Strengths and Weaknesses of Hardware vs Software Streaming Encoders

In a recent article posted to their blog, YoloLiv goes over the strengths and weaknesses, and the pro's and con's to using either a hardware of software encoder for your live stream. You need a video encoder for your live stream to actually stream, but there are a wide variety of different options you can chose as your video encoder. Let's go through YoloLiv's article that breaks it down really welll.

What is a Video Encoder?

First things first, let's answer what a video encoder is. A video encoder is a hardware or software device that compresses and converts a raw video signal into a digital format suitable for streaming over the internet. The primary purpose of a video encoder is to reduce the size of the video file, which makes it easier to transmit over the internet without sacrificing too much quality.

When it comes to live streaming, a video encoder is essential because it is responsible for converting the video signal from a camera or other source into a format that can be streamed over the internet. Without a video encoder, the raw video signal would be too large to transmit in real-time, resulting in buffering or poor video quality for viewers.

There are many different types of video encoders available, ranging from standalone hardware devices to software-based solutions that run on a computer. The choice of video encoder will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of video content you are streaming, the quality you want to achieve, and the available bandwidth of your internet connection.

Software Encoder

A software encoder is a computer program that performs the same function as a hardware encoder but operates entirely in software. In other words, it uses the processing power of a computer's CPU (Central Processing Unit) to compress and convert the video signal into a format suitable for live streaming.

Software encoders are popular because they offer a cost-effective and flexible solution for live streaming. They are often easier to set up and configure than hardware encoders, and they can be used with a wide range of cameras and other video sources.

Some popular software encoders include OBS Studio, Wirecast, and vMix. These programs offer a range of features, including support for multiple cameras, graphics overlays, and customizable encoding settings, making them a versatile solution for live streaming.

Hardware Encoder

A hardware encoder is a physical device that is designed to convert a video signal into a format suitable for live streaming. Unlike software encoders, which run on a computer's CPU, hardware encoders use dedicated hardware components to perform the encoding process.

Hardware encoders typically offer better performance and reliability than software encoders, as they are purpose-built for the task of live streaming. They are designed to handle large volumes of video data in real-time, which makes them ideal for use in professional live streaming applications.

Hardware encoders can come in many different forms, including standalone devices, capture cards, and integrated systems. They often include features such as support for multiple input sources, customizable encoding settings, and real-time streaming to popular platforms such as YouTube and Facebook Live.

For example, YoloBox Pro, the industry’s first REALLY all-in-one live production system, doesn’t require anything external. It can stream simultaneously to multiple destinations like Facebook, YouTube, and any other RTMP(S) websites. With the built-in battery and 4G, you can use it to stream from anywhere to everywhere.

Which is Better for Live Streaming? 

Many people may be wondering “which is better for my live streaming?” The truth is the two types of encoders are fundamentally different from one another. Each of them has advantages and disadvantages of its own

Pros and Cons of Software Encoders


  • Cost-effectiveness: generally it is less expensive than hardware encoders, and usually has monthly paid solutions.
  • Compatibility: It is compatible with a broad range of devices and platforms, making it accessible to large users.
  • Software updates: It is easy to add new features by updating the software.


  • Quality: it may produce lower-quality output than hardware encoders, particularly when encoding at high bitrates or using complex encoding settings.
  • Reliability: it is more prone to errors or crashes than hardware encoders, particularly if the computer running the software encoder is under heavy load.
  • Resource-intensive: it requires a powerful computer with plenty of RAM and processing power to achieve optimal performance.

Pros and Cons of Hardware Encoders:


  • Reliability: You don’t need to worry about the screen freezes of your laptop and losing your data.
  • Efficiency: Performing and encoding much faster than software encoders, resulting in lower CPU usage and better overall performance.
  • Quality: it can produce higher-quality output than software encoders, particularly when it comes to video encoding.
  • Lower Latency: it is specifically designed to minimize latency and provide real-time encoding. This makes them ideal for live streaming applications where low latency is essential.


  • Upgrade challenges: Upgrading a hardware encoder is more difficult than upgrading software. It may require the addition of new hardware components or the replacement of the entire unit.
  • Cost: It comes with a high cost, especially for professional-grade models.
  • Limited customization: It has limited customization options, and users may not be able to fine-tune the encoding parameters to achieve the desired output quality.

Read the full article from YoloLiv HERE


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