the investment, you won't be sorry. Be prepared to spend more money since hardware encoders are a one-trick pony.

    Is your live broadcast going to need software or hardware encoding?

    What you desire and what you need are two distinct concepts. When it comes buying gear, keep this in mind since the aim is typically to acquire the greatest choice for the money you have, which frequently involves making concessions.

    But, whatever you do, be sure that your decisions assist you reach your objectives. The quality of a regular stream does not always have to equal that of a professional broadcast. The most important element that will affect your selection is affordability. Hardware encoders are costly, and their lack of functionality will require you to purchase other equipment to fill in the gaps. High-end software encoders may also be costly. You'll almost always need a separate computer to operate them.

    Still, in the streaming world, a competent software encoder and a decent computer may go you a long way. With so many other aspects of the setup to consider — like as decent microphones - purchasing a computer and downloading OBS will allow you to save money for the camera, microphones, or a better internet connection.

    Unless you're a professional broadcaster, a software encoder should enough keep you happy and broadcasting for a while. It's less expensive, more accessible, and simpler to use in most cases.

    Choosing the Most Appropriate Encoder

    Let's not kid ourselves: a software encoder necessitates the use of hardware. When deciding which encoder to use, keep in mind that although there is fantastic, free encoding software available, you will still need a powerful machine to execute it on. It should ideally be a powerful computer, and it should be a dedicated computer for optimal performance. It should only be used for encoding. So, if you don't have an additional computer lying around, you may have to buy one in order to install your free encoding program. When considering your alternatives, keep this in mind.

    Software encoders are a better alternative than hardware encoders for most individuals who are just starting started with live streaming. They give an easily accessible entrance point into the world of streaming, which cannot be overstated.

    You may opt to go full hardware as time passes and production funds increase. You may also construct a hybrid system by adding some hardware encoders to a software encoder arrangement. In any case, if you want to reach your viewers wherever they are, be sure you can utilize Restream.

    The quality of your material, both in terms of what it is (its contents) and how you deliver it, determines the success of a live broadcast (the technical side). So put in the effort to come up with fantastic content ideas, but don't forget to do a technical check before going live.

    Consider multi-streaming with VDO Panel if you want to reach a larger audience. VDO Panel also offer many other impressive benefits to the video streamers. It is up to you to take a look at them and go ahead with sing it as your video streaming panel.