If you want your streams to look good, you need high-quality streaming software. Software that lacks the features you need or is difficult to use tanks your stream performance. With so many options available to streamers today, however, picking the right streaming tools can be tough.

Two popular streaming solutions that many streamers rely on are Streamlabs (formerly known as Streamlabs OBS or SLOBS) and StreamElements. In this comparison guide, we’ll see how these two stack up against each other, covering features, user interfaces, performance, and more.

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What is Streamlabs?

Streamlabs is a go-to streaming solution for many live streamers, especially beginners. With an easy-to-use interface and presets full of features, Streamlabs appeals to more than just entry-level content creators, however. Streamlabs started in 2014 as TwitchAlerts, a tool for adding visual alerts to your stream on Twitch, but it has since expanded its functionality. Streamlabs is a version of OBS Studio, the original broadcasting software. You can use it to stream on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, and a few other major platforms. To use Streamlabs, you have to download the software on your computer, so it uses your CPU’s resources to run your stream.

Main features of Streamlabs

  • App store to unlock more features: Streamlabs offers apps and themes to send custom notifications, auto-send tweets, play music, and more. You need a Prime subscription to access most of these features.
  • Twitch chatbot: You can download a cloud-based chat client using Streamlabs that works on both Twitch and YouTube.
  • Integrated loyalty programs and donation options: Streamlabs lets you run loyalty programs for viewers from within the software, plus provides customized donation links.
  • Multistreaming: Streamlabs lets you go live on YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, and two custom RTMP destinations simultaneously.
  • Video preview and editor: Streamlabs has a video editor to let you set up your stream’s scenes and preview them before going live.
  • Video recording: Use Streamlabs to go live or record videos.
  • Mobile app: By downloading the Streamlabs app on your phone, you can access all of your Streamlabs Desktop functionality, essentially turning it into a stream deck. The Streamlabs mobile app also lets you do mobile live streaming.

Pros

  • Free to download
  • Free, pre-built stream overlays
  • Create a merch store
  • Quick setup process
  • Customizable alerts
  • Variety of donation payment options
  • OBS built in

Cons

  • Some features require Prime subscription plan
  • Impacts CPU usage heavily
  • Some merch store options only available for Prime customers

What is StreamElements?

StreamElements is a cloud-based live streaming tool that integrates with top streaming platforms. While StreamElements isn’t quite as popular as Streamlabs, it does have some loyal users. The two streaming tools have many similar features and offer content creators similar services. One key distinction, however, is that StreamElements is not a live streaming studio, but a platform that hosts and saves your streaming layouts in the cloud. You cannot go live from your StreamElements dashboard. But you can save all your assets, like overlays and layouts, in the cloud and then plug them into broadcasting software such as OBS Studio.

Main features of StreamElements

  • Alerts and overlays: StreamElements is well known for its free overlays and alerts that you can use on Twitch, Trovo, YouTube, and Facebook Gaming. The overlay editor lets you make them your own as well.
  • Chatbot: The StreamElements chatbot includes spam protection and moderation tools that integrate with the loyalty system.
  • Merch: StreamElements lets users create a merch store and sell their branded merch, with SteamElements taking a commission on each piece you sell.
  • Donation options: SE.Pay is the StreamElements donation and payments feature that allows viewers to send you donations without StreamElements taking a cut.
  • Loyalty program: You can create a merch store, run contests, and host giveaways with the StreamElements loyalty program feature.
  • Mobile app: StreamElements has a mobile app (for Android only) that lets you stream to Twitch and YouTube from your phone.

Pros

  • Free to download, free features
  • Hosted in the cloud
  • Huge library of free templates and widgets made by other users
  • Powerful chatbot
  • Customized donation link
  • Higher profit margin from merch store than Streamlabs

Cons

  • No app store
  • Limited payout options compared to Streamlabs
  • Need encoding software to go live
  • No multistreaming
  • App only available for Android

What are the similarities?

You’ll notice a big overlap of features between Streamlabs and StreamElements, specifically when it comes to designing overlays, alerts, and donation options.

1. Templates

Both Streamlabs and StreamElements offer premade templates for overlays and alerts. Designing the look of your stream with these templates or customizing your own is one of the most important features for both streaming solutions and a big reason why content creators use them. However, with Streamlabs, you have to pay for many of the overlay templates, while with StreamElements, they’re all free. Also, you have more control over the look of your scene with StreamElements, as you can make additions using CSS, HTML, and JavaScript.

