Does choosing one of the three most popular live streaming software used in the gaming community have you feeling torn? Not for long, we hope. This comparison offers an in-depth comparison of Streamlabs Desktop, OBS Studio, and XSplit Broadcaster and will help you make a decision.
What Is OBS Studio?
OBS Studio is a free and open-source screen broadcasting and live streaming software. It works on Windows, macOS, and Linux. It produces real-time screen capture, recording, and encoding to streaming services, such as Twitch, YouTube Live, Facebook Live, and Instagram Live.
OBS Studio doesn’t pack a feature that lets you maintain the quality of your game (e.g. 1080p) without eating up a lot of CPU or GPU power. (You can change which component you want OBS Studio to use for encoding.) Therefore, users have to set up their stream quality to match their hardware’s capacity to prevent stream stutters and in-game FPS drops.
What Is Streamlabs Desktop?
Streamlabs Desktop is another free and open-source live streaming software that’s available on Windows and macOS, with a separate mobile version for Android and iOS.
Streamlabs Desktop is based on OBS, which has simple controls to lets content creators better engage with their audience. Moreover, it supports multi-streaming on Twitch, Facebook Live, and YouTube Live. It has built-in widgets, face and audio filters, overlays, and smart encoding that lets you stream high-quality videos without eating up a lot of CPU power. A live streaming software with low CPU usage is essential, especially if you’re streaming CPU-intensive games.
What Is XSplit Broadcaster?
XSplit Broadcaster is a screen broadcasting and recording software on Windows that supports multi-platform streaming, noise suppression, and a GPU-utilizing encoder, NVENC Encoding. An encoder like NVENC is perfect for streaming or recording CPU-intensive games, as NVENC takes the majority of encoding load from your CPU.
However, unlike Streamlabs Desktop and OBS Studio, XSplit Broadcaster is a paid software. While you can use the free version, your stream and recordings will have the XSplit watermark, and the multistreaming feature won’t be available.
Streamlabs Desktop has a simple interface that resembles OBS Studio’s, which managed to put the necessary commands on a single screen. You can modify your live stream sources, adjust audio and mic, and pause your stream without clicking on drop-downs.
Additionally, you can view your stream’s performance metrics by clicking on the bar graph icon at the bottom left of the interface. For example, you can see how much of your CPU is occupied by the live-streaming activity, the frames per second (FPS) of your stream, and stream latency.
In comparison, OBS Studio’s interface has the basic streaming and recording commands ready and placed on convenient spots. The button labels help you execute actions within the live streaming software much quicker, as you already know which buttons to click.
In addition, the stream performance metrics are already located at the bottom right of the main screen, so you don’t need to click anything else to see your stream’s uptime, CPU usage, and FPS.
As a result, compared to Streamlabs Desktop’s interface, OBS Studio’s interface fares better in terms of ease of use.
Out of the three live streaming software discussed here, XSplit Broadcaster has the least convenient-looking interface. The sources, audio mixer, and broadcast controls aren’t grouped as in Streamlabs Desktop and OBS Studio. It’ll take some time for you to get familiar with the controls.
Unlike Streamlabs Desktop and OBS Studio, where basic commands sit together, you’ll have to explore XSplit Broadcaster’s main screen to find the controls you need. If you look at the main screen, the Audio Mixer isn’t labeled as such and can be mistaken for sliders for other audio detected by XSplit.
On the bright side, XSplit Broadcaster’s main screen shows more broadcast performance metrics by default. At the top right, you can see your broadcast’s resolution and FPS. The drop-down allows you to change the metrics shown.
Additional performance and component information is available at the bottom of the main screen. This includes CPU model, total load, XSplit Broadcaster’s usage, and clock speed. Moreover, you can also see your GPU’s model, total load, XSplit Broadcaster’s load, and clock speed. The last metric is the amount of memory XSplit Broadcaster occupies.
Granted, the lack of command grouping makes its interface look simpler and smaller and sacrifices ease of use.
The primary features of these live streaming software are to record and stream to online platforms. However, contributors are continuously improving these open-source streaming software to make each distinct and valuable to other users. Let’s talk about some added features:
When it comes to extra features, Streamlabs Desktop offers its fair share compared to XSplit Broadcaster and OBS Studio. It does, however, lack in certain areas. For instance, although it has a virtual camera feature, it doesn’t come pre-installed in Streamlabs Desktop. You still have to go into the live streaming software’s settings to install the virtual camera for free.
The program also boasts:
- Built-in Widgets: the usual way to add widgets in your live stream requires a lot of copying and pasting, but Streamlabs Desktop offers widgets inside the software. You can add and test these widgets on your broadcast or recording preview.
- Face and Audio Filters: Streamlabs Desktop loves to make things engaging for your viewers. With built-in face and audio filters, you can make your live streams and recordings more entertaining for your audience.
- Smart Video Encoding: When streaming or recording, encoding is the toughest on your hardware. Streamlabs came up with an encoder that reduces the load on your CPU while maintaining the same video quality that you see when playing. However, this feature is only available for selected titles, like CS: GO, PUBG, Destiny 2, Fortnite, and League of Legends. If you have an integrated GPU, this feature is extremely beneficial in reducing stream stutters and FPS drops.
