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Looking for Advice: LB Hardware for Living Room


tomahawk51
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I'm using Launchbox on an (Win 19) AMD 350 PC.  I'm amazed it works all the way up to SNES, and is actually smooth when in emulation.  It's either this PC, or very close http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16856119050.  I want to do more emulation (PS1, N64, and whatever I can achieve e.g. Gamecube...), and see much snappier BigBox Performance.

I need a new PC, and would love input on what to look for.

I use Big Box in a my living room, in a media console.  I'll want something small form factor (so no towers, nor am I interested in laptops).  I liked the small all encased unit linked above, and note options like this: intel skull canyon i7 .  Off topic - I'm starting to play around with Kodi, so it would be nice if this thing could also run that...

Innovation opportunity:  I also recently established a semi-crazy dual Xeon Unraid server that has PLENTY of head room for running Virtual Machines (got a number of those and Dockers going).  It's on this opposite side of the house, in the basement, and running cables to my family room doesn't seem viable (assume I'd need a KVM, right?).  If there are any ideas for how I might try to leverage a VM though, something I'm niave to, that would be excellent to try!

So, with the requirements of a smallish form factor (and I'm not opposed to BYO), what should I be looking for to achieve the broadest scope of emulation for a reasonable value?  I am not interested in being on the bleeding edge of pushing emulation, if it requires a lot of time in tuning/tweaking - this is for kids and neighbors to easily pick up.  Should I stay away from the laptop chips?  Any PCs I should look at (Nuc, Brix...).  I'm overwhelmed, and Black Friday is almost here :(

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I would say you could grab a GTX 970 / 980, and an Intel i7 6700 or an i5 6600, with 8 or 16GB of RAM. For head room, I would go with 16 as DirectX 12 and 64bit properly set up executable's are becoming way way more normal. Mid range DDR4 would be cheap as well. With black friday around the corner, Amazon and NewEgg are going to have crazy deals, so now would be the absolute best time to get it. I would also say grab an SSD for the OS too, and as long as LaunchBox / Big Box are on a 7200RPM SATA3 drive that will be plenty. I can try and spec one out for you if you'd like.

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So I swapped out for a 960, but a 970 isn't too much more, and there are some 1070's on sale that are affordable too, if you want to push it. You can also swap up or down on the storage, I just grabbed general sizes I thought would be good, and I picked higher performant hardware. If you buy 1 part at a time over some time, you'll also find great deals and it could probably be cheaper, as well as black friday. http://pcpartpicker.com/list/DmpDkT

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That's a pretty good build although he said small form factor/no towers so it'd probably need to be something like one of these:

http://pcpartpicker.com/product/nTJkcf/phanteks-case-phes215psrd

http://pcpartpicker.com/product/M8Jkcf/thermaltake-case-ca1b800s6wn01

http://pcpartpicker.com/product/QCjG3C/cooler-master-case-rc110kkn2

I'm not entirely sure what kind of CPU cooler you'd want for one of these. I've been a long-time traditional fan proponent, but I use a Coolermaster V8 and I can pretty much guarantee it wouldn't fit in this type of case - the thing's freaking gigantic.

514r305TjkL.jpg

The one you have in the build might work, it doesn't look overly large. I don't have any experience with such a small form factor though.

I think the 960 is probably more than enough for emulation as well - emulation tends to be much more CPU intensive than GPU intensive. If it's going to be used for traditional PC gaming as well, then yeah I'd say go with a 970/980 but for emulation alone a 960 should be plenty.

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Then even potentially go for a cheaper 960 or even a higher end 950? I blanked on small form factor, so actually a 950 could work really well for the half size cards, but you are sacrificing vram, speed and decent DirectX 12 support. 950's I believe technically support it, but... and some emulators are moving that way. PCSX2, Dolphin, CEMU, CITRA, I wouldn't be surprised if DS and PSP emulators start to take advantage of it. DirectX 12 is a serious boon.

To help keep form factor down, water cooling could be a great solution. You'll still need fans, but you wont need a massive heatsink which is what most of that cooler is. Also remember, that the smaller you go the more and more limited you'll be for parts, so you can nab a Mini ATX motherboard, but they do start to compromise on features. The motherboard in the PC Parts picker link has USB 3.1 on it. I grabbed a 3.1 to 3.0 small 4 port hub, plugged 4 USB 3 drives in it and they're super super fast.

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Thanks for all the input, sincerely.  I started to go through build options, struggled with the balance of a Living Room friendly form factor and the budget for a machine dedicated to playing old school games essentially.  Considering the myriad of possible build permutations, knowing I have a pretty powerful server running anyway, and seeing a deal on a Steam Link, I thought I'll at least give that a stab - and postpone a new build. I'll report back, for anyone who could benefit. my cross post on the Steam Link...

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If you want a smallish FF PC with serious firepower check out some Node 202 builds: https://ca.pcpartpicker.com/b/PpyfrH

If small is all you are concerned about check out Gigabyte brix, msi cube, alienware alpha, and intel NUC.  They are all very small but lower performance than a node 202 build that can fit a full size graphics card into a 10 litre case.

Edited by spektor56
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I don't know some of those newer Gigabyte brix and NUC machines have 6th gen i5's and i7s I'm sure they would handle LB/BB no issues they would limit you though to the onboard graphics which would hamper you performance in Cemu or anything newish like that. I was running an i5 3330 without a card for awhile and I had Dolphin running on there from the onboard and it was playable so a new board with  Intels latest graphics should suffice for Dolphin. Those small FF PC's are like any PC it all depends upon what is inside of them

 

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Well having integrated graphics on will also lower the performance of the CPU. We haven't had much testing with an integrated build on a recent CPU. I also admittedly didn't look at which CPU it was. There might be some inherent performance boost to LaunchBox from having a GPU, but LB doesn't use it directly.

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On 11/23/2016 at 6:42 PM, tomahawk51 said:

I started to go through build options, struggled with the balance of a Living Room friendly form factor and the budget for a machine dedicated to playing old school games essentially.  

You don't need much at all to do this. I can do all this "old school" stuff on my dirt cheap Asus F2A85-M motherboard with no video card and AMD FM2 CPU with integrated Radeon HD7000. I put it inside an Antec case that looks a bit like a DVR but is deeper than it is wide (but is not tall at all). If you really just want to run the old school emulators, you can do it easily with modern super cheap Intel/AMD CPU with integrated graphics. I would imagine you could buy everything for around $250 total, including case and all parts (not just the video card :) ). You might even be able to get one of those Mac Mini sized mini PCs (like MSI Cubi) ready to go to keep it super simple if you wanted. Would I build one like this, probably not. All I wanted (years ago) from the one I mentioned was to be able to run a PC OS to play videos (no games) on my family room big screen HD TV. However, it turns out it can handle a lot of emulation with ease.  

If you think there is any chance you might want to emulate Gamecube, PSx, Wii U, etc, and play PC games as well down the road, then that is an entirely diff story in which you will need to spend some real money. 

Edited by ckp
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