2. Donations

Making money as a live streamer is straightforward when you use either Streamlabs or StreamElements. Both have donation options for streamers, and they function similarly. With either tool, you can generate a custom donation link for your channel, which your viewers click on to send you donations. Neither Streamlabs nor StreamElements take a cut from your donations. You do, however, have to pay transaction fees depending on the payment method you choose.

Streamlabs pays out your donations in a variety of ways, including PayPal, credit and debit cards, Unitpay, Skrill (which supports international payment methods including paysafecard and Sofort), and Coinbase. StreamElements has more limited payout options, offering only PayPal and credit or debit cards.

3. Alerts

Alerts are a huge part of the streaming experience, especially on Twitch. Both Streamlabs and StreamElements have vast libraries of alert types and even allow you to customize them. With both tools, you can choose sounds, templates, and GIFs for your alerts and easily set them up, free of charge. There’s no significant difference between Streamlabs and StreamElements when it comes to alerts.

4. Media share

Streamlabs and StreamElements both give you a media share option, which lets you set up URL requests for your live chats. With media share, viewers can play music and videos on your stream. Media share is a cool feature, but you do run the risk of a copyright flag on Twitch, YouTube, or the streaming platform you’re using if someone plays content you do not have the rights to. There are other ways to legally play music on your live streams, though, if you want to enrich your stream with music.

5. Chatbot

Moderating a live stream chat is harder than it sounds. When you have hundreds of viewers and you’re trying to keep an eye on the chat while managing other parts of your stream, some messages could fall through the cracks. For this reason, both Streamlabs and StreamElements have powerful chatbot features. Each provides moderation options so you can prevent spam and inappropriate language in your chat. You can also incorporate loyalty programs, timers, and commands to make your chat more dynamic and engaging.

What are the differences?

Streamlabs and StreamElements do have a few key differences you might find useful when deciding which one to use for your live streams.

1. Function

Streamlabs is encoding software that takes data from the video and audio sources connected to your computer and converts it into a format suitable for live streaming. StreamElements is not encoding software but a cloud-based tool that lets you design assets for your live stream and add them as browser sources in your encoding software. Streamlabs stands alone, whereas StreamElements is designed to work with OBS Studio.

Using StreamElements with OBS makes creating scenes and controlling the overall look and feel of your stream much easier. It can be difficult to master layouts and overlays with just OBS, so StreamElements could be a good choice for streamers who still want to use OBS but in a more hassle-free way. Streamlabs offers many of the same features as StreamElements when it comes to templates, alerts, and chatbots, plus you can live stream from the desktop app. You can live stream using StreamElements from the mobile app, but only on Android devices.

2. CPU usage

As Streamlabs is software you must install on your computer, it takes up more of your CPU’s resources to run. StreamElements is cloud-based, so CPU usage isn’t a problem. If you choose StreamElements, you still need encoding software installed on your computer to go live, and you’ll end up using your computer’s resources. But if you use OBS Studio, the stress on your CPU is less compared to Streamlabs.

3. Ease of use

Nailing your streaming setup is tough when you’re a beginner. Both Streamlabs and StreamElements are designed to be user-friendly, which is why each tool has so many users. However, many find that Streamlabs is easier to use for beginning streamers who are new to going live. The StreamElements interface can be complex, plus you have to know how to use OBS to stream with it.

4. Customizability

When it comes to customizing your streaming assets, StreamElements gives you more leeway than Streamlabs. While customizations are possible with Streamlabs, you have to pay for Streamlabs Prime to get the same customization value that StreamElements provides. StreamElements lets you choose from templates and make them your own at no charge.

5. App store

A big difference between Streamlabs and StreamElements is the app store. Streamlabs offers apps you can add to improve your streaming experience; however, they require a Streamlabs Prime subscription. Although there is no StreamElements app store, anyone can develop a widget to customize their experience. You can also download widgets other users have made from online galleries like the StreamElements Code Gurus, Nerd or Die, Fiverr, or even GitHub.

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Streamlabs vs. StreamElements: Which to choose?

After learning about all the features, benefits, and disadvantages of Streamlabs and StreamElements, you can see that these two streaming tools offer similar experiences. So which should you choose?

Try Streamlabs if:

  • You’re just starting out and prefer to have everything in one app.
  • You don’t need robust customizations.
  • You have a higher-end computer for the heavier CPU usage.

Try StreamElements if:

  • You’re familiar with OBS.
  • You want total freedom with customizations (without paying anything).
  • CPU usage is a concern for you.

Ultimately, it comes down to your preferences and your knowledge of live streaming. Millions of streamers swear by both apps, so with either one, you can’t make a wrong decision.