11 Best Streaming Software Reviews in 2020 | Top Gaming and Broadcasting Tools

Live streaming has become extremely popular. Whether you’re gaming or broadcasting, you need to find the best streaming software. With so many options available, how do you know which one to buy? This article will introduce you to a lot of different streaming options and let you in on the different things to look for when finding the right one for your needs. 

Best Streaming Software

Here are some of the best live streaming software that we found on the market. Some of them are free and some come with a price. The free services will take a little more homework and hands-on learning, and paying a little more will mean you get services already set up for you and plenty of great options and support for any questions you have. 

1. OBS

Open Broadcaster Software (or OBS) is a great option for streaming. It's an open-source project that offers tons of power and flexibility and best of all, it was built by the streaming community so they're in touch with your needs!

Star Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars

Pros:

  • Compatible with all OS
  • Extremely easy to customize
  • Very reliable – almost no bugs!
  • Doesn’t use tons of CPU

    Cons:
  • No single point of contact for customer service
  • No multi-streaming

Open source projects can be a little difficult to pick up for beginners, but it’s well worth the effort in the end. This software is highly customizable, and will do whatever you ask it to! If you don’t see a feature you need, the community is consistently developing and innovating so take to the forums and ask how to grab it. You’ll need to be proactive about learning and explore the tutorials, but it’s well worth it. Best of all – open source software is free!

2. XSplit X3

XSplit is a great piece of software that offers everything you need for live recording and streaming. It’s got a ton of great features with a very intuitive user interface.

Star Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars

Pros:
User-friendly and easy to customize
Very stable and consistent
Allows for integration of 3rd party apps
Offers great support options

Cons:
Only supports Windows
Watermarks streams over 720p without paid services

This service offers lots of free options with even more behind a paywall. It has multi-streaming and tools that let you blur, remove, and replace your backgrounds. These options also include software updates to equip you with the latest features.

These don’t include presets for popular streaming places, so you'll have to know a little bit in order to set these up, but once you know what you're doing it's great! XSplit is a user-friendly service that is pretty affordable. It's a great option for basic live streaming. 

3. Streamlabs OBS

Streamlabs OBS married 2 popular services together to create a powerful tool. It used the Streamlabs streaming tools with the OBS open source software that gamers were using in droves to make a single powerful piece of software!

Star Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars

Pros:

  • User-friendly interface – easy to understand
  • Tons of features for creators!
  • Doesn’t hog too much CPU
  • Free to use!

    Cons:
  • Only compatible with Windows OS

Still in beta so there are some bugs.
This software has gained massive popularity, especially among gamers. It’s very gamer-friendly but even non-gamers love this software’s customization capacity and easy to use interface. The features that used to require plugins are now grouped in your Dashboard, making them easy to find and use. 

There are thousands of overlays, audio filters, and editors all for free! It even includes social widgets for donation tracking, real-time alerts, and charts. It's a great tool for anyone who wants to live stream professionally. 

4. Lightstream

Lightstream is a browser-based live streaming studio. According to their marketing team, they are “the Google Docs for live video production.” Lightstream Studio harnesses the power of the cloud for your streaming. 

Star Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars

Pros:

  • Easy to set up and very user-friendly.
  • Doesn’t hog tons of CPU.
  • Offers live chat support
  • Portable – cloud or browser-based!

    Cons:
  • Has known issues with the sound

This free software offers tons of great features. They’ve got guest hosting, live chat support, gorgeous and professional overlays, built-in support for other popular streaming tools, and even remote scene switching from your phone. 

They will automatically choose the best settings for encoding based on your computer’s specific settings. It also adjusts it automatically based on your internet connection’s stability and changes. If you are used to streaming remotely, have a less powerful device, or need automatic settings adjustments, then grab this one!

5. Nvidia Shadowplay

If you’ve got an Nvidia GeForce graphics card, then Nvidia Shadowplay may be bundled with it. This makes it free to use for anyone who has the right card. This was designed with gamers in mind. It mixes hardware with software in a way that allows you to stream with your GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) instead of the CPU. 

Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Pros:

  • Shortcuts available to easily capture gameplay
  • Doesn’t use your CPU at all – runs off GPU
  • Excels at local recording

    Cons:
  • Only works with NVidia graphics cards

This package is nice because it can run without taking up your CPU. Although it doesn’t offer a ton of overlays and multiple sources, it is an extremely fast encoder! It works well for local recording because a single keyboard shortcut will allow you to automatically record a few minutes of gameplay. 

6. Raptr

Raptr is a desktop gaming service that works almost like a social network for gamers. They offer some great streaming options, too. Their feature allows you to stream straight to Twitch. 

Star Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Pros:

  • Organizes everything in one place
  • Makes streaming very easy
  • Ranks play time and offers rewards

    Cons:
  • Desktop widgets are only browser-based

The “Let’s Play” feature allows you to turn every single game session into a Twitch stream. Raptr manages all of your accounts so you can track all your games and stream them from everything. You’re able to manage your Twitch channel from right inside the game, whether you’re using a PC an Xbox, or a Play Station! 

7. Wirecast

Whether you’re using their Studio or Pro version, Wirecast from Telestream is a great option for your streaming needs. You can host guests, animate in 3D, and get unlimited capture and encoding.