- Stream Overlays and Themes: Streamlabs Desktop has a library of stream overlays and themes that you can test and use for free in your broadcasts. Unlike in OBS Studio and XSplit Broadcaster where you have to manually add overlays in themes from the Web, Streamlabs Desktop has thousands of options in the software’s library that are available for use.
Aside from its primary function of streaming and recording whatever is on your monitor, OBS Studio can also function as a virtual camera. This feature lets you use the output from OBS as a video camera source and present it as a webcam. Simply put, the content captured in OBS is fed to the virtual camera, and instead of your face showing, it’ll be what’s on your screen or OBS Studio sources.
You can use the OBS virtual camera by going into the video settings of video conferencing apps like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and others. However, it’s important to note that the virtual camera will not feed audio, as it is only a video source. Your audio will still come from your microphone.
However, aside from its virtual camera, OBS Studio doesn’t have other standout features compared to Streamlabs Desktop and XSplit Broadcaster.
XSplit Broadcaster’s main screen may not look as spacious and easy to maneuver as Streamlabs Desktop and OBS Studio. Still, this live streaming software does has a few things to offer:
- Sample Presentations: upon launch, XSplit Broadcaster shows you templates based on the content you want to broadcast. For example, you can choose from PC gaming, console gaming, online talk show, podcast, and presentation templates with parts you can personalize. Alternatively, you can import presentations from OBS Studio and take all your overlays and other customizations to XSplit Broadcaster.
- Noise Supression: XSplit Broadcaster offers noise suppression built into the software. You won’t need software such as Krisp to make sure your audience isn’t hearing unwanted background noise.
- NVENC Encoding: this option ensures that your GPU is fully-utilized during encoding. This lessens the load on your CPU, which you’ll benefit from if you play CPU-intensive titles such as GTA V and have other programs running aside from XSplit Broadcaster and the game you’re streaming.
Streamlabs Desktop and OBS Studio have straightforward live streaming options. You don’t need to log in to any of your streaming services through the software to start a live stream. You only need to grab the stream keys from the streaming service of your choice and paste them to Streamlabs Desktop or OBS Studio.
However, in XSplit Broadcaster, you’ll need to log in to your streaming service account through the software to start a live stream.
Stream Resolution and FPS
The usual recommendation for live streaming software and streaming services is 1280×720 at 60 FPS. However, all three services offer several options:
Streamlabs Desktop resolution options, with 10 to 60 FPS, include:
In Streamlabs Desktop, you can also use custom resolutions.
OBS Studio lets you stream in these resolutions, with FPS from 10 to 60:
OBS Studio only allows you to choose from the available resolutions and FPS options, with no option to add custom options for both.
XSplit Broadcaster stream resolutions, with 20 to 60 FPS:
Similar to Streamlabs Desktop, you can create custom resolutions. Additionally, you can also create custom FPS settings.
Streamlabs Desktop, OBS Studio, and XSplit Broadcaster all have a separate button for recording that’s fairly visible and are usually located close to the streaming button. In addition, they all support live streaming and recording simultaneously.
As for resolution and FPS, all three live streaming software have similar options when it comes to live streaming resolutions and FPS.
As for performance, the live streaming software you’re using isn’t the defining factor. While Streamlabs Desktop, XSplit Broadcaster, and OBS Studio have features that slightly tweak GPU, CPU, and RAM usage to give more juice to other processes (e.g. your game), overall they tend to perform relatively similarly and do the same tasks: to broadcast or record.
What can change the quality of your broadcast and recordings is your hardware. Streaming and recording aren’t simple computing tasks, especially if you’re aiming for high-resolution and high-FPS outputs.
Supported Streaming Services
- YouTube – RTMPS
- Facebook Live
Streamlabs Desktop supports more platforms, which you can choose from in the software’s “Settings -> Stream” window.
- YouTube – RTMPS
- Facebook Live
Like Streamlabs Desktop, OBS Studio supports other non-mainstream platforms. You can view all services the software supports by going into the software’s “Settings -> Stream” window.
- Facebook Live
- Wowza Streaming Cloud
- QNAP DJ2
- Meridix Sports Network
- IBM Cloud Video (Ustream)
- Limelight Networks
- Custom RTMP
- Local Streaming
Streamlabs Desktop and OBS Studio are both free with all features included. XSplit Broadcaster, on the other hand, has a monthly subscription starting at $5 that includes non-free features, such as watermark removal, virtual camera, multi-streaming, and premium customer support. You can still use XSplit Broadcaster for free but have to subscribe to enjoy additional features.
Making Your Choice
Since we’ve talked about the ease of use and added features, you should go with the one that provides the most convenience when you’re streaming. Convenience is important if you stream competitive games, as you need software that’s easy to use and with everything you need at the same place.
In that case, your best bet would be OBS Studio and Streamlabs Desktop. Since they look almost the same, you can use them interchangeably until you find out which one better suits your streaming needs.
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