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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
Godzilla!
Godzilla!
Godzilla!


...and Godzookie....

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

 

zuki.gif.74db42abef620ee298727897bf1b8e9f.gif

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:

Spoiler

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:

 

i5_2400.jpg.a180e2399182322001c9d36f635658e3.jpg

Core i5 -2400 (2nd gen) @3.1Ghz
4GB of DDR3 RAM
500GB HDD
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.

 

DSC_0517_1560331852027.thumb.jpg.74e17619d629e3f05bb33166b06ab32c.jpg

 

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 :)

 

Montage! 

 

DSC_0523_1560512768053_1560535676033.thumb.jpg.397cb736d51fca2c0474ab8d70868167.jpg

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Downloaded and played Portal 2 last night. 

DSC_0528_1560585987902.thumb.jpg.ce38e98511f80dab2f07ebeb4cb48351.jpg

 

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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Bsnes is go! Will add some comments shortly but here you can see it running:

 

DSC_0537_1560949231573.thumb.jpg.47e1b9d2cddc43b334e86989a499823b.jpg

 

DSC_0536_1560949264298.thumb.jpg.8b894b78a81a71b79f04fc9437455a16.jpg

 

I've never played Stunt Race FX before. It's up there competing for the 'Great Game Running on Insufficient Hardware' with Burning Rangers ;)

As you can see, the emulator is happily breezing along at 60fps, but that doesn't mean the game itself is hitting that framerate - it emulates the game exactly, i.e. it runs at about 10-15fps, at a guesstimate.

 

I got a distinct Buggy Boy vibe from the gameplay although - in fairness - I haven't played that game since 1990 so my memory is dubious!

 

Pilotwings, F-Zero and Mario Kart were all tested and all look fantastic running at high resolutions. Godzuki had no bother whatsoever going up to the highest scaling factor within the monitor's supported modes (1080p).

 

Next up: I test with my spare Nvidia GTX 750 card installed, and let you know how that improves some stuff!

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The cpu in this is only slightly worse than the one in my current pc, which plays modern games ok (dirt rally 2 recently), great deal for £60 :)

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11 hours ago, spatular said:

The cpu in this is only slightly worse than the one in my current pc, which plays modern games ok (dirt rally 2 recently), great deal for £60 :)

 

IKR??! There are tons of ex-corporate Dell machines with gen 2 i3 and i5 CPUs, but the mobos tend to be far lower spec. This one supports up to 16GB of DDR3 over 4 slots, plus PCIe x16. I had a long look at upgrade paths, and there are some really excellent socket 1155 CPUs like Ivy Bridge i7s.

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I threw-in my cheap GTX 750,second hand value about £25.  Being a small form factor case, this posed an engineering challenge. My approach? 

 

DSC_0541_1561021193523.thumb.jpg.07572c620074cfe4b62ae0f31779784c.jpg

 

SNIP

 

Bye-bye case obstruction. 

Ooh look at this cheeky Frankenstein hack... 

 

DSC_0542_1561021274072.thumb.jpg.a0e63c95d16cdfa322f8ebfae220a8dd.jpg

 

Can you say 'Health & Safety nightmare'? 

 

Results speak for themselves, though. 160+ fps in Dead Space, everything maxed out:

DSCPDC_0000_BURST20190619141613656_1561021785328.jpg.42249ee10da3b66902b2a1071abc5c8d.jpg

 

Rock solid 60fps in Dolphin, after a very brief test:

DSC_0544_1561021089783_1561021871086.jpg.e82455242fb28bd82c1ccd69bdfb668e.jpg

 

Total equivalent spend to date: £85 :)

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1 hour ago, Treble said:

 

IKR??! There are tons of ex-corporate Dell machines with gen 2 i3 and i5 CPUs, but the mobos tend to be far lower spec. This one supports up to 16GB of DDR3 over 4 slots, plus PCIe x16. I had a long look at upgrade paths, and there are some really excellent socket 1155 CPUs like Ivy Bridge i7s.

Where do you pick these up from? Gumtree etc?

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Just from eBay, to be honest!

I did a rough buyer's guide in the v1 thread, but will do a more detailed one here when I've finished all my mucking about testing.

 

The main rule is to set a budget and don't exceed it. With patience, something will come up that meets your needs :)

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Some excellent updates today. First up: PlayStation 3 emulation, using RPCS3. 

 

Easy to install, not as easy to get hold of working games :/ I've got a good few on disk still, but no way to rip them yet. 

 

So heading to the High seas, I downloaded BLOPS III (lots of seeders, good stress test) and MD Collection (lots of seeders, small, easy to run). 

