Video Encoders, Top Post

Hardware vs. Software Encoders: 6 Reasons Hardware Encoders are Better

This post addresses the benefits of using a hardware encoder vs. a software encoder in your live video streaming setup. It's part of our series on video encoders.

Hardware or software encoder? The battle rages on. Well, battle is a strong word, but there are important distinctions to point out between the two.

When it comes to live video streaming technology, the decision between hardware or software encoder will inevitably come up. The goal of this post is to arm you with information so that you can make the right choice that best fits your streaming needs.

We strongly believe hardware is your best option for easy-to-use, high-quality live streaming. Why? Below are eight compelling reasons why you should choose hardware over software.

1. Free Up Existing Equipment

Hardware allows the offloading of encoding from equipment such as a Blackmagic Design product or TriCaster or other software encoders. The result is a more responsive live mix experience, including smoother graphics at much higher frame rates.

Why do higher frame rates matter?

2. Simplicity

There are no URLs that you need to copy and paste when you use hardware to stream. The entire process can be automated. You just plug our a hardware encoder (perhaps our BoxCaster) into your production setup (Tricaster, mixer, camera, etc) and start the stream.

3. Lower Bandwidth

BoxCast transcodes the video behind the scenes for your viewers, bringing two significant benefits: 

    1. Every viewer gets the best picture for their given network or player device performance since BoxCast sends the viewer one of the five different bitrates automatically.
    2. Since only one stream needs to be streamed to BoxCast servers, the BoxCaster doesn’t have to waste any of the uplink connection streaming multiple, lower quality streams.

4. Network Health

At BoxCast, we monitor the transfer of data from the BoxCaster encoder to where it is safely captured on our servers. The video files are stored on the servers, so you will not incur any additional bandwidth or storage fees from your own website. The consistent monitoring of network health results in better reliability and faster network troubleshooting.

5. Cost

To achieve high quality video streaming, the overall cost of a hardware encoder such as the BoxCaster is typically less compared to software solutions. For one low price, you can stream unlimited events to unlimited viewers in up to 1080p quality. 

The Best Strategy for Buying Live Video Equipment

6. Less Hassle

Hardware encoders free you from having to worry about other computer-related hassles such as CPU usage, memory, and network security issues.

Final Thoughts + Further Reading

For additional information on the important factors to consider when purchasing live video streaming equipment, download the free Buyer's Guide to Live Video Streaming Equipment.

Download the Free Buyer's Guide


Here are a few other resources you might find interesting:

HEVC (H.265) vs. AVC (H.264) - What’s the Difference?

This is Why Your Live Stream Lags: Intro to Streaming Latency

Hardware Video Encoder Comparison: BoxCaster vs Teradek VidiU vs Digicast DMB-8800A

HEVC's Impact on Live Streaming

What's the difference between various SDI Signals?


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