Star Rating: out 3.8 of 5 stars

Pros:

  • Tons of advanced features
  • Constantly updating with new features
  • Very professional layout
  • Excellent customer support

    Cons:
  • Much more expensive than comparable services

One of the great things about Wirecast is that it offers multistream capability. This lets you stream to multiple platforms simultaneously. The Pro version also comes with high resolution recording, live scoreboards, a ton of guest hosting options, instant replay, and more! 

The size of the company also ensures that they are constantly updating their service. Any time new features roll out, or enough users ask for a missing feature, they start developing it. They also have comprehensive tech support from a single point of contact. There's no reason not to their free 30-day trial a chance. 

8. vMix

For a professional and sleek option, check out vMix. They have tons of great features, like live video effects, hosting capabilities, overlays, and even virtual sets!

Star Rating: out 3.8 of 5 stars

Pros:

  • Tons of high-end features
  • Amazing customer support
  • Production value feels professional
  • Designed with professional needs in mind

    Cons:
  • Only compatible with Windows

One of the great things about vMix is that virtually any input is acceptable. Whether you want to use playlists, NDI, webcams, PTZs with remotes, or even DVDs and sound cards, you can. It also lets you work in 4K! 

They offer a tiered pricing system so you never have to pay more for features you don’t need. vMix is designed to mimic a professional; broadcasting environment. This means there are tons of great features. You also receive comprehensive tech support. Check out their free trial to see if this is the right decision for you. 

9. Xsplit Gamecaster

This XSplit Gamecaster software is extremely high in quality. This is a free version of premium software, so it is very sleek and has a lot of support and updates without being very expensive, as long as you don’t need to access the features behind the paywall.

Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Pros:

  • Extremely stable and consistent
  • Interface is light and user-friendly
  • Has an excellent built-in support system

    Cons:
  • Premium pricing expensive

These features are streamlined and optimized for gamers. The software supports streaming software for Twitch, YouTube Live, and Facebook Live. It’s also very intuitive and user-friendly. It is very stable and designed to improve in-game experiences. 

This tool also comes with a very active community, so if you have any issues then you can find a solution quickly thanks to the various professionalism the community. You can also find detailed manuals with any information you may need online quickly. 

10. FFSPLIT

FFSplit is extremely light and allows you to pull and capture videos from various sources then compile them into one video feed. Then, you can stream it live or record it locally. This is a great source. 

Star Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars

Pros:

  • Allows multi-streaming and simultaneous broadcasting
  • Clean interface and user-friendly software
  • Doesn’t hog your resources
  • Free to use

    Cons:
  • Only compatible with Windows Vista or later

FF Split is free to use. It's optimized perfectly to allow your performance to be smooth. This lets you focus on your broadcast and channel instead of your stream. It’s also created to look professional and offers tons of unique features and great content. 

11. Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder

Adobe’s Flash Media Live Encoder is a great option, too. It was designed to allow producers to capture the audio and video while you’re streaming. It offers the ability to broadcast live events in high quality. 

Star Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Pros:

  • Very easy to set up and use
  • Allows simultaneous broadcasting
  • Free to use
  • Available on multiple platforms and OS devices

    Cons:
  • Picture is blurry sometimes

This version includes a stream encoder that works live. It’s easy to use and very high quality. You can encode it while you’re streaming and record desktop and gaming sessions then save to your computer. 

What to Look for in the Best Streaming Software

Now that you’ve seen some of the great options, you will probably need to know how to choose the best one for your specific needs. Let’s take a look at some of the features to look into and the questions to ask. 

Streaming Software System Requirements

When you are using software for live streaming, you have to consider the requirements. The minimum setting requirement is just that. It will tell you the settings that allow the software to run… but that’s it. If you want it to run smoothly, if you’ve got other applications running while you’re using it, or if you need multiple processes in the background, you won’t be able to manage the software with that minimum. Always go above the minimum.

You also want to use some hardware that will offset encoding processing. If you can prevent your computer from needing to handle that task, you can free up resources for other things. Smaller productions can just plug and play a simple capture card of some kind to help encode your video into HD. If you are streaming from a single source, straight to Facebook or YouTube, you can grab a dedicated encoder.

If you have larger productions, you need to find a dedicated all-in-one production appliance instead. These will have everything you need in order to make live productions look professional and engaging. These can even handle 4K. 

How to Choose Streaming Software: General Advice

There are a lot of different options, so picking one from another can be a difficult task. This is especially true because some are free, some cost money, and they all have similar features but not identical ones, making it difficult to find a perfect match.

Are you pretty proficient, or do you need a lot of help from tech support? If you’re comfortable playing around with some software and setting stuff up on your own, you may want to choose an open-source platform. If you rely on tech support and need dedicated professional help, then you will likely need to pay some money for a service that comes with live help.

What features do you need the most? Find out whether you need multi-streaming or not. Are you planning to have guests and co-hosts? Do you want some overlays? How much video quality will you need? Can you settle for 720p or do you need 4K? Make sure that you’re looking at the feature sets so you don’t end up paying for stuff you don’t need or hunting for a feature mid-broadcast only to realize you don’t have it.