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Treble's Retro Gaming PC challenge... v2.0

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Up from the depths
Thirty stories high
Breathing fire
His head in the sky

...and Godzookie....

Yeah boi, we're back once again with another budget build: not a powerhouse, but powerhouse adjacent... the Godzookie!



My previous build was far too cheap and far too weak - yeah, it could run lots of stuff other low-priced (like, £30 ish) kit could plus a little more, but the chipset was so old that you couldn't easily push it any further, and it was a locked-down Dell that was physically massive and power hungry.

This time, i set my sights a bit higher:
1) get a more modern machine for under £60
2) Compare with emulator options in this price bracket, principally PS3, Wii (with storage solution) and Vita.
It's almost impossible to compare like-with-like, but these are reasonable comparisons with a 10-15% cost differential.
3) Install a graphics card of around £25 second hand value, mark the performance upgrade and compare with anything in the approximate price bracket - probably still looking at PS3/360/Wii at this point
4) Install a graphics card of around £80 second hand value, mark the performance upgrade and compare with higher echelon bespoke solutions, e.g. GPDWin, NVidia Shield

So in summary, I'll look at ~£60 | ~£85 | ~£150 builds and see what we're getting for that money.


Just to remind people, here were the rules for build v1.0:


The reasons for a PC - even a cheap one - over a Wii, PS3 or something else are cost, expandability and software variety (emulators, sure, plus being able to run Steam and other content platforms).

*The PC should be able to run up to and including PS1 and N64 games as a baseline

* It should hopefully be able to do something with Dolphin and Redream, but this might be a pipe dream!

* it should be able to run Steam so that PS2/360 era PC releases can be played, so think Portal, Half-life 2, Modern Warfare, Dead Space, that kind of thing.

* anything - and I mean anything - older than 10 years is 100% considered retro.

The rules for 2.0 are broadly the same, although now we should be looking at running modern PC games at a comfortable frame rate, and all established emulators, with minimal upgrades.


So this is the little beast we'll be doing our cruel and unusual experiments on:



Core i5 -2400 (2nd gen) @3.1Ghz
Biostar TH67+ motherboard
300w PSU
Windows 10

£55 + £4.99 delivery

Just waiting for it to arrive, then the "fun" begins...

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Godzookie rocked up yesterday! Initially things exceeded expectations, then we hit a 'minor' speed bump...


Right off the bat, I was surprised that it's an SFF (small form factor) build. This means it's a really little case - about the size of an OG Playstation 3 - and thus light and low power. The downside of that it, you can only fit half-height cards (like gfx cards) into that case. No worries though, if I want to re-case it, that's a cheap and easy job.


The important thing? It booted instantly and was very fast to startup, even with its old fashioned spinning HDD. I opened the case and the internals look in good nick. In need of a blast from the air gun to rid it of some lingering dust bunnies, but otherwise very solid.




I decided to throw it into the deep end in terms of emulation: try out PS2 games!

I chucked PCSX2 onto a USB thumb drive* with a few choice titles on it, and set to work.

*You can make it portable by simply created a blank text file called portable.ini and putting it in the main PSCX2 directory. Easy & brilliant!


So right out of the box, using onboard Intel Graphics (no discrete gfx card), the machine ran Gradius V and ZoE 2 at native settings at full speed (most of the time!) This completely exceeded my expectations, in all honesty. So I turned my attention to other housekeeping stuff before getting some screen grabs and trying out ReDream, and this is where the 'fun' began...


Like a diligent PC owner, I enabled Win Defender and checked for updates. There was one major security update, so I downloaded and installed it. Booted it and... nothing. Ok, I thought, the update has borked so let's roll it back. Tried that and don't have sufficient privileges. Hmm. Worrying. So I tried everything else I could think of: checking the master boot record, creating a new boot space, doing an SFC /scannow, auto repair, fix startup, reset the install to stock, you name it. Nothing.


I think I might have killed it by doing a simple computer rename (to Godzookie) which requires a restart, but doing the update before that restart, possibly? The boot record seems to be knackered, at any rate. Either the machine is at fault (doubtful) or the update and/or a combo of actions has messed up booting (most likely). There's no Win serial on the case and I doubt the seller has a record of it, so I'll probably just use a spare I bought a while back. It's not a big deal as they're very cheap (see point 3 here).


Will report back later on where we're at!



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You can reinstall Windows 10. You don't need the key, it will activate on Microsoft's servers. There's a command you can use to interrogate the wmic if you wish to know the key, its 


Wmic path SoftwarelicensingService get OA3xOriginalProductKey


From a dos window. Run as Administrator



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In all honesty, I just threw a cheap old SSD I had plus a new key that cost me about £3.50. I might hook the old one up at some point and try and retrieve the key, though. Out of interest, when you're running DOS from the recovery console, does it inherit admin rights automatically? Obvs I can't grant it thru the OS as its buggered ;)


So yeah, the PC is back up and running perfectly. Will do some more work and testing on it on Friday latest. 

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So yep, thus far we're still exceeding expectations. Redream works flawlessly at stock settings with a seamless 60fps.


PCSX2 dips on some games (heavy stuff like ZoE 2 and MGS3 that really pushed the PS2) but is quite impressive.


Steam is on the go. I tried out Alien Isolation, but it needs DX11 which isn't supported by Godzookie's chipset. Will pick something else :)





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Downloaded and played Portal 2 last night. 



Managed to get a stable 30fps on low settings, 720p. Pretty much how it would have run on an Xbox 360, I guess, so... very impressive! 


Next up: testing with Dolphin! 


Edit: ooh forgot to add... what would you like to see tested? A bit of ePSXe and Metal Gear? Watch it struggle with Rave Racer on MAME? SCUD race on Supermodel? Or some Ninty classics like Snake Rattle 'n' Roll? 


I'm throwing it open to you - let's chuck some random bits at this critter! 

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