 

BLOPS is a bit of a mess (as it says below, it's not supported past the intro) but the MD collection works perfectly! I've ordered a cheap, 2nd hand BD-ROM drive for better rips/tests, but it's verrrry promising so far. 

 

DSC_0553_1561124460171.thumb.jpg.ae49fe2126d93c100cb5be7fc6b72ea1.jpg

 

DSC_0552_1561124403506.thumb.jpg.ba6a538f1bd8dbdce7f948a00ac9ed45.jpg

 

Even better though, check this out... Devil May Cry 5 on Steam!

 

DSC_0551_1561125317071.thumb.jpg.fc5f64731efa3b8987109dc018730621.jpg

 

Getting great results, with a stable 30fps or above, with medium settings. God bless the Re Engine! 

 

I'm genuinely chuffed at this; eighth gen gaming on an £85 piece of kit. It's really exceeding expectations so far. 

 

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I'm in the middle of writing up some hints 'n' tips.

 

In the meantime, any requests? 

 

I'll be grabbing footage and putting it up, very soon :)

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@Treble I'd be interested in framerates on PS2 Persona 4 (via PCSX2) if you're able to "find" it - the FPS on my desktop fluctuates but stays relatively high... :) (EDIT: if you have an original disc it's fairly easy to create a "backup" with MagicISO or whatever)

 

Or how about Rez (DC or PS2)?

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@Qazimod, not a problem. Just threw them on briefly now (already own Rez twice over, PS2 & PSVR, but Persona is very much Non Grata in the Treb household, so that was a Jack Sparrow job).

 

Both running at a locked 60fps, no bother. Will grab some footage later :)

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34 minutes ago, Ninja Doctor said:

Just goes to show how a small increase in budget really pays off cpu wise. 

To be fair, I think Treble got a really good deal there. I’ve been looking around for socket 1155 motherboards on EBay and I can’t find anything decent for under 30 quid, socket 1155 is what Treble’s pc is based on.

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Yeah, it was a great deal. The key to this (and I'll add it into a run-down/FAQ) is to fix your price range then explore the results with a fine-tooth comb. 

 

This one had better specs than others even the vendor was selling, so why so cheap?

 

Well, the only differentiating factor was that most listings have [brand name] core i5 etc. as the headline grabber to entice people; Godzookie had 'Custom' core i5 etc. 

 

People see that and there's an element of both a) uncertainty and B) extra effort involved, and most frequently opt for the easier - even if therefore more expensive - option of sticking with a brand name. 

 

It's always worth investigating. A dog shit case can hide a treasure trove of good parts underneath, and vice versa. Always check out listings that are a bit unusual, or poorly described. They're sometimes obscuring the greatest bargains. 

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Just pulling some footage together then will record a bit of VO. It'll be my first time, so break me in gently ;)

 

There's a decent BIN on a core i3 Haswell build right now, £59 delivered:

 

https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.co.uk%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F192958934928

 

This has fewer cores than Godzookie's, but at a faster clock speed. Two cores should be fine for emulation, plus its the newer Haswell range (socket 1150) so you can upgrade to a monster CPU later on, if you like. 

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Amazing work; thanks for the footage :) Re. your question 31 seconds in, I guess it’s frames per second rather than refresh rate, but that’s still pretty good! ^_^

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I normally assume that, aye, so maybe it's locking to 50fps because it's running at 50hz? It doesn't have a progressive scan option, unfortunately. 

 

Cheers for the feedback! There's nothing I've lobbed at it yet that it's struggled with. I'm actually going to play through Skyward Sword now! 

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On 23/06/2019 at 17:49, Treble said:

Just pulling some footage together then will record a bit of VO. It'll be my first time, so break me in gently ;)

 

There's a decent BIN on a core i3 Haswell build right now, £59 delivered:

 

https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.co.uk%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F192958934928

 

This has fewer cores than Godzookie's, but at a faster clock speed. Two cores should be fine for emulation, plus its the newer Haswell range (socket 1150) so you can upgrade to a monster CPU later on, if you like. 

 

Bought one of these. Let's see. 

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Cool. You'll need a graphics card if you want to get best results. A while back I got a GTX 750 from Aliexpress, and to my surprise its not a clone unit! 

 

It is fully powered by the PCIe slot, but also very overclockable :)

Edit: sorry, my Zotac unit doesn't have extra power requirements, but this one does. Not a lot though. Have a search for GTX 750 on Aliexpress to see the range.

 

The 750 can be clocked to operate around the same level as the 750 TI, but the latter has 2GB of VRAM (which can come in handy!) 

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